Digital transformation and the experience economy

Digital transformation and the experience economy

When most people think of the future of digital technology, it’s tempting to visualise someone wearing virtual reality goggles, surrounded by floating holographic signs while drones fly overhead. But the reality of a digital experience is different.

That person wearing those VR goggles – the person most deeply immersed in digital technology – in all probability has the least awareness of the technology itself. They may be exploring a prehistoric jungle or standing at the peak of Mount Everest, enjoying an experience as far from technology as one can get.

And this desire for greater simplicity and authenticity is backed up by the evidence. Over the last ten years, global interest in the word ‘productivity’ has halved, and ‘mindfulness’ has increased by a factor of ten. In the UK, mindfulness is now searched for on Google three times as much as productivity.

Does this mean that interest in digital will similarly wane? Not at all. It means that people are drawn towards an experience that’s smooth, convenient and authentic. People want the experience of buying a new chest of drawers to be as relaxing and enjoyable as a walk in the park. Steve Jobs, the driving force behind the world-changing iPhone, made this point when he said:

You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.

Digital technology provides efficiency at the cost of experience

But many businesses aren’t quite there yet. In research carried out by McKinsey in 2017, employees were asked whether they’d seen a successful digital transformation. 34% of CEOs said that they had, while frontline employees answered overwhelmingly in the negative. Only 6% of frontline employees said that they had seen a successful digital transformation, and they’re the ones who are interacting with the customers who ultimately use those digital products.

Businesses without a consumer app are now the exception rather than the rule, and it’s not obvious to the customer whether this is genuinely improving their experience or rather adding yet more complexity (and more notifications) to their busy lives. This begs the question: what motivates those CEOs? What success are they seeing that their frontline staff aren’t?

At its simplest level, digital transformation gives CEOs two things they care about: it can reduce costs through automation and predictive analytics that reduces unnecessary spend, increasing profit, and it pushes the business a step into the future, improving the chances of long term success. And in practical terms, that means that frontline staff are expected to deal with constant change in systems and processes against the backdrop of inevitable redundancy – a vision most business leaders would find hard to communicate in a way that truly motivates.

Strategy & Innovation Consultation

This then builds a perception that those business leaders aren’t actually interested in change. The ‘tone from the top’ is that we’d like to be agile, serve customers better and simplify things…and the net result for Joe Bloggs is the exact opposite. Rather than experiencing the joy of agility, new ways of working are forced on him. Rather than seeing happier customers, the machine serves the simplest customers so he only experiences the ones who are upset. Rather than making things simpler, the self-service apps now encroach on his spare time rather than letting him give a call to the person who used to solve that problem.

Involving people improves the experience and increases success

So, is there a solution? Let’s start by revisiting the business case for digital transformation. It’s not as simple as comparing one set of numbers to another, because if it’s truly transformation then it’s forcing behaviour change on employees and customers. So why not let everyone in the entire business influence and own digital decisions? That would increase buy-in, subsequently increasing staff retention and the success of the programme, and it might just lead to better digital products and services because the ideas would have come from those who see the customer experience close up.

How does this work in practice? In its simplest, most personal form, this can include things like workshops drawing on a range of people to brainstorm and prioritise ideas, and reverse mentoring, which is being used widely such as at Microsoft and The Co-op. And more complex implementations that Grant Thornton have worked with our larger clients to introduce and run have been innovation labs, which draw on the ideas of individuals spread across the business. In one case this led to a large retail bank fully automating their mortgage processes, speeding up application times by a factor of almost ten and releasing staff members to engage in more interesting work.

I believe it’s possible to run digital transformation programmes that tick every box by deeply involving people, both employees and customers. How successful will yours be?


Article by channel:

Read more articles tagged: Featured, Strategy

Strategy & Innovation