In the age of disruptive business models and constant competition, the travel and hospitality industry, like most industries, needs to deliver services in real-time. The Covid-19 pandemic has created a significant shift in the industry with a greater demand for competitive pricing to prevent loss of market share, targeted marketing to build loyalty, optimizing company staff, real-time inventory tracking, all of which require real-time data analysis. Companies must reinvent themselves into agile, connected travel platforms that go beyond the realms of smart phones and other wearable devices. 

Technology advances can enable highly personalized user experiences across a host of devices. For instance, form factors would not be limited to AR/VR glasses alone but extend to other wearables like contact lenses as well. Hearing devices could cater to selective hearing or provide real-time translation. However, these personalized experiences will further increase the need for heavy data management and processing as well as requirements for improved data privacy and security.

Meanwhile, customer preferences for better sanitary facilities, improved travel insurance coverage on trip cancellations, medical coverage, health checks and screening, touchless payments, etc. have also increased pressure on the industry.

Driving change to anticipate your needs

The travel and hospitality industry has risen to these concerns and opportunities in a revolutionary way, with cloud at the center. Here are a few purpose-built solutions targeted to anticipate customer needs.

Personalizing experiences  

Processing data at scale and generating predictive insights can help deliver highly personalized experiences to surprise and delight customers. Towards this, cloud partners like AWS use a comprehensive range of AI/ML services coupled with targeted communications, marketing campaigns, and tailored recommendations across a variety of channels, to deepen brand loyalty.

For instance, McDonald’s says it has enabled a faster, easier, and more rewarding drive-through experience using AWS technology. 

Staying connected 

An IOT suite of products can help achieve seamless connected experiences across a host of devices. Computer-vision technology that analyzes images and videos, aids in identity verification and surveillance during travel. AI-enabled chatbots with natural-sounding human speech capabilities, engage with customers to manage bookings, field inquiries, collect feedback, and deliver 24×7 automated assistance. AWS provides customers omnichannel engagement, over scalable cloud solutions with reliable and personalized customer service.

For instance, Priceline, a leading online travel company, states that it has optimized customer service during 3x call volume increase.

Optimizing operations and IT 

The airline industry uses forecasting for crew scheduling, fleet, and equipment management. Similarly, hotels predict guest inflow, make inventory adjustments, and release dynamic pricing offers. With real-time streaming and data processing capabilities, apps can be built to analyze video streams and live feeds from IOT devices. These detect fraud, which improves security and operational efficiency. AWS’ forecasting capabilities also provide actionable intelligence, based on ML, to help companies meet upcoming demands. It reduces IT costs by offering access to unused compute capacity at discounted prices and providing serverless technologies with pay-for-use billing model. 

For instance, Domino’s Pizza says it has increased the speed of its service delivery by using AWS for predictive ordering.

Reducing carbon footprint

Hotels use smart IOT sensors and automated systems for facility management, energy management, predictive equipment maintenance, and water metering. AWS brings together AI, ML, and IOT devices to make travel more sustainable. By monitoring fuel consumption, AWS provides recommendations that can be used to reduce emissions. Route optimization using AI/ML models reduces flight lengths and therefore fuel use.

For instance, Qantas Airlines cloud-based flight simulator helps to save millions of dollars in fuel costs each year.

The travel and hospitality industry has witnessed a massive slowdown due to the Covid-19 crisis. However, the cloud has presented effective ways to swiftly innovate, deliver personalized connected experiences, improve security, and contribute to a greener environment.

Author Bio

tcs

E-mail:  u.sircar@tcs.com

Ujjal Sircar is a technology leader within the Travel Transportation & Hospitality unit at TCS. Ujjal and his team helps enterprises build their digital transformation roadmap to enhance customer experience, increase operational efficiency, and enable digital growth. He along with his team have built solutions primarily for the Travel & Hospitality industry that enable enterprises to remain viable through agility and innovation. In his 20+ years of progressive IT career, Ujjal has assumed various responsibilities which include technology consulting, delivery direction, program management, and agile coaching. He is a distinguished Contextual Master in TCS and has a successful track record of working with leading enterprises spanning domains like Travel, Manufacturing, Life Sciences, and Human Resources.

To learn more, visit us here

Cloud Computing

With employee experience increasingly vital to business success, enterprises are rethinking how they deliver applications to business users to ensure greater productivity and efficiency. Global consulting and IT services company Infosys is one such company doing that at scale.

Rapid digital transformation at Infosys over recent years had resulted in a multitude of applications both homegrown and acquired. However, driving the adoption of these applications by its 270,000 employees had become a burdensome undertaking for the IT giant, which offers its business users access to over 200 homegrown applications alone.

Although the company had a rich bank of information to cater to almost every requirement of its employees, there was no unified channel through which to experience it. Employees had to visit each application separately — a cumbersome process that was sapping productivity.

“Infosys was struggling with many tedious and time consuming internal operational processes that were taking away precious time from employees,” says Narendra Sonawane, vice president and head of information systems at Infosys. “The internal systems and processes were not available on mobile devices, and neither were they intelligent enough to be able help employees anticipate and respond early and be more productive. For instance, a new joiner needed to access seven different web apps to become functional.”

To empower its knowledge workers with efficient access to assets they need to perform their day-to-day work, Infosys created an intelligent core platform that would in turn support several other platforms and applications.

“The company philosophically refers to this core platform as Live Enterprise, a platform with agility built into its DNA so that it can quickly sense changing business needs and continuously evolve in response,” Sonawane says. “The platform was to make Infosys a more agile organization that could respond to business needs impeccably backed by the availability of resources and knowledge workers.”

The platform has won Infosys a 2022 US CIO 100 award for IT innovation and leadership.

Intelligent automation at play

To create a platform for ensuring a unified experience across capabilities such as CRM, ERP, and custom-apps, Infosys leveraged extreme automation, taking a mobile- and cloud-first approach to ensure agility and speed at scale.

