People are the real inhibitors of change amidst digital disruptors

*This content is brought to you by Thomas Oosthuizen

Consumer-centricity is the reason why companies exist. Amazon is built around customers. All else supports that – people, systems, logistics, brands, UX design.

Why is it so hard for legacy companies to change?

Five factors prohibit legacy companies to become customer-centric, 1. A belief that they are customer focused, 2. Staff that focus upon process rather than outcome, 3. That they are too large to fail, 4. Believing many newcomers have an in-built “self-destruct” button, i.e., Deliveroo cannot indefinitely deliver orders for free, 5. People that are so specialised that they lose perspective and lastly 6. A dire lack of internal communication and a single sense of purpose.

People stand in the way of transformation, not technology per se.

Much of new technology is targeted upon customer-centricity

The core benefit that most new technologies claim to add, is greater customer-centricity. The ability to serve customers faster, easier, more conveniently, for less and in a customised fashion.

Most past technologies were focused on functional aspects of the business. This fragmented customer experience.

Supportive eco-systems, rather than in-house owned systems, may be the only viable and agile way to deliver greater customer-centricity

We move from fragmentation to an integrated ecosystem. This will mean executives will live with contradictions, complimentary or even unrelated systems working side-by-side. Working with competitors and customers.

So where must resources be spent?

It is hard for any executive to decide where to spend technology and people resources, what is most important and how decide between options? How not to waste money by buying redundant systems? How to ensure the best alignment between systems? How to ensure the end-result will translate into better customer communication, experience and convenience? How to guide departments to communicate and buy what is right for the company instead of what the flavour of the day is. How to ensure longevity and evolution of systems instead of replication and replacement. How to use what is “ok” for now to upgrade later.

A few simple guidelines on what is important for legacy companies – in my own experience

Do not knee-jerk at new disruptors 

Executives are first adopters, better remunerated, more exposed to news, always looking for ways to improve their companies. So that means, we notice technologies faster than most and often adopt them faster than most.

It is the job of a CTO, CFO or CMO to know what technology may assist their departmental focus.

Do not “fall-in-love” with some branded systems, that distracts from strategic performance. Decide what is required first. What worked in one company may not work in another.

Daily, we read about new companies with new value propositions based upon new technology. Many fail, many gain some traction, few become superstars. Try and learn from them.

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The most evident change most consumers experience, lies in apps that connects the aspects of the business consumers needed to deal with separately before, into a one-point interface. There is no doubt that that delivers a real advantage for consumers, inasmuch as the front-end of disruptive brands also aggregates back-end processes to deliver one single-point of interface.

Yet, a bad app is worse than no app.

Start with your advantages

Recognise what unique benefits you hold given your legacy, size, customers, annuity income, margins, competitive advantage and resources.

What is most important to protect? Where are the gaps? What sets you apart from disruptors?

Then identify, across other industries also, what is missing.

For more information on Dr Thomas Brand, click here

The types of technology that may be relevant in given areas

Consumer facing

  1. Functionally totally integrated and seamless. A simple front-end, with deep back-end integration.
  2. Augmented and integrated customer experiences.
  3. Much amplified data to enable a deeper understanding of customers.
  4. Machine learning and statistical capabilities to direct results.
  5. The transformation of customer communication between technology and real people.
  6. An easier and naturally enabled increased drive towards the lifetime value of customers.
  7. A harder barrier-to-exit for customers.

Intermediary capabilities

  1. The assessment of current systems, procedures, technology to ensure the elimination of redundancy.
  2. The careful assessment of what technology amplification is required to support the expectations of customers.
  3. A prioritisation that enables only the required change, in order of importance. Then a “wish-list”.
  4. Connecting systems so customers do not experience a breakdown.
  5. Customers are not interested in how companies “work”, they want their issues resolved.
  6. Their best experiences with brands become the yardstick for all other interfaces.

People capabilities

  1. By far, the hardest one. In their current form, many companies cannot change to become customer centric. Staff are hardwired into processes that fragment customer experiences.
  2. This means companies need to become “learning” focused, meaning many of the current senior management of most companies may not be able to change.
  3. Innovation is enabled by diversity, far greater overlap between roles, a far lesser focus upon functional or technical capabilities than upon EQ. New people bring change. Talking about the customer and the way systems work together, works. No-one owns the customer, the company does.
  4. The measurement of outcomes in a feedback loop to enable greater efficiency and effectiveness.
  5. Practically, what must ordinary staff know and do differently from day one during such transformations?
  6. Departments must communicate.

Other support functions

  1. Logistics remain by far the greatest application of digital technology today.
    • Logistics enable far better stock management and control with systems like RFID.
    • Logistics enable greater supply and demand synergies, having the right product in the right place, of the right quality, at the right price, at the right time.
  2. Systems that enable the early identification of deficiencies in any systems.
  3. Cloud systems that enable fast scalability.
  4. Robotics that mechanises basic processes for less errors, human boredom and speed.

Marketing

  1. Putting the customer at the core and making them aware of that. Consumers only ever experience the result of technology, not the technology itself.
  2. The gradual expansion of marketing technology, from best-practice ecommerce, to linking online and offline seamlessly, to better targeted marketing through retargeting (without overdoing it), to an enhanced store with interactive technology, online and augmented reality experience, now even the metaverse. Remember, consumers are with a company to serve their needs, clever marketing is a bonus, not why they buy. Yet, understanding customers remains the key role of marketing.
    • Systems that connect communities of interest, groups or friendships. Systems that enable communications between parties within such systems.
    • Systems that enable new capabilities by connecting data interface between people, functionalities, products, services, other behavioural drivers, external data.
    • Systems that aggregate large volumes of data into insights into consumers.
    • Systems that enable reporting between and across functions.
  3. A greater growth-focus upon the right customers to keep and the right ones to attract.

To conclude

An executive team can put an integrated process in place that costs less money, enables easier evolution and achieves greater customer centricity.

It requires to understand what customers want, how they engage with the company, what is required to support that, what their points of interface will look like, what gaps there are that will make the biggest difference and how best to prioritise.

Fast-wins always help to build credibility.

This requires a shared vision and purpose. If not, fragmentation rules and wastage is high.

For more information on Dr Thomas Brand, click here

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