Accelerating Growth Through Digital People

May 20, 2019 • FeaturesDataNick Frankdigital disruptionDigitalizationServitizationSi2PartnersService People Matter

In a world of digitalisation, servitization and a data driven economy, the fulcrum at the heart of your service delivery needs to be digital people writes Nick Frank...

Over the last three years there has been a huge emphasis on the need to invest in technology to stay ahead and be the disruptor.

As many leaders struggle to move towards the enticing digital visions being painted, we have seen a more nuanced approach emerge. We perceive that leaders are switching their emphasis back to creating a solution focused culture where people have the imagination and customer focus to create and deliver new value offered by digital technologies.

In the coming years we believe we will see companies focusing on three areas in the growth journey: 

1. Digital Servitization: the notion of digitising the back-office processes and enabling data capture in the product infrastructure to enable new value through services
2. Data Analytics capabilities: Turning the data into insights through being able to turn Business Problems and opportunities into Data Solutions that leverage their company unique knowledge.
3. Trusted Advisor Mindset: Having the trust of customers and the communication skills to turn intangible data into valuable actions that drive growth.

Digital Servitization
Now more than at any other time, businesses are focused on how to use shifts in technology to reduce costs and find new value propositions. But understanding how it all fits has proven more elusive to business leaders. Those that are making most progress have broken the Digital Transformation process into more meaningful chunks. They typically have two areas of focus:

1. Installed-Base Digitalisation:
Designing the products and supporting operational infrastructures that generate data, so that it can be collected, analysed and then monetized through service-based business models. Generally, investments have been made in: 

  • Technology that enhances the product and company infrastructure to enable Digital Support, such as remote data collection, diagnostics or predictive maintenance.

  • Capabilities and technologies in the organisation that enables Data Analytics, such machine learning, visual analytics and business intelligence technologies. 


2. Back-Office Digitalisation: 
The tools we use to manage our business back office which sustain and improve margins /profits. Examples might be Service Management solutions, CRM and ERP. Generally, there are two aspects to consider in terms of system and process development:

  • Technology that enhances the product and company infrastructure to enable Digital Support, such as remote data collection, diagnostics or predictive maintenance.

  • Capabilities and technologies in the organisation that enables Data Analytics, such machine learning, visual analytics and business intelligence technologies. 

Only when companies have reached a level of maturity in both Back-Office Digitalisation and Installed-Base Digitalisation, are they ready to, explore new business models such outcome based or subscription based services. 

Data Analytics Capability - Business problem before Data Solution
The use of sophisticated Data Analytics technologies to gain insights into processes and product performance is slowly becoming part of management thinking. But again, progress is slow as many leaders are intimidated by the jargon and lack of understanding of the business case. We have found successful companies have followed these three steps: 

1. Articulate the business problem to solve and why (Value)
Before investing in digital technologies, the most successful companies have a clear idea of the business problem to solve and the value it can potentially bring. Often there is some experimentation/prototyping that may occur to build knowledge of the business problem and confirm value. They look wider than their own business processes or customers processes, the hand-offs between the different stakeholders in their value chain. Often, they will use ecosystem analysis, the value iceberg principal or points-of-selling approaches to identify value opportunities.

2. Define the Data Problem
The next challenge is how to turn the business problem into a business data hypothesis. This would describe an expected or speculated relationship that we hope to determine through the analysis of data. For example, the hypothesis for a predictive maintenance solution might be: ‘We can identify the failure patterns for hydraulic system as well as general machine performance using pressure, oil contamination, temperature and humidity data from the PLC, such that we can predict failures and recommend corrective actions.

Why is this important? Data Scientists cannot tell you patterns that interest you without knowing the area of interest! Hence converting the business problem into a hypothesis is a key part of the process and applying the scientific method which is question led and iterative. But the hypothesis does not have to be correct.

It is very likely that it will change as more knowledge is gained about the data being analysed or definition of the business problem evolves. One must expect a certain amount of iteration from business problem to data problem as our knowledge expands, and this in turn helps deliver optimal business value. It is critical to be very clear about the business problem and the data required to understand it.