The hybrid-cloud strategy for Live Enterprise provided Infosys with the opportunity to move away from proprietary technology in favor of an open-source stack. In addition to Live Enterprise, the resulting Polycloud architecture also supports Infosys Meridian, Infosys Assessment Platform, Infosys NIA, and other key company platforms.

As part of its core, the platform leverages a knowledge graph to identify the right projects for the right talents and to recommend learning options to employees. The knowledge graph, which establishes relationships among objects, events, situations, and concepts, has more than 23 million nodes and 109 million relationships and provides employees recommendations such as adjacent skills to learn, skills popular in their unit, future skills of need, trainings to undertake, career path guidance, and best fitting projects.

In developing Live Enterprise, Infosys also used process mining across 20-plus processes to help streamline business operations. “Several tools were enabled to constantly monitor IT systems against established KPIs and identify root causes of business disruptions and eliminate them quickly,” says Sonawane.

The platform also makes extensive use of AI. For example, with Document AI and optical character recognition, key data points can be extracted from a statement of work to create a draft project plan. Also, with AI-enabled Resume Parser, the company can extract personally identifiable information (PII), skills, educational details, and professional summary from CVs. “With Resume Parser, nearly half a million resumes are parsed every month, thus helping with quick turnaround, saving about two million minutes,” says Sonawane.

A platform for platforms

Live Enterprise itself hosts a range of platforms aimed at enhancing user experience, including InfyMe, a mobile-first self-service digital platform that brings together information and transactions an employee needs together in one place, drawing from Infosys’s 450-plus applications.

Another platform, LEX, gives employees access to learning content from anywhere, from any device, at any time. It contains courses for enhancing technical and professional skills to help engineering students become industry ready.

“With collaboration platforms such as MS Teams and WebEx in place and with the availability of one-stop employee app and learning apps, collaboration, productivity and employee experience was restored and enhanced during the time of the pandemic and beyond,” says Sonawane.

Live Enterprise is equipped with a cloud proxy solution for comprehensive endpoint security. As part of that security strategy, endpoint systems have been integrated with Intune. Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager also ensures 95% auto remediation of known vulnerabilities.

The platform also integrates DevSecOps practices supported with tools such as app monitoring, resulting in significant test automation and automated code-quality analysis. Chatbots deployed across applications respond to 31,000 user queries per month, while ticket automation has expedited ticket resolution without manual intervention.

“The compounded outcome of these features was a 4X increase in automated deployments, 80% test automation, and 70% automation in code-quality analysis. These automations have led to a 50% improvement in deployment lead time, 48% defect reduction, and 15% ticket reduction due to better quality releases,” says Sonawane.

Live Enterprise also makes extensive use of robotic process automation (RPA).

“There were more than 500 RPAs implemented across functions in the last year, which resulted in 7,900 plus man hours of effort being saved every month. Also, 44 bots were deployed across applications, with which cumulatively nearly a million queries have been answered to date,” he says.

Employee-centric transformation

Live Enterprise has facilitated the transformation of a wide range of business operations at Infosys, from recruitment to code delivery, by integrating siloed applications and streamlining processes informed by data insights.

“Our digital transformation yielded cost reduction of $10 million. There was a 90% improvement in hardware and software readiness for better utilization and billing,” Sonawane says.

Moreover, the platform has helped Infosys keep its workforce fresh on the necessary skills to push the organization forward.

“Over 25,000 employees were digitally reskilled through the platform,” says Sonawane, adding that Live Enterprise has helped Infosys become a “smarter workplace” by “achieving major-league knowledge sharing,” AI-based continuous learning, and more streamlined business operations through process simplification and automation.

“With the reaffirmed confidence in the organization, we were able to bag some of the biggest deals during the peak of pandemic,” he says. “With many digital transformation journeys going astray after initial momentum, Infosys has been able to achieve set milestones along the way assuring client confidence, employee experience, and operational excellence.” Equipped with these advantages, Infosys is also taking this platform as a go-to-market solution to its clients under the brand name Orbit.

CIO 100, Employee Experience, Infosys

It’s clear that in the last few years, the global pandemic has created unique circumstances for business and IT leaders at small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Yet a relentless focus on customers can help build resilience and success.  

In this 3rd episode of our 5-episode podcast, Essential Connections: The Business Owner’s Guide to Growth During Economic Uncertainty, we explore why success and resilience depend on high-quality customer engagement.

For MK, this focus is essential, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses.

“It’s always been true, how well you connect with your customers. But now we’re communicating with and supporting each other in ever more critical ways,” says MK. “All of us need those seamless interactions with each other. We used to be able to have these rich interactions when we were face to face. And now technology must pick up the slack.”

In fact, the importance of customer experience now trumps goals such as cutting costs as a deciding factor around IT investment, MK says.

I think it’s important to realize that just like all of us, our customers and our employees are experiencing uneasy times. It’s almost like concentric circles of unease. And that has drastically changed the way they work, the way we work,” she says. “But expectations have only grown. Customers, employees, people, they value staying connected. The stakes are very high. We commissioned some research with Frost and Sullivan. And we found that nearly half of employees say they won’t consider working for a company unless the company offers some flexibility.”

“Now consider how hard it is … in this labor market … to make hires. And you see why the stakes are super high,” she says. “With customers and employees – these are your two most valuable assets.”

Listen in to learn all the details, including MK’s actionable insights on how to prevent poor customer experience from undermining your company’s resilience.

Be sure to listen to other episodes in our series, Essential Connections: The Business Owner’s Guide to Growth During Economic Uncertainty, and learn how you can future-proof your business with agile IT leadership.

IT Leadership, Small and Medium Business

The age-old debate on technology versus human capability remains inconclusive. But in this time of artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, and cloud, we’re seeing more opportunities to think of how humans and machines can come together as a team, rather than acting against each other. From diagnosing diseases and delivering effortless customer experiences to understanding human preferences and providing new customer insights, the human and AI partnership is evolving — and more in sync than ever. That’s making our lives simpler and more convenient. 

