(Ramesh Pathania/Mint)
(Ramesh Pathania/Mint)

Opinion | Strategizing in the age of digital transformation

For service providers, a cloud presence is a must-have as it also drives innovation

In an age when digital transformation has become the C-suite agenda, many companies are still finding it difficult to understand how to begin the process. Customer experience is a good starting point. Aided by technology, there’s a clamour among both Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Customer (B2C) companies in deepening customer engagement through hyper-personalized experiences across multiple channels.

It’s imperative to not look at customer engagement from a short-term perspective. The ‘journey’ does not end with the conclusion of a sale—it merely signals the onset of a fresh cycle. Importantly, a frictionless experience paves the long way towards brand advocacy and loyalty. It’s hard to earn these and, unsurprisingly, easy to lose them as well.

While terms such as ‘long-term customer value’ and ‘cost of customer acquisition’ have existed for a long time, the measurement and performance metrics have changed significantly and will continue to do so. An omni-channel presence, which is most sought after, can also be overwhelming.

Today, on social media alone, there are multiple platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest. China, predicted to overtake the US economy in a few years, and with considerable value for businesses, has a social media platform called WeChat.

Given the slew of options today, customers are likely to explore multiple touchpoints. Hence, for personalized services to be effective, the minutest details have to be captured and digitally synthesized. Unsolicited and irrelevant communication does extensive damage and results in loss of mind-share, which is often irredeemable.

The e-mails in our junk folder indicate how many marketers have got it terribly wrong. A ‘frictionless’ customer experience also embodies uniformity at all levels. We should remember that the chain of touchpoints across multiple platforms is only as strong as its weakest link.

The second area to focus on in the digital transformation journey is cloud. Cloud spend has seen an exponential increase in recent years. For service providers, a cloud presence is almost a must-have as it also drives innovation. Cloud technology is of particular value to chief financial officers (CFOs) since it can help them achieve digital transformation at a fraction of the cost that was prevalent a couple of years ago.

Digital transformation does not mean embedding deep tech as a panacea for poorly designed processes. For example, machine learning requires high quality of data. Poor quality of input data is a major hurdle to the accuracy of the outcome. Machines can predict the best course, but ultimately, humans will be responsible for timely action.

The digital tech setup remains inconsistent and fragmented across industries. Hence, the proverbial early-mover advantage may still be applicable in parts. Inspirational leadership is about taking decisions which are data-driven, even if it goes against ‘gut feeling.’

Transformation cannot happen overnight and this brings us to change management. Re-skilling the workforce, running a two-speed organization, adopting the right technology and creating a culture of co-creation, are all within the realm of change management. One can argue that it’s easier to lead standing on solid ground than on a shifting landscape. While the latter is characterized by high risks, if handled well, it can also be the lever to gain great momentum. Leadership in a dynamic environment is not only about building a learning organization, but enabling the unlearning process just as effectively.

In an earlier era, it was about managers becoming leaders. Now, it’s about leaders becoming innovators. Organizations today have access to humongous amount of customer data and it is of critical importance that they don’t dilute the ‘trust’ factor. While turnaround times and business cycles are all shrinking, being patient comes at a premium. We often see the digital laggards adopting technology without analysing its potential value or impact on their businesses. With an entire suite of emerging technologies to choose from, it does get confusing, doesn’t it?

Keshav R. Murugesh is vice-chairman of Nasscom and chief executive officer of WNS Global Services.

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