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A platform approach for digital transformation: What, why and how

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Dan Glessner

Vice President, Digital

April 24, 2018 - Digital transformation is primarily about people and processes, not technology – not shiny objects, not slick mobile apps, not best-in-class point solutions, but rather optimized, end-to-end business processes. This post describes how a platform approach is needed for enterprises to deliver superior customer journeys and effective digital transformations.

Recent Forrester research indicates a dramatic shift in the focus of enterprise process improvement efforts. Two years ago, cost reduction was the primary driver; today, investments are primarily driven by improved customer experience. And, two years from now, accelerating digital business transformation is expected to be the  primary driver.

Clearly, enterprises recognize the importance of investing to improve customer experience and – moving forward – lay a solid foundation for digital transformation. Enterprises seem to understand that that will support greater organizational agility as well as alternative business models and new revenue sources.

Today, customer journey mapping is a high-growth enterprise investment area. One large analyst firm predicts that 60% of large enterprises will have in-house customer journey-mapping capabilities in 2018, up from no more than 20% three years ago. Indeed, customer experience is often the multiplier, or rate limiter, for overall business results.

The challenges

As they say, “the devil is in the details" – or in this case, in the manual processes. Even though business process management software has been available for years, many of today's business processes are still manual. That is, they are paper-based processes that involve the manual routing of tasks. And for large enterprises, these processes cut across organizational silos – a huge hurdle to overcome.

Improving end-to-end business processes is the best way to improve your customer journeys. But doing so requires a deep understanding of the value drivers along customer journeys and the application of innovative solutions which integrate with legacy systems, comply with regulations, and provide needed governance.

This capability goes far beyond simply creating a pretty front end. End-to-end process expertise is of paramount importance. As one industry analyst shared during a discussion, process is hot again. Like brussel sprouts or kale, process expertise is increasingly recognized as “super food" to enable breakthroughs in customer experience.

Defining a platform

One definition of a platform is as "a group of technologies that are used as a base upon which other applications, processes, or technologies are developed." Nonetheless. the word "platform" is often misunderstood, particularly given the increase in cloud platforms, two-sided business model platforms, mobile platforms, and so on.

"Platform" in this post refers to a services-based architecture used to create an interoperable set of services that can be brought together to create applications and workflows to achieve business objectives. This platform can be thought of as any number of “Lego blocks," or curated technology services, which can be rearranged to meet different business needs. The openness and composite nature of a platform is ideally suited to the external-facing capabilities required by new digital business processes and business models.

Why a platform approach

A platform approach enables your enterprise to leverage a flexible, structured, and scalable foundation, while speeding development time, leveraging investments, and incorporating “long tail" processes. A platform approach provides flexibility to embrace process changes and emerging capabilities along your transformation journey. And it makes your enterprise development process more predictable and repeatable, enabling faster time-to-market with lower risks.

Platforms are able to integrate with your enterprise systems of record, adapt to changing processes, and incorporate evolving technologies, while at the same time providing essential security, scalability, and governance. Platforms also enable greater consistency, which is important because it is people who need to effectively leverage them.

Business process management, which has traditionally been relegated to the enterprise back office, is increasingly recognized as critical enabler for improved customer journeys. Enterprises need a platform approach to effectively break organizational silos and extend across back, middle, and front-office processes.

Next steps

Service providers with a platform approach and expertise in your industry can add significant value during your company's digital transformation. The best service providers will invest ahead of the technology curve to determine how existing processes could benefit from digital interventions, while being focused on the “true north" of improved customer journeys.

Leading service providers will partner with you throughout your journey, in contrast to technology or product vendors who have a tendency to paint a rosy picture of the future. Lastly, the best service providers focus on achieving your business outcomes, rather than becoming enamored with any particular technology or point solution.

Partner with a service provider who offers a platform approach to enabling end-to-end business process transformation. In so doing, your company will significantly improve its chances of achieving breakthrough customer experiences and greater competitiveness.