Gartner predicts that context-driven analytics and AI models will replace 60% of existing models built on traditional data by 2025. We will see new types of data — including unstructured data, such as audio, video, and images — being leveraged to give organizations a competitive advantage, get more value, and develop new use cases to set the stage for a new customer-driven era.  

This offers a glimpse into a future of close human and AI partnerships, where we think, collaborate, and create augmented by technology and business intelligence. This kind of partnership is important when the objective is to empower customers with personalized and relevant insights that can help them make informed decisions to buy products, subscribe to services, or use various offerings, which in turn adds to their trust and loyalty in a company. 

A real-life example of this can be found in an intelligent virtual agent or chatbot used by organizations to provide personalized service and guidance to people. Chatbots use AI and scripted rules to ask questions, identify the challenge, and resolve customer queries. 

Chatbots seem like a fool-proof solution to creating and delivering a good customer experience with fewer human resources, but recent Avaya research with Ipsos indicates that, based on their last interaction with a virtual agent, only 1 in 3 customers would recommend that business to others. This is because only 50% of them had their issue or concern resolved. This lack of success is due in part to the historical complexity of developing and delivering effective virtual agent solutions.    

Traditionally, it could take months to deploy a virtual chatbot, by which time consumer preferences, business processes, or even basic company information may have changed. Relying on a chatbot alone is a failure to leverage the potential of human-to-AI partnership.  

Avaya Virtual Agent removes this complexity, enabling organizations to quickly deploy Avaya-designed, pre-built, cloud-based self-service agents instead of building them from scratch. It leverages the Avaya Experience Platform™, which reimagines communications composability, providing customers with the option of constructing their own workflows or subscribing to pre-built experiences. This also enables businesses to participate in the Experience Economy by elevating their customer interactions beyond just making them more efficient to also making them more engaging to capture increased customer time and attention. The Avaya Experience Builders™ community can assist businesses with getting started or with addressing more advanced deployment requirements.

The ready-to-deploy virtual agent is designed to deliver the full benefits of virtual, AI-based communication experiences by leaning into the human-to-AI partnership. The solution reduces call volumes to live agents, decreasing average call wait times. It also increases agent productivity by providing important context to the humans who may have to solve more complex customer issues. Most importantly, though, it delivers true speed-to-value, enabling companies to infuse high-value capabilities into the customer experience in a matter of days. This means you can scale your AI efforts while leveraging an existing CX framework, building a true partnership between human and machine. 

That partnership is a win-win-win situation for the company, contact center agents, and the customer. The company can swiftly compose the kinds of interactions that its customers expect; the call center agent is given access to a single, easy-to-use dashboard that eliminates the need to train and helps dedicate more time toward meeting customer expectations; and customers appreciate the heightened level of responsiveness.

This advanced capability also does away with misconceptions about technology taking over jobs. This perception stems from the inability of companies to have an open discussion with employees about embracing AI across business functions. Using technology with a purpose is known to help employees focus more on business innovation and value-added tasks, rather than spending time on mundane work. It is a company’s responsibility to demonstrate and educate their employees on how technology can augment and support their work to achieve satisfaction.  

In today’s experience economy, human abilities can fall short, due in large part to the outweighed importance of heavy data analysis. But relying entirely on machines is hardly the right approach — organizations need the automated, fast-calculating power of AI. But they also need the human ingenuity that’s required to solve complex issues. The focus, then, should be on adopting AI technologies that enhance the skill sets of your employees. 

Artificial Intelligence

Erin Howard, executive director of product, service, and experience design at Charles River Laboratories, admits she doesn’t get into all the scientific intricacies of the blood products her company supplies to its customers for their research needs.

But she and her team did understand what was working and, perhaps more importantly, what wasn’t working in the interactions that Charles River had with blood donors and its own business customers.

In fact, finding those pain points — where customer experiences need improvement — is squarely in her wheelhouse.

Howard joined Charles River, which provides products and services to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, government agencies, and academic institutions for their research and drug development efforts, in March 2021 as the first one in her role.

“I joined to bring design thinking and to reimagine how we work,” she says.

According to Howard, the company created the position, which reports to the CIO and is part of the global IT leadership team, to ensure that its digital products deliver the best customer experiences and to ensure those experiences help customers do their own jobs better.

“We’re hoping that digital transformation with its focus on customer experience will take one year off the drug-development lifecycle,” she says. “We want to be that impactful.”

Howard and her 14-member design team hunt for ways to do that. She subdivided her teams into groups assigned to different customer areas, with those groups working with the IT teams delivering customer-facing products, engaging in continuous discovery activities and scheduling regular meetings directly with customers to learn about their needs.

That’s all to understand the customer journey and create customer personas so the groups can help develop digital products that better meet customer needs.

Insights and customer experience improvements gleaned by one group are shared, thereby creating synergies where pain points within different customer journeys are similar, Howard explains. And her design team works with agile development teams to iterate, test, learn, and rapidly evolve customer experience features.

“It’s about enhancing the customer experience with a digital tool,” she says. “We’re talking about ease and speed. We can’t just digitalize our ways of work. We’re looking for ways to reimagine the solutions, honing in on pain points and finding a technology-enabled new process or new way of working with us.”

That’s what led her team to the blood donation process and its drive to fix how it was falling short.

“We found that the product donation experience was a great opportunity for really impactful customer experience change,” Howard says. “We were still making a lot of phone calls, finding people word of mouth, and we were calling in the same donor pool. But donors are now mobile and used to digital tools, so we weren’t really meeting the donors in the way they wanted to interact with us. We weren’t honed in on their needs.”

Her designers created customer personas to understand both the donors and the business customers, taking the insights gathered from that exercise to ideation sessions focused on how to reduce the time it took to identify, diversify, expand, and ultimately enroll the pool of blood donors in their collection process.