3. Pilot before Scale Up
Now that the data problem is defined, managers can understand where they may have organisational and infrastructure gaps for their project, and from this be able to identify the first steps of their roadmap to a data solution. It is important that these early steps include a pilot of the solution. The goal is to quickly understand if our solution is likely to be successful, and the actions to be taken to scale up across the organization.

"Over the last three years there has been a huge emphasis on the need to invest in technology to stay ahead..."

Often in business we take it for granted that we have all the capabilities in house. However, in today’s world, where the use of technology is rapidly evolving, it is very easy to become ‘out of date’ from both a business mindset as well as technology capability.
To help leaders understand the strengths and weaknesses, Si2 have worked with The Data Analysis Bureau to develop a short 10 minute maturity self-assessment which will you help you identify your strengths and weaknesses as you move from Business Problem to Data Solution.

There are just 10 questions and you will get personalised feedback as to your situation and what you can do. Use this link to access the assessment.

Trusted Advisor Mindset
The biggest enabler of the ‘digital’ ideas we have discussed is not so much the technology but the mindset of your people. The Trusted Advisor mindset is more than just being able to talk to the customer, solve problems and sell ideas. It is a whole attitude where we focus on solutions, continuously moving customers towards their goals whether they be internal or external.

This is the type of mindset that has leapt onto the potential offered by digitisation, long before it entered the language of today’s business. Trusted Advisors have clarity on their role and an understanding of how to talk to customers so that they achieve a WIN, WIN, WIN:

• A Win for the customer so that every conversation they have moves them closer to their goal
• A Win for the company to develop customer loyalty and profitability
• A Win for themselves so they feel great about their job

What makes a Trusted Advisor different? At the very minimum they are good customer problem solvers. What starts to differentiate them from others is their ability to have meaningful conversations with customers that always seem to move towards solutions. They are able to provide options together with the benefits for various decision the customer might make.

They normally have a high level of personal maturity in that they do not try to tell customers what to THINK. Instead they influence them by what they SAY and DO, and because they consistently deliver, customers trust their advice. As the notion of a Trusted Advisor is widely used across sales & service, the job context is extremely important.

For example, in field service and technical support the Trusted Advisor role is more about providing options than closing deals. Whereas in sales it is more about how we build rapport and credibility within a consultative selling process.

Clearly understanding the context in which the Trusted Advisor mindset is being developed is vitally important to successful adoption. Service leaders who want to improve how their teams communicate with customers, might consider having the following conversations with their own people:

• Clarify what you mean by a Trusted Advisor and the role they play in your organisation. In particular the customer needs and what makes them successful, as well as your companies business goals. This is where distinguishing the difference between selling and advising will be absolutely critical to your success;

• Develop a Mindset where every conversation we have with customers moves them a step closer to their goal. It may not be the complete solution, but it is a step in the right direction no matter how bad and uncomfortable the situation is. This very basic philosophy is key to training your people to deal with conflict, as well encourage them to have dynamic and collaborative relationships through solution orientated language;

• Provide Tools and methods that allow us to actively listen, to talk more effectively, to manage conflict and resolve difficult customer situations. These tools are critical to helping us to prepare ourselves to be a Trusted Advisor in what can be challenging and stressful situations;

• Practice in real-life scenarios with your team to see how they react under stress. We are constantly amazed at how confident many service people are about talking to customers in a training environment, yet it all falls apart in a customer situation.

• Refresh: Developing how your team interacts with customers is not a one-off event and needs to be constantly mentored and coached.

Digital People Increasingly we anticipate that Service organisations will take a more balanced approach to Digital. Yes, they will invest in the technology, but they will do so with a clearer idea of the value they are trying to capture. They will understand that the key to new business models will be to have automated their back-office processes as well as how to capture and action data from the product infrastructure. They will increasingly focus on developing a solution orientated innovative culture which is the key to leveraging the opportunities offered by new technologies and paradigms of thinking.

Nick Frank is Managing Partner at Si2 PartnersIf you would like to talk more about any of the topics discussed in this article you can contact him at