89 percent of organizations have adopted or plan to adopt a “digital-first” business strategy, with key investments including artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, cloud, IoT, and mobility according to IDG’s 2018 State of Digital Business Transformation.
“A flexible, integrated communications platform allows for collaboration tools that are highly relevant to how employees work in today’s digital era”
These technologies are considered top drivers of successful digital transformation. So, why is it that only 19 percent of companies believe they are disrupting the market with their transformation efforts? This is according to a new IDC report published in partnership with Avaya, in which 69 percent of companies admit their efforts are “less than extremely successful.”
Now well into the transformation journey, organizations are adjusting their strategy to better align expectations with outcomes. They must not just adopt but evolve through the use of digital technologies to deliver game-changing innovation. Critical to these adjustments is the transformation of business communications.
Poor-quality communication is arguably the greatest barrier to transformation success, reducing flexibility/ agility for 55 percent of surveyed enterprises and increasing costs for 56 percent. Meanwhile, 80 percent of enterprises believe improved communications better controls costs and 72 percent say it delivers higher quality customer experience (CX). Also mentioned were “improved employee productivity and efficiency” (cited as enterprises’ No. 1 driver of transformation), as well as “faster product/service introduction.”
Sustainable digital transformation is driven by a core focus on communications, period.
Four Key Areas in Business Communications for Successful Digital Transformation
Considering this, what must organizations do to get the best results from their digital transformation initiatives? IDC’s report indicates four key enablers of successful, communication-enabled transformation:
1. Embedding is Essential
Putting the right unified communications tools in place is just the start. To deliver faster, more intelligent and more adaptive customer and employee experiences, companies must radically change how work gets done by embedding communications directly into processes, workflows and applications. Over 90 percent of surveyed enterprises believe embedded communications is “important” or “extremely important” for improved productivity, collaboration, costs, and CX.
An HR team, for example, can use embedded communications to build an automated application for employee on boarding and training. Or, a sales manager can embed video into his team’s preferred tool for collaborating on leads and closing more deals.
Embedding communications helps organizations achieve their most critical results in digital transformation: better knowledge management, decision-making, relationship-building, and problem-solving. But the real benefits come when employees begin using this technology consistently and effectively. This is why digital transformation initiatives must include plans for training employees and securing their adoption.
2. Interconnected Communications
Siloed transformation efforts continue to cost companies. Consider, for example, a lack of back-end system integration: the third most important factor cited by surveyed customers was “timely delivery following purchases,” yet only 28 percent of organizations believe they integrate CX with fulfillment and delivery “extremely well.”
A flexible, integrated communications platform allows for collaboration tools that are highly relevant to how employees work in today’s digital era, enabling organizations to optimize resources and maximize outcomes. Companies must look beyond technology to focus on workflow and behavior, and that requires interconnected communications that support seamless collaboration between disparate tools.
Consider how a multi-hospital healthcare system could leverage this environment to intelligently coordinate communications between staff. Flexible system integration could enable bedside clinicians to quickly rally caregivers by viewing on-call schedules and staff assignments, keeping in mind the communication preferences of responders. This is a key CMS measure in terms of patients receiving care, especially for life-threatening diseases within the golden hour.
3. Human and Digital Balance
Successful transformation requires the right balance between human touch and digital integration. Companies must provide technology in the manner and to the degree that customers will accept, and for some this means barely any.
Nearly half of surveyed customers, for example, say they prefer speaking with a live person for filing a complaint or returning a product. Meanwhile, 70 percent of 25-34-year-olds say they require access to a specialist. The reality is that many customers still want human assistance in certain circumstances, despite advancements in technology.
Still, a certain level of flexibility and automation is needed to deliver communication experiences in the ways consumers expect. For example, a common database is needed for intelligently matching customers with the right resources enterprise-wide (nearly half of surveyed companies said they lack in this area). This also goes back to the importance of embedded communications; companies must have complete freedom to develop the communications solutions they need to deliver the experiences customers expect.
4. Future-proofing Communications
Companies must be ready to move on a dime to meet rapidly changing communication preferences. Consider the current state of tech adoption: 40 percent or more of surveyed customers said they presently use or are fully open to advanced technologies like AI, VR and IoT for customer service. Smart investments in adaptable technology must be a priority if companies expect to build strong, collaborative work environments that move at the speed of the consumer.
Future-proofing is vital for companies to proactively provide consumers’ preferred communications (only 42 percent of surveyed customers said they can use most or any of their preferred channels when interacting with a company). Consider, for example, a free-flowing interaction application that supports all communication channels (cited by 91 percent of surveyed enterprises as an investment priority). No one knows what will be next for customer communications, but organizations should be ready to support it.
Companies need a proven path to digital transformation that drives customer satisfaction, loyalty and lasting growth. Communications should be at the heart of this transformation, enabling organizations to innovate faster, respond quicker and deliver stronger results.