This post is the first of a three part series. For the second post, click here.
Software’s time is here. Coming up on the seventh decade of the computer revolution, we’ve seen how radically it has changed businesses and transformed whole industries. We look at ‘software companies’ - Google, Amazon, Uber, et al - as leaders in innovation and value creation.
Nor is software just the domain of tech giants. Today every successful company considers it essential to a business' survival: consider Walmart’s logistics system that maximises supply chain efficiency and keeps prices low. Meanwhile, every car company is turning its product into a bundle of sensors on wheels, as the race to perfect self-driving technology shifts into high gear. And at TAB, we've helped Transport for London (TfL) collect data on train braking; Dunnhumby rethink the way they deliver customer insight; and Unilever analyse and distribute mission critical business intelligence.
It follows, then, that software is the easy answer to any challenge an enterprise is facing. Like most easy answers to tough questions, it’s not so simple.
Software doesn’t make winners great. Winners make great software: they design, build and implement it to fit their unique employee, customer and business needs. We call these Connected Organisations.
The Connected Organisation
We’ve identified the key behaviours (as shown below) that Connected Organisations make and use software to deliver on.
- Getting closer to the customer - Connected Organisations constantly try to understand what the consumers of a product or service really value, and how they can deliver that value. They maximise the touch points they can use to gather valuable feedback, surface it across the organisation, and test improvements to their offer constantly.
- Developing a data-driven culture - they gather valuable quantitative and qualitative data on as many aspects of their business as they can, in real time. Then, they turn that data into actionable insights - and get them into the hands of the employees best able to make use of them.
- Empowering staff and customers - Connected Organisations help their customers and staff get things done better, faster, and easier by putting them in control, whether that’s buying a product or solving a customer query. Crucially, they rethink processes for the software-enabled era, rather than just reflecting old processes in software.
- Breaking down organisational barriers - For Connected Organisations, software acts as connective tissue across departments, channels and teams. With the right software they foster knowledge sharing, promote collaboration and enable better aligned decision making.
- Continuously learning and responding - Connected Organisations are true learning machines. They don’t just generate insights, but use them to change quickly to better meet customer and business needs, and pursue the most valuable opportunities.
As consumers, we get to win alongside these business: their behaviours enable our products and services to get more convenient, more personal, more contextual, and more valuable. The power of a great business enabled by software is something we directly experience in our hands, our pockets, and our homes.
The Disconnected Organisation
All businesses use software extensively: hundreds of tools, thousands of licences, developed or bought with no expense spared and rolled out with great fanfare. But that doesn’t make them Connected Organisations.
Disconnected Organisations are falling behind, overtaken by organisations that are faster, leaner, more agile, and more productive.
Products within these organisations, while seemingly successful in isolation, aren’t being designed and delivered to build valuable connections between customers, employees, and business value. Disconnected Organisations need great software that’s going to help them overcome the challenges of being:
- Presumptuous - Disconnected Organisations fall into the trap of assuming they know what customers want, and prioritising the needs of the enterprise or the HIPPO. They do this because they aren’t close to customers and what they value, or what employees need to best create that value.
- Uninformed - Disconnected Organisations do what they’ve always done, and because they aren’t identifying what data they need to collect, they aren’t collecting it. That means they aren’t turning it into actionable insight that could show them new opportunities for improvement.
- Controlling and restrictive - They also insist that customers and employees do things on the organisation’s terms, ‘digitising’ existing processes without improving them, or questioning whether they are needed at all.
- Siloed - Disconnected Organisations are unable to break down the internal barriers of reporting lines, channels and org charts. This keeps valuable knowledge, insight and capabilities from being combined to create value, and instead creates dysfunctional experiences for customers and staff.
- Slow and bureaucratic - Even if they are collecting some valuable data, Disconnected Organisations lack a truly Connected Learning Loop at the heart of deciding what would be most valuable to do next. They aren’t asking the right questions, following the right indicators, or acting rapidly on the results. This leads to them being unable to change processes that are no longer producing value, and unable to move quickly to grasp new opportunities.
The end result? It’s often worse than having no software at all: ill conceived, poorly implemented software that simply isn’t delivering any return on investment. Gartner estimates that eight in ten dollars spent on IT is dead money, at an annual worldwide cost of $3 trillion. Far from enabling organisations, poorly implemented software is making organisations slower, clunkier, and less efficient - at a time when competition is becoming more intense than ever.
Becoming a Connected Organisation
At TAB, we’ve been working with big organisations for many years to help them avoid these pitfalls and deliver great software that connects their organisation and delivers value. We don’t think you can just fix your organisation overnight: the best way to become a Connected Organisation is to think through where new software can add the most value right now, delivering performance breakthroughs and acting as a showcase for new ways of doing things. We’ve identified five key pillars (as shown below) where businesses can start building something valuable right now:
- Real-time data gathering and capture - digital and physical ‘sensors’ to monitor the business in real time, with efficient tools to capture and synthesise qualitative feedback. This generates data that can be stored, cleaned, and flowed around the enterprise efficiently.
- Live insight generation - business intelligence tools that generate valuable live insight, visible to the right parts of the organisation. This in turn enables faster, more enlightened decision-making.
- Empowering service staff - intuitive interfaces that make it easy for front-line staff to deliver value for customers.
- Streamlining workflows - digitally native processes and back-office systems that re-engineer operations for greater productivity, instead of just digitising paper processes.
- Seamless collaboration - internal communication, sharing, and knowledge management networks that build connections across the business, get critical information where it needs to go and foster real collaboration.
As important as these pillars are the foundations we build for success:
- A culture focused on identifying the most valuable outcomes for customers and employees, and rapidly iterating them from the smallest practical start to achieve the biggest visions.
- An enterprise technology architecture designed for always-on, continuous improvement - not to reach a static ‘finish line’. This requires the capability for automated deployment, testing and monitoring build into the infrastructure.
In our next post, we’ll unpack what these mean in practical terms, and explore some of the ways TAB has helped clients execute successfully on them. We’ll also look at some of the principles we use to guide our work.
Interested in joining the discussion on the future of enterprise mobility? Register your interest for our next breakfast roundtable session.