Undergoing transformation

There have been some early, awkward attempts at assessing the technological maturity of a business before it undertakes a digital transformation. These have typically focused on the ‘digital assets’ of a company, limited to websites, search rankings etc.
This is, however, woefully inadequate for most businesses. To be of any real use, digital maturity must encompass the impact of digital on how a business operates, both now and in line with future plans. In a modern, integrated, data-driven world, businesses need to become more automated and make extensive use of technology to do so – this is at the core of digital transformation success.

This cannot be understated. There are traditional specialist tasks that are no longer attractive to a younger generation – anything from invoice processing to demand forecasting to route planning to workforce optimisation, insurance claims processing and payouts; invoice validation; or tracking components and stock through production, warehousing, and distribution.
These are not tasks that it would be nice to replace by automation, they are tasks that MUST be replaced by automation. But that process cannot begin without an awareness of the current state of the business: hence the need for digital maturity assessments.

What does digital maturity look like?
This realization promotes an immediate set of questions:

  • How connected, integrated, and automated is the business?
  • How are ways of working tied to data?
  • How does the business operate from a technological perspective?
  • Are the tools and systems fit for the current job AND future objectives?
  • Does the business have the right tools, systems?
  • Are all technology and services appropriately licensed or contracted?
  • What is the data or compliance exposure to risk?
  • Are there security risks?

This can be understood as a digital iceberg. Typically, most assessments of digital maturity focus on that which can be seen above the water, exemplified by online customer interfaces, some business intelligence, analytics, and machine learning.
But most of the value of the transformation project lies beneath the water as technology determines operational, supply chain and even HR issues.
For example, the implementation of a new ERP system within Total offered the opportunity to revisit processes, operating models and services throughout distribution, sales, stock and replenishment. Technology was leveraged to automate the monitoring of fuel levels across a diverse portfolio of locations, including forecourts, airports and ports. The huge leaps in value were then delivered by developing a predictive supply capability fed by sensor-based, on-site data capture.

The project also used IoT for maintenance of the assets, driving further value as proactive and strategic maintenance saves both cost and time of downtime.

This example shows that it is critical that businesses explore – at quite some depth – the anticipated state of the business in the coming three to five years, and ensure that technology is there to support those changes. All too often assessments are made without consideration to the deeper issues such as code development, security, and data flow that may develop beyond the first 12-18 month period.

This gives a very static picture of the digital maturity of a company at any one point in time, rather than future value of efficiencies and opportunities, or indeed the risks that may arise.

Applying this to industry: case study
Our client is a utility infrastructure asset owner and operator, specializing in gas and electricity networks. They have over half a million connections in the UK across both residential and industrial markets. Amidst some of the most buoyant conditions for housebuilding seen in the past three decades, it became critical for our client to be able to onboard new assets and customers quickly, with minimal friction.

However, our client was restricted by manual, inefficient paper-based processes, and systems. Poor data quality was endemic and ageing systems were not integrated, leading to a great deal of duplicated effort. This was particularly acute within the finance function where there were multiple occasions of the same documentation both in paper form and stored in different systems.

With no online capabilities and all the systems only accessible at a single office location, our client suffered from huge silos of information and fragmented operations.

Off-line, manual processes led to substantial issues with customer experience, seen in high customer attrition and a lack of visibility into the value of any given account.

BML Digital installed a technology figurehead and initiated a complete strategic objectives review. This included both an assessment of the operational model and business functions, as well as a ‘current state’ IT review.

From this, we proposed a change approach with an investment plan that would deliver defined phases of change with incremental improvements. This plan included the specification of technology solutions, supplier onboarding as well as technology leadership and change coaching with the establishment of a dedicated change team. We then tackled these processes to ensure compliance and governance, throughout both supplier and programme management.

The outcomes from this digital transformation programme have included:

  • The establishment of a core, foundational cloud native IT capability that enabled uninterrupted business operations during Covid-19 disruptions
  • A reduced need for headcount
  • The implementation of a seamlessly integrated Microsoft-based enterprise applications platform for customer, operations, and finance capabilities
  • The complete integration of necessary legacy systems and third-party services
  • Better collaboration across the workforce, with faster operations and reporting
  • A substantial improvement in customer service leading to lower attrition
  • Far greater visibility into both finance and operational departments

Most critically, our client is now able to capitalise on an incredibly active market with consistent, standardised business practices that have formed the basis of growth.

Jaco Vermeulen is CTO at BML Digital. BML Digital is a consultancy that demystifies digital transformation. It simplifies the technologies most relevant to modern business to deliver focused, powerful, pragmatic, and effective digital strategy and transformation to some of the biggest names in commerce.
For further information please visit: http://www.bmldigital.com