Early winners in the digital era have shown us that focusing on the front office first is a winning formula. Our new research from the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work reveals that by applying digital remedies to precisely targeted process areas, organizations can relieve operational stress and generate improvements, yielding outsized results that ripple across the process value chain.
Customer-facing processes were prioritized in every vertical industry we studied. Approximately 64% of healthcare payers claim to have digitized enrollment and billing services, and 67% of retailers said they have digitized their B2C channels.
Smart Leaders Apply Digital Treatments to Customer Pressure Points
We asked leaders to identify the business processes they had already digitized, implemented pilots for or were considering digitizing. The majority of process digitization efforts were targeted at front-office B2C functions, whereas new pilots were migrating upstream, to middle-office processes that often impact B2B value chains.
To re-invent those B2B operating models, these businesses will need to re-imagine the process and re-think the future of the work processes that surround them. As one Forrester analyst recently put it, when it comes to digital: “In the software-is-the-brand world, B2C is the initial earthquake of change and B2B is the tsunami that results as the digital shockwaves work across the associated supply chains.”
In order to stimulate change, respondents clearly focused heavily on processes that target customers first. For example, Coca-Cola sponsored a “Happiness Flag” for the trophy tour of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, a physical flag based on thousands of digitally-incepted images. People shared how they felt about it, and Coke used expert analysts in its social listening function to track marketing sentiment based on the one specific reference to Coke in the context of World Cup football.
This comes as no surprise, as an enduring mantra for digital process transformation is to put the customer, process constituent (partners, suppliers, employees) or even “thing” (shop floor logistics, trade management) at the center of real change to improve agility, revenue and costs. This may seem like a winning approach whose only application is for the cool kids in Silicon Valley, but to earn a competitive edge, all companies — regardless of industry or geography — need to adopt customer centric digital process change that can ripple across value chains, and digital process acupuncture can be a great way to get going.
Driving Revenue, Closing Gaps
The leading benefits cited by respondents were related to improving value chains surrounding customer-facing and front-office functions. Examples include marketing goods or services for retailers, front-office pursuits for banks, and member/provider customer support for healthcare payers.
In other words, the biggest opportunity to spark positive change lies in applying a targeted digital remedy to close the gap between the organization and its customers. Outdated processes coupled with inaction will only drive a wedge. If that happens, your organization is leaving money on the table, or even putting the company’s future at competitive risk.
In fact, well over half of our survey respondents said digital process initiatives have resulted in significant or high levels of process value chain integration.
C-suite leaders must begin to evaluate how digital process change can ripple through the value chain — or risk missing out on a powerful new method for augmenting customer loyalty and improving operational efficiency to drive top- and bottom-line performance. Already, process digitization strategies are moving rapidly into traditional business sectors, changing the basis of competition throughout many industries:
- Banks are focused on revenue generation: Roughly 56% have already digitized product/ service development. Front-office processes follow closely, with 47% driving strategies to foster the “bank of the future.”
- PC&L insurers have targeted the “leaky sieve” of fraud, with 56% prioritizing digital risk and fraud compliance. Using real-time digital documentation, they can support “pay-as-you-drive” initiatives or collect usage patterns derived from smart home telematics. Additionally, 51% have already digitized innovative claims management approaches.
- Healthcare payers’ enrollment and billing are highly digitized: Because private healthcare exchanges made legacy systems and processes a burden, many health insurers (55%) are investing in better managing complexities in verification, adjudication and claims processing. As a result, 64% have already digitized enrollment and billing services (with a potential lift for providers’ revenue cycle management, as well). Interestingly, current digitization of fraud and abuse prevention processes are low compared with PC&L insurers, but they appear to be on the industry’s radar, with major piloting initiatives underway (42%).
- Retailers are focused on shoppers: The emphasis for retailers is on frontline B2C channels and experience, with 67% currently digitized. Back-office digitization is comparatively low (36%); other industries seem to have taken digital process acupuncture thinking to middle- and back-office processes, suggesting that most retailers may be overlooking options for significant cost savings.
Process change today really does look, feel and act differently from the past. The tried-and-true linear, orthodox approaches may fall woefully short when exponential changes seemingly occur with each passing quarter. Given the magnitude of the massive change wrought by digital to customer, supplier and employee relationships, not to mention society at large, the stakes of taking a false step may seem terrifyingly high. It is clear there is a burning platform in place, and the flame is high. Action is required now — not “maybe someday.”
We believe the answer lies in starting small and finding the incremental but well-targeted steps that can benefit process constituents across the extended enterprise. As with real acupuncture, it’s critical to understand how all activities and processes within the business interoperate. When organizations understand “how the knee bone is connected to the hip bone” in their extended processes and value chains, good things can happen.