RESOLVE ’22: Warp speed to digital innovation
The pandemic accelerated digital transformation in the business world by forcing companies to double down on areas in which they’d already begun investing. The mass move to video conferencing solutions in industries such as healthcare and education are two examples. In other industries, companies were only able to survive by jumping into completely new areas: brick-and-mortar retailers diving feet-first into e-commerce after lockdowns and health concerns kept shoppers indoors, for example.
There’s little doubt the pandemic sparked innovation that came from sheer necessity. And by defining what innovation means within the specific context of the business, companies can obtain a much better grasp of what they need to do to flourish when any new challenge arises.
In our RESOLVE ’22 session Warp speed to digital innovation, moderator Evan Freedman (our regional VP of professional services and partner delivery) spoke to two esteemed leaders in the tech world on the topic of innovation:
- Visionworks CEO of Retail Technology Shawnna DelHierro
- Kavitha Mani, who leads the voice and contact center services, engineering, and IT Ops for Dell Digital
This blog covers a few of the high-level topics our expert panelists discussed at the Warp speed event. We encourage readers to click the link at the bottom of the page to hear the full panel and all the exciting ideas our guests exchanged.
Rebuilding around a “no longer sustainable” business model
Turning specifically to the healthcare world, there’s little doubt the pandemic changed its operational model more than perhaps any other vertical. And beyond the physical act of treating the illness came the personal health and safety changes to which all industries had to adapt. In Shawnna and Visionworks’ case, one of many notable challenges that came with the transition was rethinking a model in which “15-20 associates might be in a given space,” she said.
Fortunately, the company had already taken light steps towards digital transformation. This gave Shawnna and team a springboard when the pandemic fundamentally altered the business world.
“Our team got really creative about our telehealth and the way we were leveraging our platforms,” she said. “We were able to stand back up and reopen again with one-to-one relationships… it was really about taking some of the things we’d already developed and being able to grow and expand them.”
Not that the customer experience and service delivery models were the only core aspects companies had to address when the pandemic hit. Asked about innovation’s role in transforming the developer and engineer experience, Kavitha offered some interesting thoughts based on her technology leadership experience.
“The speed at which the requests are coming to us from a database engineering perspective” was quite fast and growing, she said. She noted that developers requesting a database provision might wait 30 to 60 days in the past. At that point in time, embracing innovation for her company meant “taking a step back and looking at what we needed to do to change the whole process,” with an emphasis on whole.
“There’s an infrastructure component. And then there’s a database component. There are multiple database technologies out there. It was really a people process and technology problem, but we started with the technology piece and said, ‘How do we automate a number of manual steps that currently drive the 60-day cycle?’”
Kavitha continued that, as the question implied, automation was the first and most important step to getting the issue resolved. Eventually, the change in outlook empowered Dell Digital to turn a 30-to-60-day cycle into a fully automated, self-service option that allowed developers to provision within two hours.
In both cases, business needs pushed a company to either initiate or accelerate massive change within the business model, and they were able to innovate their problems to a much more manageable shape by changing mindsets and leaping technological and procedural barriers.
Analyzing Visionworks’ powerful “we’re all human” anecdote
The pandemic also exposed specific points of improvements within companies and challenged stakeholders to resolve them on the go.
Such was the case for Visionworks early in the pandemic, Shawnna said. And the ability to revise, refactor and recover on the go is what led the company to its technological success in the pandemic-altered world.
Shawnna’s anecdote starts where many such success stories do during the pandemic—the contact center. Patients who’d otherwise have an in-office visit were forced to take to the phones instead, creating a bustle that ultimately meant an approximate 40% increase in overall call volume (a 100,000-plus call-per-week variance).
Problems arose from the influx in call volume, and the standard measures Visionworks deployed didn’t carry the intended effect. Routing more calls to the call center and increasing personpower at the call centers barely put a dent in the hold times, misdirects and—above all—growing number of dissatisfied customers.
The more forward-thinking solutions the company deployed also failed to take hold at first, introducing new problems even as they solved existing ones. Shawnna brought up the “simple” matter of a virtual agent giving a caller store hours as an example: “[The hours may be 10-5 this week], but it’s probably not going to be that way next week… it might not be the way it is tomorrow.”
Visionworks eventually rebounded and got its call volume and caller handling back down to acceptable levels. And the experiences they picked up along the way, Shawnna said, were invaluable. Each step became another lesson in how to effect innovation within a system on the go.
Overcoming the human challenges of an automated outlook
Moderator Evan opened the floor to questions for the last leg of the webinar. One relevant query came directed at Kavitha: “How did automation catch traction from within your organization, both from users and from leadership?”
“I’d say not easily, right?” Kavitha said dryly. She noted that her leadership was typically receptive to automation measures because “it was very apparent from their perspective that we needed to do something different,” specifically with regard to the lengthy turnaround times database provisioning was causing. But when it “came to the team members, not everyone was sure about why we needed to do that. That’s where having a lot of meetings and being transparent about the problem statement and our goals really helped.”
It’s an excellent example that touches on a number of points we’ve raised in previous blog posts:
- People may resist automation if they feel it endangers their job security. Transparency, role refocusing and good-faith upskilling can all be substantial help in earning mindshare here.
- The higher-level the stakeholder, the more black-and-white the figures should be. In Kavitha’s case, showing that change was needed and could bring a measurable improvement immediately increased her boss’s acceptance of automation.
- Transparency and a focus on approach/outlook win the day. Spelling out the core goal, the high-level process by which the company plans to use automation and the ways departmental goals align can all help with institutional inertia.
Check out the full webinar
Our entire Warp speed to digital innovation webinar with expert insights from Kavitha and Shawnna can be found here.