Don't forget about information in your transformation
Today, most businesses operate and compete in the digital economy. Information and its flow within businesses, between businesses, with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders is crucial to the way business and work gets done. Information can take textual and non-textual forms; digital images, video and audio are often as important as text, especially when showcasing your products to customers.
Customers need information on the products and services that they want to buy and consume. They need information to help them understand what’s available, what would best meet their needs, how they use the product and services, when their orders will be delivered and so on. To serve customers effectively, businesses need to satisfy their customers’ need for information and serve it up in a way that customers can easily consume. For example, is it helpful to supply customers with a thick printed user manual nowadays ? Is it the best way to introduce your hard-won customers to your product for the first time or will it turn them off. Worst still, will it give them a perception (rightly or wrongly) that your product is not that easy to use ? Could it lead them to vent their frustration by giving your product a poor review ? (Whilst we’re on the subject of reviews, good or bad, they are an important and free source of information that companies need to leverage to drive continuous improvement).
Take for example my new bean-to-cup coffee machine which comes with a printed 30 page instruction manual in tiny font, with poorly worded instructions and even worse diagrams. It took a painful 30 minutes to make my first cup of coffee; 25 minutes trying to make sense of the instructions and 5 minutes locating a useful video that some kind soul uploaded onto Youtube ! On the other hand, my new Echo Dot only took a few minutes to set up. All I had to do was plug it in, download the app and follow Alexa's prompts. Easy and intuitive.
Without adequate information in the right format and media, preferably made available at the point of consumption, customers will get frustrated, fall back on more expensive human interaction channels or worst still, go elsewhere. If they do need to contact your customer service centre, your customer-facing personnel also need adequate information on products, services and customers, made available when they need it, to fulfil their roles effectively. How many times have you come across a customer service agent on the phone who couldn’t answer your questions because they didn’t have the information on their screens ?
Information is not limited to the interaction with customers, but it also drives interaction within the business, and between the business and its suppliers. Business processes need the right information to perform effectively. Information is the ‘oxygen’ that breathes live into business processes. Without the right information, business processes would ‘suffocate’ and fail.
As business processes become increasingly embedded within technology solutions, it is the accuracy, relevance and completeness of information that creates a competitive advantage. It is also important that an organisation address any cultural and structural obstacles that prevent the flow of information to where it’s needed.
What about the analytics that your business needs to create insight ? Whether it’s to find out why something happened (diagnostics), what will happen (predictive analytics) or how you can make something happen (prescriptive analytics), you will need the right information. It's worth the effort to understand the information requirements to enable your analytics capability upfront as part of the transformation rather than wishing you had in hindsight.
So when your company invests in a transformation, it's not only important to focus on how your business needs to engage with your customers, how technology will enable you to do that but what information is necessary to underpin it all. You need to make sure that information requirements are an integral part of the transformation. Otherwise you may not get the full benefits from the transformation and find yourself with the metaphoric super car without the right fuel to drive it.
Outvie has a wealth of experience in helping clients develop holistic designs covering customer, capability, people, process, information and technology. Get in touch if you like to know more.
Ken Leung is a Co-founder of Outvie Consulting and an expert in business design and transformation.