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In the digital world, networks trump hierarchies

The widespread adoption of digital channels and proliferation of mobile devices has revolutionised expectations in terms of what good customer service looks like. This presents organisations with many challenges not least of which are how they cost, justify, invest and then manage the transition from legacy channels to new ways of working.

At our recent breakfast event we set out to debunk some of the myths of digital and challenged the mindset of the leadership of many organisations – a mindset which is failing to understand that, in the digital world, networks trump hierarchies.

The implications are far-reaching. With customers now expecting to have a direct connection with the people who can solve their problems, the siloed thinking of old simply does not work. And, in terms of becoming a digitally-minded organisation, it is simply not enough to invest in the technology – in Dr Catherine Howe’s well-chosen words; “…you can’t buy digital, you have to be digital.”

As Catherine was then careful to point out, part of the challenge lies in the mindset of the leadership sitting within various functions of typical organisations: "I believe there are eight tribes within digital. Of course, they’re all wild stereotypes… but they are revealing. What tribes do is capture the digital agenda and bend it to their point of view."

The tendency of these tribes is to capture the digital agenda and bend it to their point of view with each one representing a different wave of technology. As each new wave of technology comes along (eg, robotics) a tribe will come along and attempt to drive the agenda in line with their own interpretation of digital. Catherine’s advice is to identify these tribes and get them all to work together – failure to do so will result in the organisation’s digital strategy being pulled in different directions.

In concluding, Catherine explained how Capita’s approach to ensuring effective and sustainable change is to: "…do targeted interventions with measurable outcomes…big change happens because you ignite a number of different leaders of change and you’re all pushing in the same direction."

Tracking progress on the digital journey is critical such as using Capita’s four stage digital change curve which sees complexity increase along the curve, taking organisations from ‘digital ready’ at an infrastructure level, through ‘digital pragmatism’ where the best use of available technology is made to optimise results at a transactional level, to ‘service redesign’ where groups of transactions or a whole business function are redesigned and ultimately to ‘future digital model’ where the organisation as a whole may be reimagined.

Organisations would normally expect to have activity at every point on the curve. The challenge for a transformation programme is working out where their key focus lies.

Dr Catherine Howe

Digital innovation director

Photo of Ken Wheeler

Ken Wheeler

Business development director, Capita Customer Management

During more than 20 years in the BPO industry Ken has helped develop and implement solutions for leading brands such as British Gas, Mercedes-Benz, npower, Nestle, Pitney Bowes, Sage, Shell and Unilever. During that time he has held senior positions for onshore and offshore service providers in the UK and South Africa including Arise Virtual Solutions, Sitel, RR Donnelley and Merchants/Dimension Data as well as senior sales leadership and delivery roles with Capgemini and KPMG in London.

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