Digital transformation: 3 ways it changes companies

Companies that embrace a digital transformation mindset focus not on technology, but on how it can improve overall business success. Consider these examples
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I’ve worked on intelligent automation projects with many organizations worldwide, and there is no doubt: The digital transformation process has a huge impact – not only by bringing about obvious initial change but also by affecting business leaders’ outlook for the future.

One common result is they want more, expect more, and invest more. Here’s why.

1. They are more stringent about ROI before investing again

When Robotic Process Automation (RPA) entered the market, there was a rush to go digital and not miss the “automation train.” Using software robots was the buzz. Anything that was manually intensive had RPA thrown at it, but it didn’t always stick.

Fast-forward a couple of years and companies found that as many as 50 percent of their RPA projects failed. This happened because leaders got caught up in the latest new tech hype instead of looking at their specific problem and how to solve it.

[Also read Digital transformation: 3 ways a culture of innovation can drive your strategy. ]

You don’t always need the most complex or expensive technology to address your business challenges – you need to apply the right solution to it. It’s how the tech is delivered, maintained, supported, and secured that brings true ROI. Companies that are fully committed to digital transformation (DX) are well aware of this, and they start out with a clear focus on getting their money’s worth.

Automaton teams are now doing more due diligence before investing in DX, and that often means a full-scale 360 analysis of their operations, procedures, and processes – including every click of a keyboard. This is the only way to determine the best task or process that will benefit from automation and thus uncover the highest ROI.

Previously, companies would often select a task that occurred most frequently and ignore opportunities to automate tasks that occurred less frequently but would offer better ROI. Finance departments, which are notoriously paper-intensive, are a common starting point.

We worked with a global logistics company, for example, that realized the automation of their accounts processing wasn’t delivering the efficiencies they expected. A full analysis led to upgrades using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing, resulting in a 70 percent increase in efficiency. Highly automated AP departments like this can process ten times as many invoices per month compared to finance operations with little or no automation. This is the sort of ROI that companies should be aiming for: It reflects the difference between going digital and full digital transformation.

2. They invest more in people and tech jointly

The number-one reason new tech fails is simple: People don’t like it, so they don’t use it. Even the most sophisticated, expensive apps have been abandoned when consumers don’t take to them – because there were too many clicks, for example, repetitive requests for info, or a complex screen.

The same occurs in the business world. Your employees must be fully on board with the new way of working, and you must be ready to train them and invest in their digital skills, along with utilizing no-code solutions that are as easy as plug-and-play.

Most of the companies I’ve taken through successful digital transformations ensured that employees at all levels were involved in discussions about the new tech and processes they’d be using. In fact, many had established a Center of Excellence to ensure key stakeholders were consulted, involved, and fully invested in the success of the deployment.

And employees may need more than just tech training. Now that bots are doing tedious tasks, workers need the skills to understand the content and context of the data they are automating.

[ Read also: 3 reasons user experience matters to your digital transformation strategy ]

Additionally, frontline workers must be more creative, critical, agile, empathetic, and knowledgeable problem-solvers. It’s now about building a partnership between a robust digital workforce and human counterparts who can add to the offering. Business leaders understand that the future of work involves human-robot collaboration to meet or exceed business goals and accelerate transformation.

3. They are more obsessed with improving customer experience

Research shows that the corporate goal of most automation projects is to improve productivity and profitability. However, those who’ve taken the plunge realize that the benefit to the customer experience is also a major priority for change. Balancing the competing interests of cutting costs and delighting customers is tricky, and much is being pinned on new technologies.

Customers are getting savvier and their expectations are growing: 43 percent of consumers blacklist brands that fail to meet their expectations, according to a recent study conducted by Oracle and Customer Bliss. More importantly, the study pointed out that 41 percent of consumers are willing to pay a 20 percent premium for a “more impressive customer experience.”

That means every part of the automation project will likely impact the customer. It could mean their queries are answered more accurately, replies are made sooner, or they are paid on time or receive delivery faster. Our recent survey among office workers revealed that difficulty finding data in a document led to poor customer experience (20 percent) and errors (31 percent). It shows just how much a bad process can have a negative domino effect.

[ Read next: 5 ways digital transformation drives customer success ]

The impact of technology for both gaining and retaining customers is truly invaluable to the bottom line.

Clearly, organizations that have undergone digital transformation don’t have tunnel vision and the process opens their minds to how it can improve overall business success. Most importantly, companies that embrace a digital transformation mindset know that it’s an endless journey, not a one-and-done job. Digital transformation is a process of continuous growth.

[ Discover how priorities are changing. Get the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report: Maintaining momentum on digital transformation. ]

Anthony Macciola is the Chief Innovation Officer at ABBYY, a Digital Intelligence company. He holds more than 45 patents for technologies in mobility, text analytics, image processing, and process automation, and is leading AI initiatives at ABBYY.