The Need for Agility to Expedite Your Transformation Efforts – Innovation at the Point of the Customer

What is transformation?  There are many, many definitions thrown across industry leaders and consultants of how to integrate technology into business processes, make it seamless for the customer, etc.…The best definition I’ve come across is from a Philosopher, Sadhguru, who wrote:

“When we say ‘transformation,’ it means that nothing of the old has remained. Something totally new has flowered within you. Now you look at a rose plant that is full of thorns. Springtime came and rose flowers burst out — it is a transformation. The thorns are still there — there are more thorns than flowers — but we do not call it a thorn plant. We call it a rose plant because of that single rose. Everyone’s attention goes more towards that single rose than a hundred thorns that are on the plant, isn’t it? So all the thorns in you, maybe you cannot remove them right now, but if one rose flower blossoms, everyone is willing to overlook those things.”

Sadhguru was talking about transforming oneself, however, doesn’t this same philosophy hold true when we look at enterprise-level transformations?  Amid thorns – a.k.a – legacy systems, what could be the rose?  Some would say, “it is modernizing the core”, others may say, “it’s leveraging AI engine” to solve a problem.  I will argue that the rose is the customer itself.  Who are we really doing transformation for?

What does innovation at the point of the customer mean?  It means the customer is the focus of how we approach solving problems.  For example, I’m a co-founder of an insurance technology company that focuses on claims transformation and my key persona is the beneficiary.  Why? During the time of claim, who submits the claim process?  Who deals with all the various requirements needed when they are possibly going through the worst time of their lives?

As you innovate at the point of the customer, other “customers” appear such as your claims associates.  If I stop innovating at the beneficiaries and give them a beautiful experience, what happens next?  As you peel the onion, you find out the claim lands in an associate’s hands. What is their experience?  Where does the beautiful, digital-first experience go to?  How many systems are they touching to process a claim?  What happens if I need additional information from the beneficiary?  Innovation at the point of customer doesn’t stop at the end-user – that is just the starting point.  As you start working backward, you keep innovating and evolving.  You don’t stop because “this is just back-office”.  You push the pedal to accelerate. Why?  Because your customers don’t just expect an amazon-like experience – they demand it!  Any piece that causes friction gets noticed and hurts the experience, which ultimately hurts the brand.

How does one go about innovating at the point of the customer?  There are three areas to consider:

  • Your team: When I look at hiring people in my product development team, I have come up with a triple threat model.  When I make these hires, I look for solutions-focused individuals who love solving problems and are curious by nature. I look for technologists – individuals who have worked in technology and have a deep understanding of various integrations and the architecture landscape. Finally, I look for project management.  Individuals who have led enterprise-wide initiatives and can help organizations with change management.
  • Your approach to innovation: We follow a fail-fast and learn-fast model which allows us to look at how and what we innovate in an MVP (Minimum viable product) mindset.  We don’t allow perfectionism to get in the way of innovation.  The faster we deliver, the quicker we get feedback that allows us to keep iterating or throw a feature out as it won’t fit.  The voice of the customer keeps us grounded to ensure we focus on the near-term needs. For long-term, looking at a customer as a whole and what are the macro trends that may shape the customer allows us to keep an eye out for the future.
  • Your partner network: Whether you are a large insurance carrier or an up-and-comingstartup – we all have constraints.  Have you ever seen a home builder lay its own foundation, build their own cabinets, do all the piping for electrical and plumbing?  Homebuilders are masters at having a partner network – they have an electrical guy/gal, windows person, etc.  To innovate with the customer in mind, you must be surrounded by partners that elevate the pieces of the customer journey.  Every piece of the value-chain needs to be accounted for to ensure a seamless experience.

 

As Sadhguru shares – “Everyone’s attention goes more towards that single rose than a hundred thorns that are on the plant, isn’t it?”  When you place your innovation focus on the customer, “thorns” still exist but it isn’t the foci.  For the rose to continue to bloom, there are foundational elements that still need to be taken care of or the rose plant may die but we can’t over “water” the process or forget the rose in the process of taking care of the foundation.