John Doughty (Director at Orchard) writes for our executive blog. Here he discusses the importance of not forgetting the ‘fundamentals’ when planning for digital transformation, in order to ensure its success.

Housing providers are now desperate to get onto the digital transformation journey, because we all know that it helps to save money, deliver efficiencies and ultimately better services.  I’ll spare the boring coverage of what’s happened in the sector in the last 12 months to drive all of this, but let’s just say it has become a necessity and providers want to get it right.  So what do you need to do to ensure that your digital strategy has every chance of success?

This is going to sound really odd coming from a Director of one of the leading software solutions providers in the sector, but rushing out to buy a software solution is not the first answer. Investment in a software solution needs to come at a later stage in the process and be driven and informed by the planning that needs to precede it. This may sound obvious, but we have already experienced organisations who are skipping the strategy and planning stages.  It is well understood that Digital is a fundamental part of your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategy, but some organisations think that they need a CRM or Digital “system” when what they actually need is a robust CRM strategy in the first instance.

There is lots of guidance available about how to go digital, and many organisations have already worn most of the T-shirts in this area.  In my opinion, the 5 key fundamental parts of digital transformation are to:

Establish your strategy and vision for digital

Defining objectives, outcomes, timescales, costs and return on investment models, all supported by some solid research and analysis into the way your business currently works and the different customer segments you serve. You will probably identify a different strategy for each segment.

Ensure you have the capability to execute your strategy

There are already enough pressures on housing providers, so has the organisation got the bandwidth and the right skills to deliver your Digital programme successfully?  Will your business processes support the digital world? How will you implement the changes required in your business, being particularly mindful of internal cultural drivers?  Have you identified which teams will be involved or impacted, do they exist or do you need to form them and who will lead the transformation project?

Choose and implement the right technology solution

It has to look good, be easy to use, cover the services and transactions you want to offer, be performant (think about transaction volumes when you are 3 years into your plan), offer high levels of resilience and availability, fully integrated with your back office systems and not just bolted on, and offer high levels of security.  Most importantly make sure that the solution has the flexibility to add new services as the sector and your business profile changes. With any good digital solution you should be able to reflect your corporate branding, as well as injecting your own content to enrich the customer experience and get the most out of your online interactions with customers.

Devise a solid marketing plan

Poor marketing has always been cited as a key reason for failure in digital projects, as experienced by some of the early adopters in the housing sector.  It is all about the customer, what’s in it for them and what kind of experience they will get. Your marketing strategy and plan needs to focus on how to best meet the needs of your varying customer segments. The messaging and channels used are likely to differ for each of those. You may have to provide some extra help (to elderly customers for example) to get your customers on board. And the most important thing – don’t forget offline! It is critical to have a well thought out marketing mix that integrates online digital services with offline services and communications to give your customers a seamless experience. Make sure that your staff have the right tools that give them visibility of the information and services customers have requested and received and who (or where) from – your customers will expect them to know.

Measure, review, refine and repeat

Resources (people, time and budgets) are more constrained than ever, so it is important that you are getting the most out of your efforts. Make sure you are measuring from all angles, particularly customer satisfaction. What’s working and what isn’t? What needs ‘tweaking’? Then it’s simply a case of ‘rinse and repeat’ – in the digital world it is a necessity that this is a continuous process.

Exciting times for the housing sector and we’re looking forward to helping organisations transition into digital businesses.

John Doughty, Director, Orchard

Want to know more? Check out our ‘Orchard Digital’ page, which includes blog pieces by our staff and customers on digital transformation and mobilising your workforce.

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