Tag Archives: paul mang

Why Customer Experience Is Key

Disruption is inevitable, and no organization is immune. Findings from McKinsey suggest that the current pace of disruption is happening 10 times faster than the Industrial Revolution, at 300 times the scale, and with 3,000 times the impact. This is an unprecedented opportunity for businesses to thrive, but at the same time an unprecedented threat to slower-moving organizations, which may end up allowing themselves – or their industry – to be disrupted.

“We are at the precipice of unbelievably powerful advancements driven by technology. We no longer have to ask if we can do it, but if we should do it, and, if we do, how do we do it responsibly,” says Eric Boyum, managing director, technology and communications industry, at Aon.

Embracing disruption – both managing it and anticipating it – is crucial for businesses to thrive during this change. But what constitutes disruption, and how does it differ from innovation? Putting the customer experience first and truly understanding audience needs is critical. From agility to forward-thinking industry trends, established organizations can learn from newcomers and help their teams innovate on behalf of customers – key to thriving amid change.

In Depth

Today, innovation and disruption confront many industries, driven by a host of entrepreneurial firms looking for opportunities to beat incumbents at their own game. The situation becomes even more interesting, however, when entrepreneurs are a leading force in creating a new game.

Boyum, who works with some of the world’s leading technology companies, offers a key distinction between innovation and disruption: “All those that participate in disruptive movements can be considered innovators – however, not all those that innovate are necessarily disruptors.”

Randy Nornes, executive vice president, Aon Risk Solutions, elaborates: “Disruption does not come from typical competitors,” where most companies traditionally focus their defensive efforts. Instead, disruptors often originate from outside the industry being disrupted – which means established players don’t recognize what’s happening until too late. The disruptor then captures and develops a market, eventually unseating incumbents.

See also: Key to Digitizing Customer Experience  

When Apple released its first smartphone in 2007, it probably wasn’t looking to transform the transportation industry. But it turned out that putting a GPS unit in the pockets of billions of people across the world would crack open a whole universe of commercial applications inconceivable to the original inventors. Uber, the paradigmatic “disruptor,” was quick to see the opportunity.

Smartphone technology was available to everyone. Uber’s ability to capitalize on Apple’s innovation and aggressively outpace incumbents in the taxi industry through offering cheaper, more flexible rides, marked it out as a true disruptor. It is now the most valuable private company in the world.

Apple itself was, of course, also a disruptor. It jumped on the then-new technology of file-sharing with iTunes and disrupted (many would say fatally) the physical music retail industry. Spotify, in turn, disrupted iTunes by putting subscription streaming ahead of paid downloads.

It’s not just about innovating and making products better – it’s about anticipating consumer needs. This type of disruption often comes from new players, as opposed to traditional competitors. “The company that provides the most taxi rides does not own any taxis; the company that rents the most rooms does not own any rooms, and the company that distributes the most media does not generate any content,” Boyum says. “These companies are, of course, Uber, Airbnb and Facebook.” They got there not by being the best in their field at providing a certain product but by providing a completely new one.

Data for the People

“We’ve seen entire industries emerge because they promise something to the end-user: a better customer experience,” Nornes says. Uber could have made bigger, plusher taxis. Instead, it correctly saw that what travelers wanted out of their experience wasn’t necessarily luxury but affordability and convenience of a kind that traditional taxis had yet to provide.

Through a data-driven understanding of audience or a market, disruptors seek to prioritize customer experience and work to improve the status quo – often creating a new one. “A lot of sharing economy companies focused on technology and new ways of capturing data,” Nornes says. “In the transportation world, disruptors leveraged the GPS technology that’s inside a smartphone to create a superior service.” In turn, this data has been used in other ways to improve the ridesharing services. An Uber passenger can feed back data via ratings, which the company can then leverage to further optimize user experiences and create a model that is, to an extent, self-regulating.

This data-led process of transformation is set to intensify. By 2020, there could be 20 billion internet-of-things devices worldwide. Understanding the emergent narratives of consumer behavior that this enormous mine of data produces will be the first order of business for tomorrow’s would-be disruptors.

The Ripple Effects of Disruptive Innovation

“The most important lesson to learn is that disruption can happen to everyone – no one is immune,” Boyum says. This disruption can come in many forms, other than direct competition.

