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By Richard Farrell, CIO at Netcall

The value of advanced automation technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) has become indisputable across industries, with 70% of organisations at least piloting automation technologies – up from 57% in 2018. Whilst most CEOs recognise the potential of advanced technologies like AI, many are struggling with how to get digital transformation ‘right’. 

Leaders need to establish a vision and get involved from the beginning. Without the CEO and the rest of the C-suite’s dedication to digital transformation, efforts will tend to fail. Only 11% of respondents in a McKinsey survey believe their current business models will remain economically viable through 2023. C-suites that fail to prioritise their involvement in digitisation efforts risk their organisation’s long-term future.

However, leaders that invest time throughout the process, shaping their organisation’s journey, dramatically increase the likelihood of sustainable success. 

It begins with vision and leadership

Successful digital transformation is grounded in a practical “automation-first” strategy. According to a recent Forrester report, CEOs are the “chief champion” for digital transformation, and as such it is their responsibility to define their vision and establish C-level oversight. Organisation leaders need to uncover their “why” for automation and then develop a top-down plan that is realistic, malleable and innovation-promoting. 

Bottom-up initiatives fail because they lack organisation-wide implementation. Organisations reflect the messaging of their leaders, so that message needs to have intention because it is the foundation upon which a business operates.

Integrate and include IT in leadership and across the organisation

One of the most common issues when it comes to digital transformation is the lack of integration of the IT department. Digitisation is not just a concern for IT departments, it’s about your entire organisation. 

As the importance of digitisation has been increasingly recognised, the digital department of organisations has been given more latitude and recognition. However, they are still siloed off – and that is problematic

Technologists need to be included in the C-suite and working with other members of the ‘C-team’ to build an organisation-wide collaborative network. 

Create the right culture

Once the C-suite has determined a vision for digitisation, this needs to be clearly communicated across the organisation and modelled by the leadership team. Because if leaders aren’t modelling change, no one else will follow. 

Communication and teamwork are key to the success of any plan. Employees have valuable insights and feedback to offer – their input should be encouraged and considered. Leaders

are responsible for engaging their team and, by doing so, they will encourage employee buy-in and collaboration that extends beyond traditional organisational boundaries.

Whilst the right solutions are a key factor for successful digitisation, equally essential is a team able and willing to bring those tools to life. 

For financial services firm, Aon, “overcommunication” played a crucial role in their successful implementation of a low code platform, which they used to automate their claims management process. This was instrumental because it built trust across the organisation and established a common goal. 

It was through the establishment of teamwork and a common goal that Cumbria County Council was able to transform its services in as little as 12 weeks and deliver rapid ROI. 

The team’s success was made possible through a pre-determined vision, which enabled the Council to seek out the right solution. They opted for a low-code platform that would pave the way for much needed financial and resource savings with a tight budget, whilst still driving home tailored digital transformation. 

They also facilitated a collaborative culture that now sees the Digital Team working closely and co-creating with other departments. 

With the right leadership, an open culture that encourages workers to engage with each other across the organisation is developed. 

Procurement matters

Whilst leadership’s role is key, equally critical is the solution used as the vehicle for digital transformation. Without the right transformation partner, any effort will be moot. This is why the C-suite needs to be involved from the beginning. Procurement teams should include a cross-section of the organisation since the solution will, ultimately, be integrated across the organisation. 

Vision is important because your organisation’s long-term future should factor into the procurement choice you make today. Taking the time to devise that vision for your organisation’s digital journey will save reworking costs and boost ROI short- and long-term. 

Regardless of whether you want to start small or go full-scale from the outset, you want a solution that is flexible enough to offer both, so you can build as you go. The future is unpredictable, so your automation plans need to be flexible because you don’t know how they will need to be adapted as you move through your digital transformation journey over the next few years. 

Vertical specialisation is another key differentiator that procurement teams should prioritise. Your partner will be able to do so much more for your digital transformation objectives if they have sector-specific expert knowledge. Automation is not a generic solution; you need a partner that recognises that and the importance of capturing your voice in automation plans. 

For Dreams, the UK’s most recommended bed retailer, its focus on customer experience played a key role in its vendor selection. It needed a partner that understood its unique pain points, could help deliver the nimble digital infrastructure needed to grow and retain its customer base, and enable its CEO and board members to be involved in the journey. 

Their CX focus led them to adopt an omnichannel contact centre and customer engagement management solution. This allowed them to deliver exceptional CX at every customer touchpoint, consolidated interactions into a single interface and provided them with the data to see what was driving performance. They combined this with an AI-assisted conversational messaging solution, which ensured the customer journey remained intact as back-office systems were connected to front-end customer problems. 

Dreams’ board used their partner’s built-in reporting features to involve the executive team on a regular basis. This fostered a results-drive proactive approach by leadership, the success of which led the company to continue expanding its digital infrastructure. Thanks to its decision to partner with a multi-solution vendor, they were able to seamlessly build on their existing digitisation efforts and adopt a low-code application platform (LCAP). This paved the way for rapid in-house development of full-stack applications to automate processes, further enhancing efficiency and customer experience. 

Their business-wide, leadership driven approach, has enabled the company to give time back to its employees, achieve its original CX goals and devise new digitisation plans. 

Think big picture. Think long-term.

The past few years has seen traditional work models completely upended. Whilst many things remain uncertain, one thing is clear – the ways in which we used to work are no longer viable. 

Leaders are realising that their customers and citizens interact with various parts of their organisations, and – to make those interactions worthwhile and effective – that journey needs to be seamless. That is only possible with an advanced automation plan under the stewardship of a dedicated leadership team and knowledgeable partner. With that, leaders poise their organisations to be on the receiving end of happier customers, patients or citizens; lower costs; satisfied workers; and greater shareholder return overall. Done right, it’s a collaborative effort, and it starts at the top.

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