The designers then used those donor-side improvements to create customer experience improvements for the company’s business customers, who as a result of all this work see both a quicker delivery of blood products and more diversity within those products — two essential elements for the clients’ cell and gene therapy development.

After nine months of work, her team launched the new digital donor experience in October, reducing a process that took weeks to one that donors can do themselves in minutes via a new app.

CX: A central tenet to digital transformation

The idea of meeting customers “where they are” has became core to digital transformation success — a tenet that, in turn, has put more of the work of customer experience (CX) under the remit of IT as companies look to make good on the promise of digital transformation.

In fact, customer experience is now a priority for all enterprise executives. The 2022 Be Digital Research report from digital consulting firm West Monroe surveyed 700 C-suite executives and found that improved customer experience is No. 1 among the top three priorities for growth. (The other priorities were enhanced data capabilities and increased scalability through process improvement.) Executives also listed customer experience as one of their top 5 areas for “next big digital investments.”

Calvin Cheng, managing director of West Monroe’s Product Experience & Engineering Lab, defines CX as “the impression and perception customers have when they interact with a company and a brand.”

He says everyone within an organization is responsible for customer experience. Consider, for example, that a company trying to resolve a customer complaint about a missed or late shipment will need information from finance, supply chain, logistics, and others.

Yet CIOs, he notes, are the “executives at the table defining and delivering on the corporate customer experience strategy and enabling the technologies that brings it to life.”

“The CIO has a high level of responsibility to coordinate technologies that enable and ensure the privacy and security of those engagements,” Cheng says, adding that those enabling technologies include artificial intelligence and machine learning as well as automation such as robotic process automation (RPA).

Moreover, he says, CIOs must also know how to make those enabling technologies work across various touchpoints to ensure a seamless experience.

Despite its growing importance to enterprise success, CIO efforts to build CX capabilities within their IT shops and their ability to use those capabilities to transform their organization’s customer experiences have had mixed results.

The West Monroe survey found that 92% of organizations said they are effective at putting the customer at the center of everything; 93% said they’re effective at creating “fluid, connected experiences across digital and physical worlds”; and 75% are investing heavily in the customer experience. Yet only 37% of companies gave an “A” to their customer experience.

“There are still companies that are struggling to bring customer experiences to life,” Cheng says, noting that companies in the business-to-business space and those in the middle market tend to lag behind the largest companies and consumer-facing ones when it comes to maturing their CX disciplines.

CIO as owner of CX

As CIO of tech company Logitech, Massimo Rapparini has taken direct responsibility for customer experience: He took on the head of customer experience title and role about four years ago after serving as only CIO for about 18 months.

“The intent is to have a single person for experience. I’m not the only one who shapes experience, but we want someone to bring it all together, and knowing how technology drives experience is the driver behind using me [the CIO] in the role,” Rapparini explains.

He says having a single owner of CX has helped the company focus on creating consistently positive and seamless experiences at all touchpoints, rather than having siloes of great experiences.

And having that single owner be the CIO allows the company to create unified experiences throughout, he says, “because technology plays such an important role in how you stitch together all these different customer touchpoints in the journey.”

Furthermore, he says having one owner has brought companywide alignment to Logitech’s vision of what great CX should be. Rapparini says he and his team did that by developing a list of objectives (known as the “7 Es”) for designing experiences.

“Building on our company values, we are committed to delivering an experience based on the 7 Es to advocate for our customers: empathy, expectation setting, effortless, engaging, eliminating errors, equitable, and environmentally sustainable,” he says.

Rapparini also uses other commonly recognized CX best practices such as creating personas and customer journeys, having CX teams engage business groups and products teams, and following agile development methodologies with incremental delivery.

Rapparini credits this cohesive CX program for recent customer experience improvements and shaping planned CX innovations, such as using artificial intelligence to predict product failures before they happen and creating embedded self-healing capabilities.

CIO as conductor

Monica Caldas, deputy CIO for Liberty Mutual Insurance, is also looking ahead to determine how and where CX can better serve the company’s customers.

“When we start with our company’s purpose, ‘We exist to help people embrace today and confidently pursue tomorrow,’ you understand that the customer experience and helping our customers at their time of need is always in focus,” she says. “Specifically related to the customer experience, it is always important to us to provide products and services that deliver on our promise. Across the globe we have teams that are working on improving what we deliver, and we incorporate the customer journey perspective into our work when we are delivering technology capabilities.”

Liberty Mutual has been building such capabilities for more than a decade, when the customer advocacy team was first established.

“The team’s mandate is to serve as passionate customer advocates who work across the business to ensure that everything Liberty Mutual does begins with the customer in mind,” Caldas says. “The team ensures that customer-facing employees are empowered and equipped with the tools, training, processes, and support to consistently deliver an outstanding customer experience.”

Caldas points to one recent example to illustrate how all this work enables IT to deliver value to Liberty Mutual customers when they are most in need of service.

IT created a tool that uses AI, aerial imagery of an area before and after a catastrophic event, and weather data to identify damage to customers’ properties before policyholders even call in claims. “This enables our claims organization to be more responsive and deploy resources to those areas with customers most in need,” Caldas says.

Creating such impactful customer experiences by rallying resources should be the CIO’s goal, experts say.

“Customer experience is like a symphony orchestra. There are a lot of players. They need to be working together to create something beautiful. They have to be playing all together to deliver a great performance. In a similar manner, the elements across an organization have to work together in concert to deliver on customer experience expectations,” West Monroe’s Cheng says.

CIOs will become even more important in orchestrating those coordinated efforts moving into the future, as customer expectations continue to evolve and as they rely on emerging technologies such as digital payments and the metaverse.

“Customer experience continues to change and customer expectations of brands continue to increase,” Cheng adds. “Those companies that can make bold moves to make customer experience their competitive differentiator can have better business performance by increased customer acquisition, customer growth, and customer satisfaction. And those companies that can align their internal people, processes, and technology to adapt and meet those customer expectations will be the most successful.”

