Digital Transformation in Unlikely Places
You may have heard the story about the man from Pennsylvania who spent $4 on a picture frame at a flea market and ended up finding a first-print copy of the Declaration of Independence. The copy was found folded up behind a painting and was worth millions.
The same can be said for those companies and organizations that are finding the value of digital transformation within unlikely industries such as public utilities, elderly care, and water treatment. I’d like to ask the question, “What can we learn from these unlikely industries, and how can we apply it to our businesses?”
Let’s start with elderly care. Imagine you are the SVP of digital strategy and membership of AARP, Sami Hassanyeh. You are tasked with serving more than 40 million members over the age of 50 by providing them with benefits, content and discounts in an ever-changing digital world.
This is exactly what happened to Sami. Sami decided to look at customer experience (CX) first and modernize the digital experience to be like a wise friend. This means all of the channels need to be working together to provide a consistent voice and message. And any organization that has been around for 60-plus years is bound to have some legacy systems. Those systems will need to be replaced and modernized to ensure the organization is set up well for the future. This includes moving to cloud, adding security measures, and improving accessibility for those with visual and audio impairments. The lesson here is to take iterative actions (small steps) toward digital transformation rather than wait to be disrupted.
Now let’s go back even farther — to 100 years ago. You are responsible for an electric grid that was built in 1920 and is aging since it was never built for the types of loads or electrical consumption we have today in 2020. This is the story of Joseph Santamaria, who is the chief information and digital officer at PSEG. PSEG stands for Public Service Enterprise Group and serves 2.2 million customers in New Jersey with energy services.
Or Albert Cho from Xylem. Xylem is a large American water technology provider and does business in more than 150 countries. The lessons here are no matter where you start, there is still a path to becoming stronger and getting further along the digital transformation journey. Starting with data using data lakes is important for getting down to the details and understanding how to manage the load and better distribute resources. This has been enabled by encouraging more customers to adopt smart thermostats and committing to reduce energy consumption over time. At times, the journey of digital transformation involves creating a movement for sustainability and helping the planet.
If you find yourself in an industry that doesn't seem like it's ripe for digital transformation, I'd like to offer you three pieces of advice as you consider getting started:
1. Change your internal story: There is a narrative that is rolling around in all of our heads. It is the story that says, "We are never going to change," or "Change is too hard," or "It has always been this way."
One way to begin your transformation is to change the internal narrative. Stop talking yourself out of it, and start talking yourself into it. For example, you could start saying, "We are going to try to change," or "Change is gradual," or "It doesn't always have to be this way." Even though this is a bit psychological, from my own experience, I believe it works.
2. Get a group around you: Jim Rohn once famously said that "you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." In order to begin your digital transformation, you need to surround yourself with people who will encourage you to change and keep you accountable.
This is how I've used LinkedIn to connect with other people outside of my industry who are encouraging and supportive of change. The way this works practically starts with a post. Ask your network if they would be willing to encourage you on this journey and keep you accountable. Set up a call with those who respond to talk about next steps in a format that is mutually beneficial. Just don't do it alone.
3. Attend a conference outside of your industry: Yes, I said it. But you really need to get out and hear other ideas from experts outside of your industry. I work in the tech sector, but I attended a financial conference in Detroit this week. The speakers were Mitch Albom and Mark Dantonio. It was inspiring to hear from these two individuals who have overcome large challenges in their profession. I left the conference thinking about new ways to apply their insights to our technology and app development business. It was a bit awkward not knowing anyone, but it was a great learning experience.
As you embark on your digital transformation, I would like to encourage you to apply these insights to your industry or company. Just like the art collector who started off not knowing what he would get in the end, sometimes you just need to get started on the journey. The future might seem unknown and hard to discern, but it is important to take the first step.
Author: Mark Johnson