For almost two decades, rapid advancements in technology have spurred organizations to consider digital transformation. As I define it, digital transformation starts with analog or otherwise legacy processes and reconstructs them into fully digital modern systems. Examples of successful transformations exist in daily life:
- We deposit checks with mobile phones.
- We access public transportation with RFID cards.
- Waze tells us where to turn, where to slow down, and where the cops are hiding (thank you, Waze).
But major public-facing transformations like these are just the tip of the iceberg. The majority of digital overhauls impact consumers in subtler ways that are just as significant. To understand how these metamorphoses have improved lives, we’re going to look at digital transitions that boosted the finance, banking, healthcare, and retail industries.
Transforming Finance with Zest
The earliest accounting methods date as far back as 7,000 BC, but most of humanity has come a long way since. Not me, though! Call me old-fashioned, but I still keep a pile of clay singles under the mattress in case of a rainy day. And here’s a pro tip for would-be clay hoarders: if it’s literally a rainy day, keep your clay tokens indoors. I learned this the hard way, then the soft way, then the puddle-of-life-savings-in-my-hands way. Thankfully, most people don’t track their purchases with tokens anymore. But there’s still room for improvement in the finance sector—room for digital transformation.
We need look no further than BlueZest for such an improvement. BlueZest set out to reshape the UK’s mortgage lending market. Their target pain point: the application process. Due to confusing forms, strict regulatory guidelines, and a mass of disconnected portals, processing a mortgage application in the UK could take anywhere between three weeks to two months to complete. That kind of delay slowed business and even discouraged first-time buyers.
BlueZest believed that the industry could do better, that they could do better. BlueZest’s digital transformation was twofold. First, they created a front-end cross-device interface that applicants used to initiate and complete the application process, saving their progress along the way. The front-end guided the applicant step-by-step through the process, requesting nothing but the bare minimum of information and abstracting the paper-process away.
The second part lived on the back-end. BlueZest verified the address, pulled the property valuation, and validated information with know-your-customer, credit history, affordability, indebtedness, and background checks. The back-end did all this work asynchronously during the application process, reducing time-to-offer by several orders of magnitude. As a result, loan quote time shrank to as little as 15 minutes in some cases, and applicants received confirmed offers as quickly as 30 minutes later.
Compared to the worst-case traditional application scenario, BlueZest was now 1000x faster.
Now we zoom-out from the world of mortgages and look to banking as a whole for our next example.
Banking on Digitization
In 2016, BBVA subsidiary GarantiBank realized their competitors were moving fast, too fast. But if To keep up with their peers, they would first have to keep up with the times. That meant offering more access to customers: self-service portals, full control of data, document uploads, a transparent log of banking activities, and more.
“That's why we chose to move as many systems as possible to the cloud.”
—Marco Witteveen, COO of GarantiBank
But moving to the cloud required strict regulatory compliance and the digitization of several core banking processes. Such a monumental architectural shift required great care and caused even more trepidation. So they began with a pilot project: their Treasury Order Management system.
This system was responsible for trading in currency transactions, options, stocks, bonds, and futures. At the time, they carried out transactions on paper and confirmed with customers by phone. You can imagine how eager they were to leave that analog system behind. But rather than put every department under the cloud-based system immediately, they began with their global market sales division, and they succeeded.
They followed that success by digitizing the cash management and trade finance departments. Six months later, all foreign exchange transactions were automated on the cloud. Customers were happier, GarantiBank boosted efficiency dramatically, and human errors fell to zero.
For our next example, we look to how transformation can help heal people, but not the people you expect.
“Physician, Heal Thyself” Transformed
Where does a doctor turn when that doctor needs a doctor? In the UK, the doctors turn to the NHS Practitioner Health Programmer (PHP). This small organization is responsible for assigning doctors and scheduling appointments for England’s more than 85,000 general practitioners. And in 2016, they did all that work by hand.
While their back-office records were fully digitized, the interface between PHP and their patients remained otherwise. An amalgamation of phone calls, emails, and manual data entry was the name of their game. But an increasing number of doctors wanting services was pushing PHP to their limits. So, they had to make a choice: double their staff or digitize the scheduling process. Enough was enough; they chose a transformation.
After consulting with an external IT agency, work began. Less than seven weeks later, PHP launched a mobile application to an awaiting user base of 1,000 doctors and doctor-patients. The mobile application was intuitive and readily adopted by practitioners; PHP’s practitioners required minimal, if any, training. The result is happy practitioners, happy patient-doctors, and a happy team at PHP that can now put their time to better use.
If they’re anything like me, PHP employees will waste all that extra time shopping on the Internet for puppy clothing. So let’s look to retail for our last example.
Everything Must Go
Sonae is a multi-national portfolio company with a focus on retail. Despite 60 years of experience in the marketplace, Sonae felt pressure from newcomers; pressure to focus on health, new regulations, and online shopping. Unfortunately, they lacked the resources necessary to act. But rather than cave in, they came up with an idea: a hackathon.
Traditionally, hackathons are relegated to the college crowd and youthful startups. But Sonae knew that hackathons, especially internal ones, could foster innovation and result in workable prototypes. They could take the best of these prototypes and flesh them out into full products. To no one’s surprise, the majority of the projects built during the hackathon kicked off the digitization of one or more aspects of their retail business.
The products in the top two spots were mobile applications. One digitized a familiar habit, and the other introduced some altruistic opportunities to customers. The first application provided digital access to scratch-and-win cards, a popular choice for those in need of small-time gambling fixes. And the other offered shoppers the option to donate the remainder of their gift card balance to charity.
Sonae continues to focus on innovation and the transformation process today, something that they are fully-committed to.
How’d You Like Them Apples—er, Examples?
If you want to read more digital transformations stories from a wide array of industries, check out our case studies.