IT Leadership, IT Strategy

In the second of this two part CIO webinar series ‘Driving business success with true enterprise applications’, we speak with DXC Technology, brewing giant Lion and analysts Ecosystm about ‘How to take customer experience to the next level’.

Today more than ever before, the customer is king.

And having been conditioned – some might say spoilt – over the past several years to hyper-personalisation via the growing number of intelligent digital platforms, delivering them the best possible experiences has now emerged as a major competitive differentiator.

Key to this is ensuring you have the right data and systems to underpin every customer interaction. This means having all customer-related data in a single repository, updated in real time, and accessible by business critical systems.

But as with so many challenges in this business, it’s a lot easier said than done. You need the right strategy, the right teams and the right culture, as well as the right solutions in place. And you need a proper plan to bring everyone in the organisation along with you on the journey.

Brewing giant Lion is one of the most established companies in Australasia, having carried some of our most famous and enduring beverage brands over a more than one hundred year history. And the explosion of new beer brands, especially in the craft space over the past several years, means it’s a more dynamic and complex business than ever.

Back in 2019, before COVID, Lion’s head of customer business process excellence, Nicole Parés and her team embarked a mission to gain a “360 degree view” of the company’s partner customers.

Shortly after, they met and quickly partnered with DXC Technology to set out a strategy to optimise the SAP Marketing solution and provide a customer experience that only a fully integrated tech stack could provide.

Changing customer – and partner – expectations demanded that the company undertake a full transformation if it was going to develop proper systems for managing its many moving parts and remain competitive into the future.

“I recognised that we had, three hundred legacy systems that had very little integration between them, making it difficult to utilise data and analytics, to draw insights and make business decisions,” Parés recalls.

Deployment of multiple SAP modules followed, until one day the legacy systems were switched off and Lion was operating in a new digital world.

Data driven

Perhaps the most profound change, Parés says, has been the cultural shift towards becoming an organisation that properly understands the value of data, especially in terms of driving better customer experiences.

“I can see the impacts through that our entire value chain … it [data] gives you the avenue through the technology of that marketing cloud to be really targeted in who your customer segments are.

“That in itself has been a transformative journey for our business”.

Matthew Varone, SAP CX consultant with DXC Technology says he and his team were initially brought in to work on a fairly narrow use case deploying SAP CX applications and marketing cloud.

From there the remit was expanded to encompass a broader plan to improve engagement with Lion’s extensive partner channel.

“[We started] working towards the right solution that’s 100 percent focussed on excellent customer experiences”.

This meant making sure the solution was right for everyone “and so that involved partnering very closely and doing lots of discovery, and going on the journey together to make sure we get the right outcome.”

Alan Hesketh, principal adviser with ecosystem and author of Start fast: Achieving rapid impact from digital transformation, has himself been at the coalface of several major digital transformation projects, in particular for the retail and fast moving consumer goods sectors.

He notes that for companies like Lion the challenge is how to harness data so that people find it easier – and are more inclined – to do business with you.

It’s essential therefore, to have “accurate data”.

“[It means] you’re able to use the data that they’re giving you to do the right kind of promotional activities to get that the expected returns .. and so when they’re doing that electronic ordering, it just flows through smoothly.”

Varone explains that DXC has helped Lion connect with its customers across multiple touchpoints.

“We’re measuring click through rates and engagement when they’re on the phone with agents and through the CRM system. You know those interactions are coming back, and all of those are being centralized and building this vision of one picture of a customer.”

Parés adds that being able to demonstrate that the project would give rise to new revenue streams was a key factor in getting buy in from the broader executive team. And further endearing her and her team was the fact that there were “zero issues” after ‘go-live’; a remarkable achievement for a project of this scale.

“It’s amazing now to look back and reflect on what that journey was like for us, putting that case forward and getting the buy in. Now we have the right technology, we can turn that into a competitive advantage.

Working on the marriage

Much is made of the importance of having great teams if major digital projects are to achieve their most ambitious objectives. And that also means different teams being able to work well together.

Parés reflects that hers and Varone’s team at DXC were united by strong sense of purpose but without any illusions about what needed to be done.

“We kept each other accountable, challenging what it was we were trying to achieve, and how we would get there.

“I think for me what I really enjoyed was it wasn’t a case of saying ‘here’s what I want to do. Go and do it. It was a partnership to understand, ‘well, have you considered that this is possible, or you are doing this process right now?’.”

Varone feels that that’s what made the “marriage” between Lion and DXC special.

“Did it take work? Yes, like most teams like this, forming and storming and norming, and all of those sorts of progressions that we all make together.”

“But there was always a lot of respect for each other”.

SAP

Over the past few years, many enterprises saw much of their knowledge workforce move away from the office to work out of their homes. This move beyond the traditional firewall setup created security issues and device management issues for many IT departments.

Adding to these issues was an increasing need to keep employees happy once people began returning to the office. For example, a recent Gallup poll found that four in 10 white-collar workers prefer to work from home despite hybrid workforce options. In addition, many employees continued to feel empowered to begin actively looking for new jobs or watch for openings.

In the age of the “war for talent,” it’s more important than ever to gain competitive advantage by reinventing the employee experience. Workers want to be engaged in their workplace and feel that their companies value them. That means businesses need to create a modern workplace that proves they do. Interestingly, enterprises are discovering that adopting the Apple® Platform in their environment can tackle several of these hybrid workplace and demographic challenges.

Consider these four major themes driving more Apple adoption within the enterprise:

A move to a hybrid workplace, where employees work either at home or in an office, and need access to the same tools no matter the location with seamless experience.Digital acceleration efforts to make sure workflows and processes are computing-based.Security and privacy acceleration of devices that are located beyond traditional closed environments.A demographic shift of younger workers expecting the same performance from devices that they have used their entire life before entering the workforce.

