How to Think Digitally in 3 Easy Steps

BrandPost By Paul Gillin
Dec 15, 2017
Digital TransformationTechnology Industry

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Credit: iStock

Keep customers top of mind, make it personal, and don’t limit outcomes.

“Digital transformation” may be a buzzword, but that doesn’t diminish the value of the concept. Adopting a digital mindset should be an organization-wide effort, but your core values shouldn’t change. Instead, teach your people how to think of information as an asset. Here are three ways you can make the shift.

1. Ditch the “Digital” 

Your goal shouldn’t be to go digital, but to improve customer experience and strengthen relationships through the use of information (usually in digital form). Some employees may be scared off by the demand to think digitally, or they may believe that’s the role of the IT organization. You can overcome this by emphasizing customer value rather than technology.

In many cases, you’ll find that you already have the information or data you need. For example, car rental and vehicle leasing companies may have detailed maintenance, fuel efficiency, and customer satisfaction data that vehicle makers would covet. Retailers collect large amounts of data about preferred products. By overlaying sales patterns with customer demographics or social media mentions, they can discover patterns to help suppliers better tune their products for different markets.

The important thing is to keep customer value top-of-mind. Everyone in your company should be able to do that.

2. Make it Personal 

Use examples to kick-start the innovation process. Challenge people to think of ways their own lives could be improved through better information. Maybe their insurance company could provide discounts based upon good grades, safe driving behavior, or healthy lifestyle. Or their school system could recommend customized lessons based upon kids’ test performance.

What are the pain points in people’s lives that could be addressed by better information? These same ideas may transferrable to your customers, or can at least get the idea wheels turning. 

3. Don’t Limit Outcomes

Avoid trying to tie everything to revenue. Digital transformation is as much about enhancing customer value as it is about making money. Thinking digitally can pay off in several ways: 

  • Customer affinity – Think frequent flyer programs. Travel companies give small discounts in exchange for customer affinity and data that they can use in other ways. The more integral your data becomes to your customers’ businesses, the stronger the relationship and the more secure the revenue stream. 
  • Shared benefits – Many electrical utilities help customers reduce energy usage, so that they can avoid the cost of new plants and equipment. Similar opportunities may exist for you. For example, customer dashboards can alert you to maintenance needs that can he scheduled to avoid downtime. Or you can structure an agreement that splits any savings from data-related productivity improvements between you and your customer. 
  • Operational efficiency – Find areas where improved data from your customers can save waste in your business. For example, automated inventory checking can alert you of upcoming shortages so that you can replenish customer stocks on the schedule that’s most convenient for you. Or equipment in the field can be instrumented to warn you of impending failures. You can even turn this efficiency dividend into a shared benefit by rebating part of the savings to your customers. 
  • New revenue sources – Think creatively about who else can benefit from data you collect. The car rental company noted earlier may find that insurance companies, leasing firms, and even government agencies are prospects. The data that a trucking company gathers about vehicle performance in the field improves operational efficiency, but may also yield insurance discounts or fee rebates from municipal transportation agencies. The same stream of data can have many customers.

Thinking digitally doesn’t mean changing your business model or objectives. It’s just another tool that delivers value.

Learn how the experts at SAP Leonardo can help you start thinking digitally—and unlock new opportunities for your organization.