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No really….What do we mean by Digital?

[fa icon="calendar"] 01-Sep-2016 09:44:16 / by Hazel M Jones

 Everyone has a perspective on what ‘Digital’ is to them, but when it comes to describing it at a more general level, it’s not so easy.  At a local level we can categorise digital as mobile & web or an automated customer facing process; or even a marketing discipline.  Depending on your perspective, role, age, industry and interest it can mean entirely different things.  One thing that everyone agrees on is that the future demands that we each know what it is for our business and what role we need to play so that we don’t get left behind like our childhood friends Blockbusters & HMV.


A Digital mindset

In many ways digital is a way of thinking; a customer led approach to delivery that requires empathy to assess, interrogate and improve customer-facing processes.  It’s no longer functional and non-functional requirements, it is User Experience (UX) that counts.  Customer expectations have changed significantly. The days of customer tolerating broken links, error 404 pages and ‘under construction’ banners are far behind us. The new wave of tech savvy customers demand more.

Taking a customer journey approach ensures that delivery is benefit driven, which enables customer value to be the driving force.  Asking questions such as:

  • What can I do to make this part of the process better for the customer
  • What will the customer be thinking at this part of the process and what can I do I pre-empt it
  • What does the customer need to know and when would they want to know it

This level of empathy with the customer needs and wants is what stands out in this digital era.  It also takes the politics out of prioritisation decisions. Siloes can’t survive in a customer driven environment.


Exploiting technical functionality for the good of the customer

Getting digital right for your customer requires deeper understanding of the ever changing technology landscape. Without understanding what’s out there, it’s hard to know how it can be exploited to create a simple and unhindered interaction (commonly termed as frictionless).

This is where the business technologist steps forward.  A commercially minded and tech savvy individual who understands how to strike the balance across the allure of shiny new technology and the needs of the customer in order to hone in on the real value adds.  All too often businesses can fall foul of the magpie effect, implementing a multiplicity of new and shiny technologies (often with similar functionality) without defining how it fits within the enterprise, and how the enterprise aligns to the overall customer proposition.

The customer journey led approach demands an architecture that is proportionate and responsive. It will serve the needs of the customer and the business, and will be delivered incrementally. Heavyweight, proprietary technologies don’t lend themselves to the new open and collaborative development populus. A flexible and open technology stack that complements the digital mindset is the most appropriate approach to respond to the iterative development cycle.


Changing from product based to customer led delivery

So, we’ve considered the thinking and the designing, but what about the doing? Can traditional waterfall approaches deliver the change quickly enough to deliver value to customers?

Our traditional product and/or functional siloes only serve to perpetuate fragmented customer processes that are often based on working around business problems rather than customer needs. Building a lean, flat and cross-functional BAU delivery team to organise delivery around the end-to-end customer journey keeps everyone aligned to the single goal of ‘how will our delivery improve the customer experience’.  This can only truly succeed if business and technology align to create a multi-disciplined digital team. 

We’ve seen various incarnations of IT only agile teams and variations of waterfall agile. But, to gain the true value of a lean start-up mentality that empowers the team to really drive the incremental benefit; someone has to take a brave step forward and agree to embrace digital delivery practices.  It doesn’t need to be a ‘whole of IT’ transformation, it can run alongside traditional IT and Business practices (Gartner call this bimodal), but the customer-facing functionality requires a delivery team and approach that is as rapid and agile as the technology landscape and the growing expectations from customers.

It’s the little things that make all the difference. Continuous and iterative improvement to the customer journey, focused on removing points of’ friction’ that provides a true ‘digital experience’. Pre-populating data fields where the data already exists in the backend. Using native mobile functionality such as touch ID that customers are familiar with rather than reinventing the wheel – achieving this level of empathy with your customer is what builds loyalty and longevity in the relationship.  Just thinking and designing in this way demonstrates that a business values its customers. 

Perhaps digital is customer-led design that exploits technical functionality to create a frictionless experience. Yes that’s it. That’s Digital (for me).

If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help you with your digital transformation you can contact us at

Topics: Digital Transformation

Hazel M Jones

Written by Hazel M Jones

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