With these themes in mind, it’s not surprising to discover that employees prefer using Apple devices over other options. Some recent stats prove that employees would be happier at companies that offer Mac®solutions:

67% of students would be more likely to join and stay with a business that offers a Mac.Three out of four employees would choose Apple when given the choice.76% of companies report the use of Apple devices has increased over the past two years.

The benefits of adopting Apple devices extend well beyond just ensuring employees’ satisfaction:

With an increase in cyberattacks against corporate networks, understanding Apple platform security is key. Apple builds security into the hardware platform at the start, and provides hardware, encryption, application, and services security across the ecosystem. Mac is the most secure personal computer on the planet, thanks to built-in features like hardware-verified secure boot, on-the-fly encryption, Touch ID®, and Gatekeeper.From a performance standpoint, MacBook Air® with M1 offers up to 2x faster Excel performance, up to 50% faster web application responsiveness, up to 2x faster browser graphics performance, and up to 2x longer battery life when video conferencing with Zoom on a single charge.Cost: Mac ownership also costs less than PC ownership in the long run, since Mac users are less likely to need computer support. According to an economic impact report by Forrester, Mac ownership costs less in the long run providing 336% ROI. Also, according to a leading SI only 5% of Mac users needed support vs. 40% of PC users.Sustainability: Enterprises focusing on sustainability trends also enjoy Apple for its commitment to the environment – MacBook Air cases are made of 100% recycled aluminum, 90% of Apple’s packaging features recyclable fiber, zero waste is sent to the landfill from final assembly supplier sites, 35% or more of their products used recycled plastic, in products like MacBook Air, energy consumption is reduced by up to 60% when in active use.

Enterprises looking to assess their environment for Apple device support or grow the use of Apple devices in their environment don’t have to do so alone, however. The recently launched FlexSpace for Apple solution provides a seamless path to device choice by enabling a secure, personalized employee experience that fosters collaboration and productivity on all Apple devices. The solution can craft the right digital experience by using the power of Apple to provide seamless and secure experiences.

Starting with understanding customer goals, capturing user experience, then mapping collected data to a plan to meet the customer’s vision, FlexSpace for Apple provides detailed readiness and network assessments before a broad and consistent deployment. FlexSpace for Apple can also modernize an identity infrastructure, build self-service choice portals, and provide end-to-end lifecycle management at a per-user/per-month consumption model. Users can take advantage of seamless support backed by AppleCare® for Enterprise where available through the FlexSpace solution.

Regardless of an enterprise’s experience with Apple devices, from just exploring the ideas to intermediate or advanced users, the FlexSpace for Apple solution provides companies with help along every stage of their Apple journey.

Benefits for enterprises also span their landscape:

CEOs will see digital transformation and business agility goals met.      CFOs can reduce their IT costs through zero-touch deployment.      CISOs will gain data encryption, malicious attack prevention, and backup and recovery benefits.Chief Human Resource Officers add an extra tool to their talent retention toolbox through offering device choice and support.Employees remain actively engaged and increase their productivity.

For more information on FlexSpace for Apple offering, click here. HCL is running a limited time free Mac assessment offer for customers.

Fine print

© 2022 Apple Inc. All rights reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, AppleCare ,Mac,  MacBook Air, and Touch ID are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries and regions.

Digital Transformation

Over the past few years, many enterprises saw much of their knowledge workforce move away from the office to work out of their homes. This move beyond the traditional firewall setup created security issues and device management issues for many IT departments.

Adding to these issues was an increasing need to keep employees happy once people began returning to the office. For example, a recent Gallup poll found that four in 10 white-collar workers prefer to work from home despite hybrid workforce options. In addition, many employees continued to feel empowered to begin actively looking for new jobs or watch for openings.

In the age of the “war for talent,” it’s more important than ever to gain competitive advantage by reinventing the employee experience. Workers want to be engaged in their workplace and feel that their companies value them. That means businesses need to create a modern workplace that proves they do. Interestingly, enterprises are discovering that adopting the Apple® Platform in their environment can tackle several of these hybrid workplace and demographic challenges.

Consider these four major themes driving more Apple adoption within the enterprise:

A move to a hybrid workplace, where employees work either at home or in an office, and need access to the same tools no matter the location with seamless experience.Digital acceleration efforts to make sure workflows and processes are computing-based.Security and privacy acceleration of devices that are located beyond traditional closed environments.A demographic shift of younger workers expecting the same performance from devices that they have used their entire life before entering the workforce.

With these themes in mind, it’s not surprising to discover that employees prefer using Apple devices over other options. Some recent stats prove that employees would be happier at companies that offer Mac®solutions:

67% of students would be more likely to join and stay with a business that offers a Mac.Three out of four employees would choose Apple when given the choice.76% of companies report the use of Apple devices has increased over the past two years.

The benefits of adopting Apple devices extend well beyond just ensuring employees’ satisfaction:

With an increase in cyberattacks against corporate networks, understanding Apple platform security is key. Apple builds security into the hardware platform at the start, and provides hardware, encryption, application, and services security across the ecosystem. Mac is the most secure personal computer on the planet, thanks to built-in features like hardware-verified secure boot, on-the-fly encryption, Touch ID®, and Gatekeeper.From a performance standpoint, MacBook Air® with M1 offers up to 2x faster Excel performance, up to 50% faster web application responsiveness, up to 2x faster browser graphics performance, and up to 2x longer battery life when video conferencing with Zoom on a single charge.Cost: Mac ownership also costs less than PC ownership in the long run, since Mac users are less likely to need computer support. According to an economic impact report by Forrester, Mac ownership costs less in the long run providing 336% ROI. Also, according to a leading SI only 5% of Mac users needed support vs. 40% of PC users.Sustainability: Enterprises focusing on sustainability trends also enjoy Apple for its commitment to the environment – MacBook Air cases are made of 100% recycled aluminum, 90% of Apple’s packaging features recyclable fiber, zero waste is sent to the landfill from final assembly supplier sites, 35% or more of their products used recycled plastic, and more than 60% of their products are more energy efficient.