Nornes asks: “How do you deal with independent contractors? How will regulations evolve? What are the talent implications – do companies have the necessary disruptive talent to keep ahead of competitors?” Some of the more wide-reaching implications of disruption could include:

Insurance & Regulations: Businesses don’t operate in a vacuum – from insurance to regulations, they are governed by a complex network of secondary services, which will also have to adapt to disruption. Current insurance policies are built on certain assumptions about how customers engage with products or services. Initially, Uber struggled with getting its drivers insurance coverage, as providers had no products that accommodated the unique risks of non-employee drivers – of course, disruption here also means an opening of markets for new products.

There must also be responses to the shifting nature of work in the gig economy. Is an Uber driver a freelancer using an app, or should he be treated – and compensated – as a full employee?

Employment & Talent: Headlines proclaiming an unemployment doomsday at the hands of automation are abundant. Don MacPherson, partner, Global Engagement Practice at Aon Hewitt, frames this as a hiring and retention issue: “Are we still going to be able to bring people into this organization as we’re seen to be shedding jobs that are now obsolete?”

But, he explains, organizations should relish the opportunity to transform their talent and training strategies. Incumbents should look at what innovators are doing: What types of talent are they bringing on? How flexible is that talent? And, perhaps most importantly, are they fostering functions like R&D, which will allow them to leverage their disruptive capabilities in a competitive environment?

Societal Impact: Models that disrupt multiple industries, like the sharing economy, also have widespread societal implications. A firm like Airbnb disrupts far more than just hospitality incumbents. Homesharing can create incentives for more buy-to-rent activity, which causes distortions in rental markets as prices rise. This, in turn, can provoke regulatory responses from local governments – which affect the whole housing landscape, rather than just the operations of one company. And so they have, in Paris, San Francisco and New York.

The onus is on the disruptors to communicate the benefits they bring for all stakeholders. For instance, customers enjoy ridesharing because it’s more affordable and convenient, but reducing the number of cars on the road also helps fight pollution. Similarly, flat-sharing could emphasize the tourism revenue it generates.

See also: Smart Things and the Customer Experience  

Disrupting for Tomorrow

If companies can perform this balancing act – from embracing new technologies, models and services around consumer needs, to preparing for the unknowns that disruption can bring – then they can find huge success in the coming years.

“Disruption is the result of dramatic innovation. And whether business models rise and fall on this is not the point,” Nornes says. Disruption is a bigger trend than the fortunes of an individual company – it’s the rise of new ways, perhaps better ways – of doing things. By recognizing evolving customer needs and forcing new ways of thinking within an organization, companies and their leaders can make sure they are on the right side of history.

 

How Technology Breaks Down Silos

Overview

New digital technologies and the data they are producing have forced collaboration among senior business leaders across all levels of all organizations. To obtain insights from data to drive decision-making and embed a data-driven approach within a company’s culture, it is critical for the C-suite to lead the way.

It’s easy to talk about collaboration, but much harder to act. Analyzing information, deriving insights and responding with effective strategies requires an understanding of the analytical tools themselves, as well as collaboration. As technologies get smarter and various functional groups collaborate, simply moving to single systems can give broader teams greater visibility to inefficiencies and broken processes.

But how does a business get to such a place? What tools and strategies bring about successful coordination of activities in such dynamic situations? And what are the challenges of working together that C-Suite executives should anticipate?

In Depth

Just about every functional group within an organization can now collect, connect and analyze data. But big data – from keyword searches, social sites, wearables, mobile devices, customer feedback and so on – presents challenges as well as opportunities for business leaders. One of the biggest is how to maximize the potential of this data by transcending organizational silos to unlock its true potential.

Technology is also transforming how businesses develop and deliver goods and services and is placing enormous new demands on those responsible for strategies to navigate the challenges. These are the people who need to apply institutional knowledge, implement changes and allocate resources toward new ways of working on a day-to-day basis.

Paul Mang, Global CEO of Analytics and leader of the Aon Center for Innovation and Analytics in Singapore, says there are two types of data analysis that can be leveraged to accomplish this: business analytics and enterprise analytics. Business analytics focus on the use of established tools and capabilities, while enterprise analytics “create new product or value propositions for existing clients or new client segments altogether.”  Short-term, enterprise analytics can lead to disruptive innovation while quickly contributing to improved long-term performance.

“Business and enterprise analytics should work side-by-side and complement each other” to support decision making, Mang says.

