Digital transformation is a lot like cooking for a dinner party.
I know that’s not what you expect to hear from us here at Chariot, but the point landed for me during a recent panel discussion. This past week, we gathered leaders of organizations not typically considered tech companies – the city of Philadelphia, a sports investment firm, a health insurer, and a property services firm– to discuss the role that technology plays in their operations.
It was immediately obvious that the theme “every company is a tech company” has never been truer. In the age of COVID-19, the embrace of and investment in technology and its deployment has increased dramatically.
From Philadelphia’s Smart City Director Emily Yates emphasizing the need to equitably distribute resources to all citizens during the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement to Mike Vennera, CIO at Independence Blue Cross, highlighting changing health requirements during COVID-19, to Chad Stender, of Seventy-Six Capital discussing how new ideas are coming from unexpected sources to Brigitte Daniel of Wilco, talking about multi-family smart homes, every person on the panel had a story about how and why their commitment to tech was both evolving and accelerating in response to the pandemic.
Yet, I was surprised that the panelists did not immediately dive into a discussion about Java or cloud computing – after all, this was a tech gathering. Instead, all four agreed that rolling out a digital transformation strategy was not a simple check-the-box affair where CIOs bought hot technology solutions and then trained up staff.
While most companies would eventually roll out some common types of tech – mobile, database, Internet of Things – there are steps to take before you go shopping. Namely, understanding the business initiative, the customer needs, and a wide range of external factors…including budget.
Therein lies the cooking analogy. While most meals can often be broken down into protein, starch, and vegetable, there is an incredible amount of variance and creativity that goes into planning and executing the final spread.
There are some basic questions you must answer before you create a shopping list or start any actual cooking. Do any of your guests have allergies? What foods are in season? Will you serve in courses? And yes, what’s your budget?
The key is understanding both your meal and your technology in application. It’s what we at Chariot call “technology in service to the business.” Teams must understand how, why, and where technology will function in the real world.
To help, my guests on the panel helped outlined the five considerations companies should evaluate before hitting the grocery story…or a cloud provider.
Tech starts at the top. Like any other corporate initiative, management support and alignment are critical to ensure success. Hard to enjoy a vegan meal if the host spends the night lamenting her love for eggs. In that same way, it’s impossible to truly be a tech-forward organization without the leadership team on-board. I always cringe at stories about some tech CEO that has his assistant print out emails for him to read or that doesn’t know how to use Slack. From budget allocation to staffing to a public-facing use of core technologies, the C-suite must practice what you as a company preach.
Changing Customer Needs
Building your technology to suit historical customer needs is a recipe for disaster. You must have your pulse on the finger of what your customers need today and what they’ll want tomorrow.
This is evident in real estate and property technology where Daniel of Wilco, explained that homeowner or renter concerns are rapidly evolving. For a long time, the emphasis was on remote access and convenience. Monitoring your systems while at the office or checking up on who rang the doorbell while you were away.
Now that we’re all home, she also said it’s all about faster WiFi and systems that support our shelter-in-place lifestyle. And looking ahead, she thinks we’re going to see the prioritization of telemedicine integrations as people want to age-in-place. That will require decisions around technology that allows for remote monitoring of sensors, test-taking, and more.
To succeed and futureproof their technology investment, companies must put in the time and effort now to know their customers inside and out, for today and tomorrow.
End User Experience
While similar to customer needs, end user experience is a slightly different – but equally important – factor to consider. These are the expectations your customers bring to the table and the manner in which they consume or experience your technology offering.
For example, SeventySix Capital’s Stender emphasized that in sports, it’s all about real-time. When his firm is looking at investments – whether the tech serves the athlete or the fan – speed is of the essence.
Players want instant feedback on their swing or shot, while fans want up-to-the-minute stats and results. So, while performance monitoring systems or fantasy sports betting platforms might be state-of-the-art and incorporate tons of whiz bang features, they’ll fall flat on their face if they take days, hours, or even minutes to produce results.
Understanding that end user experience demand is critical to evaluating the quality and benefit of the technology solution.
Tech produces copious amounts of data by the second. More data than you can ever imagine. And your business needs a strategy for how to leverage it, store it, manage it, and protect it.
It’s not good enough simply to drop it into a database somewhere. You must be constantly examining it to learn from it, sharing it with your teams as actionable insights, and protecting it from hackers or improper dissemination.
Consider that aforementioned smart home of the future offering aging-in-place telemedicine options. For healthcare providers, that is likely a great opportunity to learn and create efficiencies on behalf of patients, but it also probably creates enormous HIPAA and privacy obligations that must be addressed in their technology decisions.
That’s an opportunity where Vennera said an organization like Independence Blue Cross can help. He shared that insurers are used to actively gathering troves of data and then pushing it back out the healthcare community in a way that enables them to deliver care more effectively.
Of course, like every good meal, digital transformation often carries a hefty price tag. Understanding parameters and constraints ahead of time, will help you meet customer demands, build a user experience, and deploy your data strategy in the most efficient way possible.
The technology itself will also bring about efficiencies. Philadelphia’s Yates knows this all too well. She is tasked with building new strategies and programs amidst an enormous budget shortfall caused by COVID-19. The same pandemic that is making her work more important than ever.
For her, this means balancing the investment in tech with the efficiencies it will create once instituted and how effective it will be in meeting end goals. Translation: it’s all about the Return on Investment. Any good digital transformation team needs to know their own formulation before they start building their tech shopping list.
Plan Your Next Tech Steps Now
As you seek to survive, thrive and future proof your company using tech, you must first understand your business goals before taking the costly step of writing even that first line of code. It’s the old adage “measure twice, cut once.”
By planning and prototyping, you reduce risk, save money, and speed your time to market. The alternative to doing it right is doing it twice.
We at Chariot are here to help. Our Discovery and Analysis phase is a proven way to outline the goals, challenges, and demands of any digital transformation initiative. Our customers have found this methodology helps protect their investment and delivers a healthier bottom line by ensuring collaboration happens early and often.