Success in Digital is a Very Human Thing

Successful digital enterprises go beyond technology to address their customers – and their own people – through their heads, hearts and hands.  Sydney-based Cognizant Digital Partner Steve Lennon points to how an iconic Australian brand is transforming from a product-centric to a customer-centric company.

Working with leading clients becoming dynamic digital enterprises, I believe they are majoring in three complementary disciplines that go to the core of our humanity. Sure, they are getting the tech right too, but it’s the human side of the equation that sets digital leaders apart. They are enabling us to buy customised experiences with confidence in a context that makes us feel part of something bigger.

1. Storytelling

Inviting customers and staff to enroll in an inspiring story that transports us to a better future. A story that can be owned, and one that has great depth and resonance – tapping into a human truth and sparking our imagination. Apple invites us to ‘Think Different’ and embeds that thinking in every customer touchpoint. Google shows us anything is possible, engaging in outrageous experimentation that keeps pushing the limits of human potential.

Why are stories so powerful? Because they can take us to places we have never been, and will never forget. Told with a grain of truth, a dash of inspiration and often a shade of humour, we are wired to buy into stories that strike a chord with our values and offer us something better.

2. Trust building

Being obsessed with transparency and protecting customer privacy, living up to the brand’s values, keeping promises made and making good when things go wrong. Digital relationships are built by asking customers to trade their anonymity for greater agency. However, discerning customers will respond to any betrayal or abuse of this trust with one decisive click – to someone else’s app or website. Brands like Amazon, Netflix and Fitbit learn more about us every day, building the kind of trust we once only granted to banks or government agencies.

Trust is founded on a combination of credibility, transparency and intimacy, relative to the risk inherent in the task at hand. Trust builds as brands add value to our lives in ways that reinforce our shared values. In a world full of hype and once-trusted institutions that have failed us, credibility – the fact that someone can be believed – is a conclusion we no longer come to lightly.

3. Personalisation

Crafting products and services that reflect our individual needs and circumstances, building on the rich data that customers have shared, or that brands have gleaned from our digital footprint. Our patience is limited, and our expectations are high. We simply want things to work for us, now, in an easy and intuitive way, without the need for endless questions or multiple steps in a convoluted process. Facebook is making memorable videos for me; Google offers me the best route home, before I ask for directions. Simple, timely offerings that work, with no effort from me.

Of course, personalisation is not universally appreciated. We are each negotiating our own boundaries with the brands we buy from as to what is an intelligent experience versus an unwelcome intrusion. The key here is to allow customers to guide us, through listening. As actress Lily Tomlin implores us, “to listen with the intensity that most people reserve for speaking.” Paying close attention to our habits and preferences, and thoughtfully aligning things one step at a time, steadily builds an individualized experience.

The recipe works from the inside out

Digital leaders recognise they must follow the same recipe for staff engagement. Atlassian is building a global brand, based on their belief that all teams have the potential to do amazing things. Their award-winning workplaces reinforce this story of unleashing human potential in a creative, technology-enabled environment. Their Founders and enduring values are driven by a simple rule: “Don’t #@!% the customer”, reinforced by a commitment to transparency: “Open company, no bullshit.” Atlassian employees build their careers through many roles, across the world if that’s what turns people on, working anywhere, anyhow they choose, leveraging the company’s own collaboration tools.

Putting it all together

This combination is so powerful because it addresses our head, heart and hands – our rational, emotional and physical needs – at once. The story creates a context we can understand, trust allows us to buy-in to the brand and openly engage with what they have to offer, and the personalised offering helps get a job done in a way that works for each of us. The golden thread that weaves these elements together for a brand, aligning business, operating and technology models from end-to-end, is human-centred design. Design is now a core business capability, not an aesthetic afterthought.

Cognizant: a digital transformation leader

At Cognizant, we are enabling clients to achieve their digital ambitions through end-to-end design. Here in Australia, our client Hills is focussed on the distribution of technologies that ‘connect, entertain and secure people’s lives’, positioning itself as a ‘one-stop shop’ for integrated building technology solutions in health, education, banking and government infrastructure. Hills has chosen Cognizant for its expertise in systems, technology and business operations to help create world-class capabilities to better compete in today’s digital economy. The digital experience is critical in their journey to transform Hills from a product-centric to a customer-centric company.

Whilst digital undoubtedly demands mastery of a brave new world of technology – success is determined by a company’s ability to create engaging, trusted, value-for-money experiences, crafted around each customer.

By Steve Lennon

About the Author

Steve Lennon is Digital Partner for Manufacturing, Logistics, Energy & Utilities, leading strategic engagement with Cognizant’s Australian clients in these sectors. Through a holistic approach that addresses strategy, people, process, data and systems, he helps harness the power of technology to drive business innovation. His  unique skillset, acquired through investment banking, technology, management consulting, creative agency and executive leadership roles in Australia, the US and Europe, allows him to see multiple ways to create value for Cognizant’s clients. Steve is also an accomplished author and public speaker.