The key to meaningful innovation lies with relevance
Digital Transformation

The key to meaningful innovation lies with relevance

Recent decades have seen technology undergo a consumer revolution, with hardware and software constantly being developed to minimize complexities in our home lives. However, technology in the workplace hasn’t kept pace and the majority of employees now experience a significant gap in the simplicity and innovation between their home and work devices.

Such a lack of innovation seems to be at odds with the panic that currently exists within organizations to fully adopt a digital-first strategy. However, future-proofing your business requires more than just paying lip service to industry buzzwords and, as the future of work increasingly becomes a discussion point, it’s high time business executives start to nail down just what this might mean in practice.

 

Employee experience is the key to future company success

A number of C-Suite roles have seen their responsibilities shift dramatically in response to changing business needs and Chief HR Officers have not been exempt from this overhaul. As their scope of responsibility broadens, these new CHROs have been tasked with accelerating business performance by marrying together digital transformation and employee experience. As a result, HR is increasingly functioning as the driver of change within the enterprise as CHROs adopt a more strategic approach to advancing corporate goals and enabling innovation.

Pat Wadors, Chief Talent Officer at ServiceNow, argues that it is this employee experience which will be the key to the future success of any company. The current gap between the desired experience and what is currently on offer to employees hasn’t changed significantly in recent years meaning there is now increased emphasis being placed on designing and optimizing technology so that employees have the best possible tools available. “For employees, the workplace will become more personalized, predictive and seamless. Their needs will be met through consumer-like digital interactions.”

Research carried out by ServiceNow shows that the majority of organizations want to go digital, but a lack of knowledge of how to put this into practice has left many floundering about the best ways to remove friction from their employees’ lives.

They found that while the US leads in the digitization of HR workflows they struggle to retain talent, whereas European companies are slow at making investments in advanced technologies that will ultimately improve the employee experience.

According to Wadors, this can be broken down into three distinct sections: culture, systems and environment. “There's three basic things that make up the employee experience. It is the culture - how we pay you, our polices, our practices, how we treat each other. This is then supported by our systems; what tools do we need to give you to perform your job effectively. And finally, there's the environment you work in.”

Wadors explained that another key way to place your employees at the center of your transformation initiatives is by designing your internal experience strategy from the outside in.

“Companies continuously monitor the customer experience and measure customer satisfaction but now they need to do the same thing for the talent side of the house. Creating a successful employee experience means providing quality interactions all the way from attracting talent and onboarding, through all the moments that matter in their career until they offboard.”

Investing in technology for technologies sake is never going to drive the outcomes you want however, rolling out a solution that can be used in service of employees can only help to enhance their working lives.

The VERN (Virtual Employee Resource Network) established by Magellan Health in the US is one such example. Their self-service HR portal has eliminated the need for internal phone support and allowed for 75% of routine inquires to be answered via this digital solution. 

Patricia Tourigny, Senior VP at Magellan Health, explained how VERN came about.

“When we rolled this out we knew it needed to have an employee-first focus. This wasn't about HR, it wasn't about making our lives easier. It was all about them. Every decision we made, everything we talked about started with the employee.”

By allowing employees to help themselves, Magellan Health are paving the way for a more fluid, self-sufficient workplace of the future; empowering their workers at a level that transposes the siloed departments of HR or IT. As the workplace endeavors to become more flexible, so does the way employees interact with their company.

 

Making innovation relevant

 

Changing the way you interact with your employees is no good unless you have the technology to back it up. ‘Digital transformation’ and ‘artificial intelligence’ are often terms at the top of the list when it comes to developing the workplace of the future but, as ServiceNow CIO Chris Bedi points out, despite the growing pressure organizations face to adopt a digital-first approach to working, the real struggle is how to give these terms meaning.

“There is a huge sense of urgency around getting this transformation underway. However, the challenge lies within making things like digital transformation and machine learning actionable and measurable, not just buzzwords which they happen to be today.”

Part of the problem for organizations is answering the initial question ‘how digital are you?’. ServiceNow has developed a framework of about twenty metrics that scores processes to rank how digital they are. “Then we bubble that up to a team or department, so we can answer that question,” explains Bedi. “Once you can measure digitization and give it a score, you can start to set targets against it.”

Another trend Bedi has picked up on is that CEOs are now valuing the speed of investments over the cost; noting that if you manage to get the speed, intelligence and experience of your deployments right, the cost outcome you want will fall into place.

However, despite the obvious benefits that come from integrating these capabilities, Bedi acknowledges that one of the biggest problems still facing many CIOs is navigating the digital divide and selling executives on the promise that technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence will enable a better workplace in the future.

Getting people to buy in to significant cultural changes isn’t easy, especially when people believe these emerging technologies have been designed to replace them. Furthermore, research has shown that 70% of all AI projects are either running over time or over budget, highlighting the reason why some IT leaders are still exercising caution around this technology.

Dean Underwood, head of IT Services at the UK’s Virgin Trains is also all too aware of the difficulties of enacting a large cultural overhaul within an organization.

“Change in culture is always the trickiest part of any transformation project,” he explains. “You’re always going to have challenges but what matters is how you go about combatting them.”

“We have 34 stations up and down the country, so it's previously been quite hard to get the message out to the individuals who would never normally interact with my team. We brought in a number of 'tech geniuses' to help us push out the message from the word go and as a result we’ve held a lot of vigils and clinics and developed an internal communication platform to make sure we get the widest possible exposure.”

However, for Underwood, digital transformation is simply about finding ways to work smarter. By implementing a cloud-first business model, Virgin Trains West Coast Main Line franchise has been able to execute a company-wide vision of digital transformation and help to further drive the innovation that the parent brand had become synonymous with.

When questioned, Underwood predicted that natural language chatbots are going to be used with increasing frequency to enhance the customer experience; a forecast ServiceNow clearly agrees with if its April acquisition of AI chatbot platform Parlo is anything to go by.

Nevertheless, while it’s understandable that some IT leaders put internal pressure on their teams to implement these trends at the earliest possible date; there was one point that continued to be raised in every conversation I had at ServiceNow Knowledge 18 -- unless you have a clear and necessary use case; you won’t get to reap the benefits of the technology.

“There are some ideas that have been thrown around that we can't find a use case for,” VP of Innovation, Chris Pope, explained.

“Blockchain is one example. I can't come up with a single use case for it at the moment that makes sense, that we could go to market with, and sell to ServiceNow customers. It's all about applicability. Sure, we could jump on the blockchain bandwagon but will the average customer that we have at the moment want it? I don't know.”

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Charlotte Trueman

Charlotte is Staff Writer at IDG Connect

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