Should digital transformation start with the backoffice ?

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When a company wants to start its digital transformation the first natural reflex is to question the customer experience at each touchpoint To focus on what’s visible and perceptible. However, is this may pays the most ?

Some times ago I decided to join the french railroad company’s loyalty program. I grab my iPhone, go the the site and see it’s possible to register from the mobile one (it may be obvious but isn’t every time).

I reach the end of the process without any issue. It’s easy and seamless. I press the “validate” button, saying to myself “great, you’ll be able to use it for the tickets you need to book for tomorrow”. So I wait for the confirmation email. And then…Carte_voyageur

[Translation] ……Your card will be sent to you within the next 3 weeks…[…..] Before, you’ll receive your  card number by email within one week…. [ /translation]

The good news is that the “physical” card came after 10 days. The bad one is that my number was actually sent 7 days latter. In short I was unable to credit my next trip and even if that does not really matter (one more or less is not that important), I only needed two clicks to switch from a first-class experience to a third-world one.

That said my point is not to criticize but to understand. I find unacceptable that the card number is not immediately generated. No one could have designed such a messy system. In my opinion no one wanted that and no one designed that. However that’s how it works.

I may be wrong but it reminds me of a quite similar experience with a famous pay channel. New interface + old backoffice = new experience + old constraints = disappointment.

The digital and mobile experience has been outstandingly crafted and executed but its scope did not encompass the entire process. So it was nothing more than a transplant. We know the result

This story also reminded me of a McKinsey study on digitizing the bank industry. One of its key learnings was that the most profitable IT investments were about back office automation and efficiency.

IT effectiveness

That doesn’t mean that front office digitization and customer experience is useless, it’s exactly the contrary. It simply means that cleaning up the front office and plugging it on an old back office that’s not been designed to deliver the expected experience my be unsatisfactory and even counterproductive.

That’s one more evidence that digitizing an organization is not veneering some digital stuff on the existing but reinventing the existing from end to end. Hence a logical conclusion that may look obvious but is worth being said again and again about the scope of such projects and the people in charge. There is not what digital and what’s not, digital is a part of everything, of any initiative. It’s not possible to distinguish what happens on the screen and what happens behind the screen.

Image credit : Process Automation by Yuangeng Zhang via Shutterstock