In our previous post, we explored some of the key behaviours that define winning businesses. We refer to leaders in this space as Connected Organisations. They ‘win’ by designing, building and implementing smart software, tailored to fit their unique employee, customer and business needs. Connected Organisations pursue ideals, not end points - for them, the journey is never done, and they're always striving to be more connected.
At TAB, we’ve worked for many years with the likes of Unilever, Transport for London (TfL), and the Met Office, to help them build great software that delivers value, and changes their organisations for the better. In this post, we’re going to apply our experience to look at practical ways enterprises can become Connected Organisations, through the smart application of great software.
Getting started now
Our experience is that trying to fix your organisation overnight through a Big Bang ’transformation programme’ just isn’t realistic. The best way to start becoming a more Connected Organisation is to think through where new software can add the most value right now, where it can deliver performance breakthroughs and kick start new ways of working in the organisation.
NB: Thinking holistically and still starting small aren’t mutually exclusive. We’ll talk about how we’ve done that that in our next post in this series.
We’ve identified five key pillars where businesses can start building something valuable right now.
THE FIVE PILLARS
1. Real-time data gathering and capture
Getting your hands on customer usage, operational or process data used to be a laborious, manual process. Consider the classic ‘time and motion’ study, where observers followed workers on the factory floor, writing down the details of every activity and how long it took. However, modern digital tools, connected sensors and embedded analytics mean that many enterprises are already generating huge amounts of data, sometimes without even realising it. Making sure it’s valuable data is the real key.
To do that, it’s important that you begin with understanding the business question you’re trying to answer - sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how often this step is missed, or defined in only vague terms. At TAB, we think of these questions as target value hypotheses. When you know what that hypothesis is, you can start to understand data is needed to help you test it. If it isn’t data you already have, getting it doesn’t have to be expensive; deploying inexpensive IoT sensors, analytics logging the right user interactions, or other data gathering tools helps close gaps in your metrics. Making use of the connectivity, light, audio and motion sensors smartphones and tablets offer gives easy access to the infrastructure for new metrics. That data then needs to be structured into usable formats. This requires cleaning it, storing it, and designing information pipelines so that it can be used across organisational silos. Efficient systems for flowing that data to where the enterprise can make use of it are key to turning raw metrics into valuable information.
2. Live insight generation
If your data is only being used to track performance, it isn’t generating the value it could be.
Rapid generation of actionable insight is key, with Machine Learning (ML) as a critical enabler. For example, ML algorithms can turn raw camera footage of a retail store into a real-time insight stream. Live counting, path tracking and group size monitoring of customers in a service environment can be transformed into data-informed recommendations on stock replenishment, shelf positioning and promotion placement.
Turning insight into real-world results means getting it into the hands of those most able to act upon it. This means securely dispersing information to those on the front line of the business is as critical as getting it quickly to the boardroom. Staff active on the outer edges can then pre-empt issues, delight customers or optimise daily operations in real-time, while senior executives can make impact at scale - both based on real evidence.
3. Empowering service staff
As consumers, the tools we use are fast, intuitive, and help us get things done: if something doesn’t measure up, an alternative is only a few taps away. Enterprises often mistakenly think that because employees don’t have those choices, the need to make software intuitive and simple to use inside the walls of the organisation doesn’t apply. Wrong.
In practice, this assumption means that expensive enterprise tools become digital paperweights, even after significant resources have been spent on training staff to use over-complicated software. Employees rely on their own workarounds and fallbacks rather than trying to grapple with unintuitive systems - even going back to good old paper and pen. The money spent on the tool is wasted, productivity is lost using workarounds, as is the opportunity for further gains in embedding digital native processes.
Engaging, intuitive interfaces and services, designed to meet employee outcomes in the context that they’re in, boost adoption. Considering the mobile context and needs of front-of-house, production or operational staff, rather than just the desk-based parts of your organisation, will make a huge difference to the way software is used. Frontline staff using those tools, afterall, deliver immediate customer impact.
4. Streamlining workflows
Most enterprises have at least started to digitise processes and interaction channels, but many are missing the greater opportunities from creating digital native workflows.
This requires starting from the outcome the process is trying to achieve, then think about how digital technology can solve that outcome. Consider a process designed to capture customer or employee feedback. Lifting that process from paper could lead to a webform with a complex series of checkboxes and category codes, reviewed by a human and turned into an entry on a spreadsheet - which then gets stored on a hard drive to eventually be manually emailed in a weekly report.
Instead, ML sentiment analysis could categorise feedback across multiple channels, automatically identify issues and prioritise them, and serve that insight to the right teams capable of solving the problem in near real-time. The digital native process offers the opportunity for far greater productivity, lower costs, and frees up resources to focus on delivering value for customers.
Get in touch to find out how TAB, together with The Met Office, rebuilt the UK’s Flood Guidance System, keeping the public safe and enabling thousands of first responders to deal effectively with flooding.
5. Seamless collaboration
Organisational silos form hard barriers, preventing organisation from becoming more than the sum of their parts. Without the right tools to overcome them, silos restrict collaboration, knowledge sharing, and a collective focus on the organisation’s core mission. Yet even software as simple as allowing employees to find colleagues easily on-the-go, using mobile people directories, can help break these barriers down.
More advanced software supports real-time collaboration on tasks, recommends other key stakeholders who aren’t currently involved in a meeting or conversation, and helps preserve and communicate knowledge and insight around the organisation. This isn’t just something that requires specific products, but something that can be actively integrated into other tools. For example, BI tools could integrate the capability to assign, manage and prioritise actions that need resolving, without the need to go to a separate messaging service - or resort to email.
Get in touch to hear how TAB developed the GoDrive Service Portal, enabling teams across Ford to work with external partners, and each other, to deliver their on-demand car sharing service to customers.
The holistic view: accelerators that let you connect your organisation faster
The five pillars are practical places your business can build something valuable, right now, to start connecting your organisation. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t think holistically about your enterprise. The behaviours of Connected Organisations aren’t just enabled by great software. Foundational capabilities such as their culture, processes and technical architecture help them design, build, and implement that great software.
Looking at the broader picture, and investing in establishing some of these foundational capabilities, can allow you to accelerate faster when you get started:
- A strategy, culture and process focused on identifying and prioritising the most valuable outcomes for customers and employees, and rapidly iterating them from the smallest practical start to achieve the biggest visions.
- A programme and organisational structure that gives teams ownership, autonomy and focus, while allowing for the ability to pivot to new ways of working, or more valuable output.
- Shared, reusable components, like design standards, that can be applied to accelerate progress across multiple products and projects.
- 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 be built into the infrastructure.
In our next post, we’ll explore what these capabilities are, and go into how TAB has helped clients build them to accelerate the delivery of great software across all five pillars. We’ll also share with you some tangible, tested principles you can apply to get started with software that connects your organisation.