Last week on Rackspace Office Hours, we interviewed Rackspace Chief Digital Technologist Mike Bainbridge, one of our thought leaders in the realm of digital transformation. Our conversation ended up revolving around the “Four Pillars of Digital Maturity” Mike has developed while consulting with our customers.
Check out the excerpts and video highlights of our interview, below. The full video, full transcript and audio podcast are available at our Office Hours Podcast site.
What do you do as Chief Digital Technologist?
Mike: I moved into the role of chief digital technologist about 18 months ago, and it’s really to help our customers understand that digital environment and digital transformation. So it really includes an overview of how technology is changing. We run digital maturity workshops with our customers to help them get an idea of how they can transform their business to become more efficient …. I’m really lucky. Rackspace is a great place to do this. We have so many customers and it’s helping them be more effective and more efficient online. Which is, I guess, what we’re in business for.
What are the ‘Four Pillars of Digital Maturity’?
Mike: I’ve talked now about kind of the foundations that you build this digitally mature business on, but there’s another part of this I want to touch on, these sort of four pillars of success as well. I think they’re fairly widely discussed in most circles, and rather than being technical things, they’re more business-driven outcomes. So I have a little list here.
Pillar 1: focus on customer outcomes
Mike: The first thing that digitally mature businesses do, or businesses who are successful in this way, is they learn to deliver in customer outcomes. They really take an outside in approach. They put themselves in the customer’s shoes, and understand what it’s like for the customer. When we were talking about Uber before, I said how they improved the process of taking a taxi journey in those different ways, and this is the thing that a lot of businesses struggle with. Rather than thinking about what’s going to make our customers’ lives better, there’s a lot of thoughts around well how can we be more successful, how can we make more money, how can we improve profits?
These kinds of things get considered (but) they’re not customer focused outcomes, and there’s a real key here where you can spot businesses that get it, and businesses that are still struggling or maybe need some help, and that is the metrics they use on their dashboards or scoreboards to measure success. If your metrics are aligned to customer outcomes, then it shows you understand what is important for the customer.
One of the metrics we use at Rackspace is net promoter score, or NPS, the ultimate question, would you recommend us to a friend or family member? And it really is seen as a shining light of successful businesses who customer focused approach. There’s an ISP in the UK here. It’s Virgin Media. So one of Richard Branson’s spin off companies. The whole business from top to bottom is metric done NPS, and everyone’s bonus. So from the CEO right down to the cleaners or the staff who work in the canteen are all metriced on NPS. So everyone’s pulling in the same direction. Everyone understands the value of delivering that great customer experience.
Pillar 2: focus on improving employee collaboration
Mike: The second of the four pillars I have around digitally mature businesses is so you’re focused on customers, that’s number one in the list. Focusing on improving employee collaboration and I suppose the efficiency of your workforce is the second one. The classic story and again, this kind of reflects what we have at Rackspace. You have a great culture, and it’s a real cliche to say it, but it’s from the top down. So everyone believes it and it’s right from the senior leadership all the way down.
So you have a great place to work, good benefits, happy well motivated staff provide better customer outcomes and customer experiences, and if you improve collaboration and tools and all those sort of things that you kind of take for granted a lot of the time. I’m sure a lot of us work for companies and you can book your annual leave through an app, or a web browser, or a claim expense receipts, or those kind of things, or pick benefits. Not every company has that. A lot of companies you still have to fill out paper forms and there’s still these cumbersome ways that just make like a little bit harder for everyone, and if you free your employees to be able to do what they do best and make it enjoyable, then that improves the situation for everyone.
Pillar 3: focus on digitally enhancing their products and services
Mike: The third pillar of digital success is to digitally enable or digitally enhance products and services. Using technology to improve those offers you have to customers, and maybe looking at addressing customers in a way that they want. So whether that’s using mobile technology, apps and services that make it easier for people to consume. I think the great example of this is the Kindle eBook Reader Amazon launched, which completely revolutionized how a lot of people not only consume books, but how they get delivered to them. To be able to have things wirelessly downloaded and not have to go to a store or get something delivered is a huge change.
So technology enabling products and services for people to consume is another thing. And you know what, that might be as simple as if you’re a B2B organization. That order form your customer normally faxes over to you. You have an online portal where they can fill it out and you can make it easier and make those iterative improvements and make that online experience for them better. It really ties into that first one as well. Thinking like a customer. What can make a customer’s life easier and then using technology to really smooth things out and make those transactions and engagements as seamless as possible.
Pillar 4: focus on business process improvement
Mike: The fourth pillar is adopting business process improvement. So, more agile ways of working. Automating business processes that were perhaps manual, and again, look at really how the business works and how those workflows plan out. I know I’ve met with a couple of customers who’ve done this where they’ve got all the different teams from their businesses in a room and they map out what they do in clear processes, and it’s amazing how many people, or how many companies haven’t gone through this exercise.
You can imagine the scene. A room with sticky post-it-notes all over one wall where everyone’s written down what they do, and then you get someone in from purchasing and he’s like, oh hang on a sec, I do the same thing that this guy does, and there’s a repeated thing, or to place an order with a certain supplier you have to go through five different approvals we’re actually hang on, these three guys always say yes. Why are they doing it? So understanding the real mechanisms, the behind the scenes things that make your business work and looking to improve them is that fourth pillar of success and these are kind of the four things that make you a more successful organization I suppose.
And as we go through this, I’ve been having conversations with the CIOs and talking about things like digital strategy and now people are saying, well actually, digital strategy’s not so much a separate thing. This talking about digital is really business strategy but digitizing it, or taking technology and super charging your business and your overall business strategy by doing it. We talk about digital now, and it’s a thing. I guess it’s still fairly new, but this is really the norm now for businesses who start. I assure if you went and talked to startups in Silicon Valley, they wouldn’t say, oh yeah we’re a digitally mature organization. That’s the default. This is becoming the default now. So everyone has catching up to do.