Welcome to the new normal: Canadian businesses are rising to meet growing expectations
In his role as Senior Vice President, Marketing, Bell Business Markets, Jeremy Wubs engages with business and technology leaders in companies of all sizes, in all industries, all across Canada. These conversations have given him a unique perspective on how Canadian companies are approaching digital transformation.
With any lasting shift in technology, what’s new today becomes “how it’s done” tomorrow. This changes not only the way we live our lives and do our work but also our expectations of how things “should be” – of speed, service, choice and convenience. These growing expectations can have just as profound an effect on a business or industry as technological change itself.
A simple example is the way food service companies have integrated mobile apps to reduce bottlenecks in high-traffic areas. Customers can order ahead on their devices and have coffee or food waiting when they show up. Not having to wait is the new expectation, the new normal. This backend/frontend/consumer app integration is digital transformation. Customer loyalty can’t be sustained if companies don’t deliver the latest transaction-simplifying digital solutions.
Another example is how municipalities are looking to become smart cities. Across Canada, municipalities are using Internet of Things (IoT) platforms to monitor their services and increase the efficiency of operations such as their transport, energy and waste management systems. It’s also becoming more common for cities to offer free Wi-Fi access in high-traffic public areas. Digital transformation is improving quality of life and the characteristics of cities that make them livable, and residents are expecting services that are more efficient.
Canada in transformation
Nearly every Canadian organization I talk to is experiencing this reality. Whether B2B or B2C, their customers are expecting more, better, faster – and businesses are depending on digital transformation to help them deliver.
For some, that may mean using artificial intelligence to analyze large amounts of data to help identify patterns they can turn into go-to-market strategies. While others could be increasing efficiency by leveraging machine learning to optimize a production line. Or it could mean deploying an array of IoT sensors throughout a manufacturing facility to predict and prevent equipment failures.
Businesses across Canada are investing in and implementing digital transformation initiatives. I have seen a shift from organizations “not believing the hype” to pursuing the tangible benefits being delivered today. According to IDC Canada, 74 percent of Canadian IT decision makers in medium and large organizations say they are undertaking or planning a digital transformation initiative.1
In larger organizations, leaders across the business from finance to marketing and human resources are working together on digital transformation projects. Companies are starting out with small-scale pilots, empowering cross-functional teams, tracking metrics and learning from successes, then increasing the rollout and scale.
In my opinion, Canadian businesses have a solid culture of innovation. I hear of so many interesting ideas and prototypes: the ingenuity of Canadians is impressive.
Transforming inside and out
I primarily see three types of digital transformation initiatives. While there may be some overlap, the initiatives tend to address employee experience, customer experience and data-driven insights.
First, there’s the drive to change the work experience. Employees who have exceptional digital interactions in other parts of their lives bring those expectations with them. Job seekers and employees are demanding apps and platforms that enable career development, collaboration and working remotely. Some candidates are even deciding on a job offer based on the tools they’ll have access to every day. I frequently have discussions with companies about how they can digitally transform to make their teams more productive and, increasingly, how to attract and retain talent.
Second, there’s the push to change the customer experience. Businesses can no longer take weeks to deliver services that are expected in days. They must also continually monitor and evaluate how their customers wish to engage and interact – how do they prefer to learn about new solutions? How do they wish to make purchases and how will they proceed should a problem arise? Digitally transforming processes, tools and workflows to improve lead times, optimize user portals and simplify purchasing and billing platforms are fundamental to maintaining customer loyalty. The truth is, if a customer is unhappy, they are less likely to go directly to the company’s help desk, they will take the matter to Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms that connect widespread communities of users. A single bad post can have devastating consequences.
Third, technology is allowing for increasingly sophisticated analytics. By implementing innovative technologies like artificial intelligence to capture insights from simple transactions to more complex and intelligent loyalty programs, businesses can position the right services to the right audiences, at the right time. Data is changing the very nature of business – user feedback and insights are directly shaping and influencing the evolution of products.
Enabling digital transformation
We at Bell are also in the midst of digital transformation. We’re reshaping our digital ecosystem in ways that empower creativity and enable agility. This means investing in self-service functionality for our customers, to speed up their interactions with us and better meet their needs.
Taking our lead from the new normal, we are always looking at our own capabilities and roadmaps to ensure that we continue to meet the changing needs and expectations of Canadians. We’re increasingly focused on on-demand provisioning – providing portals for businesses to manage, configure and reconfigure network services in real time to keep pace with user needs.
Everything we’re doing is about bringing more value to organizations through the technologies they use. We are in the midst of bringing to market network solutions that allow customers to converge all their voice, data and video communications onto a single platform. This means streamlined infrastructure, easier management and more capabilities. Our new services transform wireless connectivity into a mechanism for our customers to enrich their work environments, gather usable intelligence on user needs and behaviours, and ultimately build stronger brands.
The future of digital transformation
So what comes next for digital transformation? Across Canada, businesses will continue to drive transformation initiatives. Projects will ramp up in the near term. But there will come a time when we won't hear the term “digital transformation as much”. Why? Because this stage of business transformation will be embedded into the DNA of companies across the country.
- IDC Canada, December 2017. Canadian Top Executive Survey, 2017: Aligning Business and CIO Priorities in the Digital Economy. Doc#CA41244717