Enterprises looking to assess their environment for Apple device support or grow the use of Apple devices in their environment don’t have to do so alone, however. The recently launched FlexSpace for Apple solution provides a seamless path to device choice by enabling a secure, personalized employee experience that fosters collaboration and productivity on all Apple devices. The solution can craft the right digital experience by using the power of Apple to provide seamless and secure experiences.

Starting with understanding customer goals, capturing user experience, then mapping collected data to a plan to meet the customer’s vision, FlexSpace for Apple provides detailed readiness and network assessments before a broad and consistent deployment. FlexSpace for Apple can also modernize an identity infrastructure, build self-service choice portals, and provide end-to-end lifecycle management at a per-user/per-month consumption model. Users can take advantage of seamless support backed by AppleCare® for Enterprise where available through the FlexSpace solution.

Regardless of an enterprise’s experience with Apple devices, from just exploring the ideas to intermediate or advanced users, the FlexSpace for Apple solution provides companies with help along every stage of their Apple journey.

Benefits for enterprises also span their landscape:

CEOs will see digital transformation and business agility goals met.      CFOs can reduce their IT costs through zero-touch deployment.      CISOs will gain data encryption, malicious attack prevention, and backup and recovery benefits.Chief Human Resource Officers add an extra tool to their talent retention toolbox through offering device choice and support.Employees remain actively engaged and increase their productivity.

For more information on FlexSpace for Apple offering, click here. HCL is running a limited time free Mac assessment offer for customers.

Fine print

© 2022 Apple Inc. All rights reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, AppleCare ,Mac,  MacBook Air, and Touch ID are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries and regions.

Digital Transformation

Employee experience has become a key factor in defining your company’s overall success. Positive or negative, employee experience can significantly impact your company’s productivity, efficiency, and its ability to recruit and retain talent. It can even impact your brand’s reputation long after an employee has exited the company.

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the future of work by normalizing remote work, placing a new emphasis on workplace flexibility, and introducing hybrid workforce environments. It has also seen drastic changes around employee expectations and engagement, and significant challenges to long-held workplace assumptions. Because of this, business leaders are making employee experience a top priority like never before.

In the past, employee experience was built around location, typically an office building, which served as a central point for all employees. Research firm Gartner argues that today a good employee experience is all about human-centered design, which “prioritizes the human as the core pillar of work design over location, requiring a new set of principles, norms, and thinking.” Without a human-centric approach, which includes integrating flexibility, intentionality, and empathy into work policies and practices, organizations will struggle to attract and retain talent in today’s talent marketplace, Gartner contends.

Employee experience definition

Employee experience encompasses everything your employees experience, from the moment they are recruited to their journeys onward as alumni of the company. While the steps and facets of the employee life cycle vary by company and industry, there are common milestones that define the employee experience across the board. These milestones include the recruitment process, onboarding, training, development, evaluation and promotion, exiting, and the alumni experience.

Why is employee experience important?

Employee experience has a significant influence on business success, especially around turnover and productivity. According to Gartner, when employees report a positive employee experience, they are 60% more likely to stay with the company, 69% more likely to be high performers, and 52% more likely to report “high discretionary effort,” which is work they do above and beyond their daily responsibilities. Embracing a human-centric approach to employee experience can also reduce work fatigue by 44%, increase “intent to stay” by 45%, and improve performance by 28%, according to Gartner.

Remote work has become more normalized since the COVID-19 pandemic, challenging long-held assumptions about when and where work is performed. Organizations can no longer rely on a top-down office culture alone to shape the employee experience. Instead, they must design workflows and business processes around human physical, cognitive, and emotional needs.

Employee experience strategy

A human-centric approach to the employee experience addresses the growing expectations of employees to have flexibility and empathy at work. That means acknowledging demands for hybrid work, accepting that the future of work has fundamentally changed, and embracing autonomy, visibility, and inclusion in the workplace.

While 14% of employees prefer to work from a corporate office exclusively, and 10% prefer to be fully remote, 76% want some type of flexibility between the two, according to Gartner data. Employees are also shown to be more productive when given the opportunity for flexibility and are more likely than their on-site peers to go above and beyond their job description, according to the research firm.

In addition to flexibility, employees want systems, tools, and software that make their jobs easier, without causing delays or impinging on productivity. It’s important to have a streamlined effort around technology in the company, ensuring everyone has access to the data or systems they need. All systems, networks, software, and hardware should also be as efficient as possible. Everyone needs to have the appropriate tools to effectively do their jobs, without running into headaches when using them.

But the most important facets of developing an employee experience strategy are ensuring that you know what employees want, have the means to measure challenges and progress, and put your employees at the center of every step of their employment journey.

Employee experience best practices

Organizations with “vision maturity,” the highest level of employee experience, according to Gartner, typically exhibit the following characteristics:

They take a holistic view of employees, seeing them as a “whole person,” including their personal and social experiences inside and outside of work.
They realize the overall contribution of employees outside of their job descriptions and time with the company.
They identify “moments that matter” in the employee experience and build objectives and goals that support all types of employees and personalities in the organization.
They have “clear cross-functional ownership and goal alignment” of the employee experience outside of just the HR department that’s aligned with the overall organizational goals and culture.
They implement an employee experience strategy that supports two-way communication and expectations with employees, allowing them to share their opinions and ideas openly.
They develop an architecture that enables IT, HR, and other leaders to plan and organize initiatives relevant to specific business roles, tasks, and other objectives.

Common employee experience mistakes

On the opposite end, organizations that rank on the lowest levels of employee experience have a limited focus, typically implementing one-off initiatives or relying too much on employee experience tools. According to Gartner, companies that have a lower-ranked employee experience typically struggle with:

A lack of understanding of the impact of employee experience and of the building blocks that go into employee experience
Having restrictive views on the overall employee journey, focusing only on “major career moments” rather than the more granular day-to-day responsibilities and work of employees
Being too depending on technology to improve the employee experience, and often having unrealistic expectations from the tools and software implemented
Fragmented and overlapping systems and processes, which introduce friction that impact employee satisfaction and productivity

Measuring employee experience

Employee experience platforms and tools help companies manage the employee experience while also getting feedback on what they’re doing right and what needs to change. These tools can also help enable employees to have a voice in the organization, giving them a platform to express how they feel about various initiatives or business processes.