The Changing Role of the CIO

The need to become an effective data-driven organization has dramatically increased the importance of the chief information officer (CIO), a role that John Bruno, chief information officer at Aon, says is that of “an integrator – someone who works across the entire organization to embed data within the business.”  He sees the value that information technology (IT) brings, and notes that “IT is less about bits and bytes of data, but more about bringing them together to extract specific insights.”

The need to centralize and mine big data for market opportunities and to parse out weaknesses is also prompting some firms to create a C-suite level position of chief data officer (CDO). This role would be responsible for working with business managers to identify both internal and external data sets that they may not even realize exist, as well as continually looking for new ways to experiment and apply that data.

Equally critical to communicating changes in customer preferences and behaviors, and for their ability to leverage insights from customer purchase patterns into developing new products and services, is the chief marketing officer (CMO). Like the CMO, the effective CIO needs an intimate understanding of how current technology can increase the company’s sales.

However, Bruno says, “in any large organization, there are multiple leaders in different parts of the organization who address different elements of the same challenges. It’s the CEO who can see the whole view and works to have teams bring forward integrated solutions to distributed problems.” He sees the role of the CEO as one who looks beyond short-term disruptions and organizational adjustments to seize opportunities that ensure long-term growth.

This is why, increasingly, the role of the CIO/CDO is about balancing business needs against an incoming stream of opportunities – and risks. This broad cross-business knowledge can only come from constant and deliberate collaboration with the rest of the C-level executive suite. Above all, the CIO has to be able to effectively show how technology and the subsequent data it brings are assets rather than cost centers. For CIOs to really succeed, this means informing C-level colleagues about technology and the opportunities it can create.

Making Collaboration Count: Finance and HR

The role of the CFO is increasingly about analyzing data to give it meaning and partnering across the organization to make the information actionable. One area that is seeing CFOs use data to drive real results is in collaboration with the chief human resources officer (CHRO).

Eddie Short, Aon Hewitt’s managing director, Global Data & Analytics, says that in most organizations the C-Suite has not been getting sufficient insight into people-related business issues, typically owned by human resources (HR) teams. Today, with the CIO’s help, digital tools are increasingly being used by leading organizations to measure employee performance, reduce attrition and cultivate talent through a better understanding of the data about their workforce that they can gather and analyze.

“People analytics,” as this emerging field is known, attempts to bridge the gap between HR and the rest of the organization by providing specific insights into an organization’s talent. “People analytics is all about connecting the value of your people to the strategic goals and objectives of the business,” Short says. “This approach represents a major opportunity for HR and finance leaders to take a road centered on the greatest asset that organizations have – their people – and start to shape the value-add they will create for the business over the next five to 10 years using predictive analytics.”

With skills shortages an increasingly pressing issue for many organizations around the world, gaining this kind of insight can help a business to identify and meet its future talent needs.

Aligning for Agility

As technology continues to disrupt, CEOs and the C-Suite in general must accept that there may not be a set playbook to follow to adapt and evolve. Flexibility is paramount, and often organizations must invent and reinvent as they move forward. Intelligently applying analytics tools to derive value from big data can help them navigate this new terrain.

“Today, CXOs want predictive insights,” Short says. “They want answers to the predictive ‘what could I do?’ questions as well as prescriptive – ‘what should I do?’ — questions.” Yet most tools and programs currently available are merely descriptive – to derive true insight needs additional interpretations from people who really understand the business.

This is where C-Suite collaboration becomes so vital. Organizations thrive when there are diverse and complementary personnel and systems working together. Sharing insights from the analysis of big data across the C-suite and across functions can position businesses to draw valuable insights from this data, harmonize planning around it, align their actions and understand the full value this brings both to their own divisions and the organization as a whole. And the more that data is shared, the more leading businesses discover that they can find answers to today’s – and tomorrow’s – questions.

With the measurable business benefits this data sharing can bring, the business case for breaking down silos within organizations is stronger than ever. Where this may have once been a C-Suite aspiration, the make-or-break implications of insights drawn from this data has made it a business imperative.

Talking Points

“In every industry, our analysis and our work with clients would suggest technology at a minimum is going to be a tremendous accelerant. So if you have a a business model, the opportunity to scale it more effectively, grow it more effectively gets… amplified.” – Greg Case, CEO, Aon

“The way that big data pervades most organizations today creates a dynamic environment for C-level executives to explore how it can and should be used strategically to add business value.” –  Economist Intelligence Unit

Further Reading