You don’t want your employee experience data to be hidden away in a “black box,” says Tori Paulman, a senior director analyst at Gartner. It’s important that the information is accessible to all stakeholders and that it helps piece together a clear picture of what the employee experience is like within the organization.

Another way to measure the employee experience is through employee resource groups (ERGs). When it comes to ensuring technical resources are providing a positive experience, Paulman suggests that CIOs leverage ERGs to get broad feedback on “how the applications are being perceived and how effective they are for various groupings of employees that you might have in the workplace.”

Ultimately you need the tools that will supply the data to help identify all the pain points in the organization, initiatives that are working positively, and areas for improvement. There’s no one-size-fits-all to the employee experience, so it’s important to identify various departmental or even employee-specific needs within the organization. Employee experience platforms can help capture these.

IT’s role in the employee experience

Employee experience has historically fallen on the desks of HR staff, but as it grows increasingly digital, the CIO and IT department now have a bigger role than ever in the process, according Paulman.

Gartner states that by 2025, more than 50% of IT organizations will prioritize and measure the success of digital initiatives based off the digital employee experience — a significant jump from just 5% of companies who said the same in 2021. Similarly, by 2024, 60% of large global organizations will deploy no less than five human capital management and digital workplace technologies to address employee experience needs.

“The CIO and the leaders that report to them have to lean in and take ownership over employee experience. We see an imperative for the CIO to step into the circle and say, ‘I’m going to own the day-to-day employee experience and I’m going to support HR leaders and facilities leaders,’ because a huge part of [employee experience] is the connections and the collaboration of humans and the place in which it’s done. And it’s my position that the CIO has the greatest impact on that on a day-to-day basis,” says Paulman.

Technology is fundamental to the employee experience and it includes everything from what recruiting software you use, to the daily collaboration tools, to the software used to offboard employees can impact the digital employee experience. It’s even important to consider an employee’s lifelong experience with technology.

Paulman gives the example of an architect who started their career with pencils and paper and now works with fully digital programs and tools. Some employees may have a learning curve with technology used in the organization or may have used entirely different tools at their last company. It’s important to ensure that all considerations around technology are considered and made a central part of employee experience initiatives.

Aligning digital efforts so that they can support the overall employee experience strategy within the organization will allow digital leaders to effectively prioritize projects and resources. Whereas not aligning those efforts will only result in “siloed applications and unhappy employees,” according to Gartner. 

For more on what CIOs can do, see “How IT can improve the employee experience.”

Careers, IT Leadership, Staff Management

The COVID-19 pandemic hastened our already digital-centric culture to become even more digitally driven. People rely on their smartphones, social platforms, and digital channels for information, entertainment, and online purchases.

Adhering with this digital transformation, consumers expect personalized service and convenience when shopping both online and in-store. This includes the ability to interact with a merchant across multiple channels, anytime and from anywhere. To keep up, merchants need to deliver an integrated, omnichannel shopping journey that offers customers payment options.

“Payments choice is the most important feature that shoppers value, regardless of where they are in the world,” concludes a study from PYMNTS and Cybersource, a Visa solution. “All consumers say that having the ability to pay how they want is the most important feature retailers offer.”

Indeed, consumers are 63% more likely to shop with merchants that offer their preferred payment options, according to the report. Clearly, merchants have a strong business incentive to provide customers with a full range of payment methods.

Giving consumers payment and channel options

Fortunately, there are solutions to help merchants ensure they are meeting and even exceeding shopper expectations for an integrated, holistic, and seamless shopping experience. For example, a shopper who purchases merchandise via their mobile device or laptop may request curbside pickup. Precision inventory management allows for efficient and accurate fulfillment at the store level and when available for pick-up, the shopper can be notified automatically via push notification or text, conveying shopper pickup ETA or arrival.

A critical step in creating a smooth journey is offering digital profiles that can be accessed by customers across multiple synchronous shopping channels. Digital profiles spare individuals (both in-store and online) from repeatedly having to input information. These profiles also save customer support agents from having to retrieve profile data to facilitate a transaction. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of U.S. merchants offered such digital profiles in 2021, up from 52% in 2020, according to the Cybersource report.

The costly awareness gap

Whether the consumer’s preferred payment method is credit card, debit card, digital wallet or eWallet, “buy now, pay later” (BNPL), or online bank transfers, it is critical that merchants make customers aware that these options are available. All other factors being equal, if an individual prefers BNPL, they will take their sale to a retailer that offers that capability.

Similarly, Cybersource data reveals that 54% of U.S. merchants allow shoppers to make purchases using voice-recognition technology, such as Alexa and Google Home. However, only 43% of local shoppers said that the merchant from which they made their most recent purchase offered this capability. This “awareness gap” can cost merchants in the form of lost sales opportunities. 

Consumers no longer view shopping as either an in-store or online experience. Technology has blurred the lines to enable a seamless consumer journey that effortlessly traverses multiple devices, platforms, and channels.

To help provide merchants the shopping experiences customers expect, Cybersource works with partners like Manhattan Associates, Inc. with Manhattan Active Omni® to create a unified experience that streamlines the process from front-end to payment processing. Cybersource and partners work behind the scenes to ensure a smooth omnichannel experience, so merchants can benefit from all around flexibility.

Today’s consumers want a personalized shopping experience, which includes the ability to pay across traditional and emerging channels and through the payment method of their choice. Merchants that provide this omnichannel shopping and payment experience will gain a competitive advantage.

Learn more about Cybersource here.  

Digital Transformation, IT Leadership