Avoiding Common Pitfalls on the Road to Digital Transformation


By Alan Trefler  |  June 5, 2018
Alan Trefler is Founder and CEO of Pegasystems, and a visionary and expert in the field of customer relations for over 30 years


It’s estimated that nearly 6.5 million smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home were sold in France, Germany, and the U.K. in 2017, and that more than 47 million adults in the U.S. now have access to one. Consumers are spending time – and money – engaging with organizations through smart devices. So, it’s not surprising that, in an effort to improve consumer experiences, organizations are scrambling to capitalize on new mobile and online channels by enhancing their capabilities with rapidly evolving digital technologies like natural language processing, geolocation, artificial intelligence, and decisioning, among others.

But in this rush to quickly stand up a new voice bot, self-service channel, or mobile app, organizations may unknowingly increase their long-term operating expenses and block future agility.

I have the privilege of talking with many of the world's largest and most successful companies about critical digital transformation projects, and I hear some common themes that even the most advanced organizations find challenging -- good ideas aren’t fully realized, “quick win” projects become drawn out – and even abandoned – or technology doesn’t generate the intended results.

Why aren’t companies achieving their digital transformation goals? We’ve found that organizations struggle with some common issues:

1. Custom coding for each channel. Chatbots, voice bots, intelligent assistants, text messaging, web self-service, email… there are so many channels, and the options keep expanding. Organizations that build unique logic into each specific channel end up isolating intelligence and creating disconnected processes. For example, a customer who starts online but wants to finish by talking to a call center representative, will have a bad experience if they need to repeat information or re-identify themselves. When logic is hard-coded into each channel, experiences are inconsistent and incoherent. Worse, the customer gets frustrated because they must constantly restart their journey. When you focus only on creating apps for channels, processes and data become siloed, making it impossible to provide a seamless, consistent customer experience that is truly omni-channel.

2. Focusing on automating tasks instead of outcomes. A customer journey is delivered when you can stitch moments together into an end-to-end experience. When organizations focus only on automating individual tasks, they can lose sight of the larger journey and the desired outcome, and unintentionally impose their own organizational silos on their customers. Discrete robotic implementations, for example, don’t inherently map customer journeys or create end-to-end experiences. All they do is speed the execution of a specific task, like auto-completing a form. Many organizations are discovering that task-centric robotics implementations create fragmentation. Automation technologies like robotics can play an important role in digital transformation—especially when it comes to streamlining employee experiences and pulling data from legacy systems—but they need to operate as part of a larger, connected ecosystem that captures customer data and orchestrates end-to-end processes based on customer intent. 

3. Creating an unintentional digital gap between the front and back office. By isolating their focus onto building digital channel experiences or driving operational cost reductions with task-based robotics, organizations will fail to completely realize the digital transformation advantages they were seeking in the first place. Instead, they build more silos – widening the data gap between dozens of front-end channel apps and back-end processes and data. This fractured architecture becomes wildly expensive – and sometimes impossible – to modify and scale, creating a cycle of “rip and replace” whenever the next new technology is implemented. Worse, they never deliver the desired customer experience and are left unable to pay off the promise of digital engagement.

Organizations need to focus on integrating data from all channels and apps, and then apply AI and machine learning analyses to that data to recommend actions and automate processes based on each customer’s journey. By bringing together data, analytics, and automation, organizations can truly transform operations and create end-to-end journeys that deliver outcomes.

In my own company, we have completely rethought and redesigned the business four times, and we’re always considering how we will need to change our business for the future. What I’ve learned over the years is that real organizational transformation requires a unified vision, a unified architecture, true digital automation, and exceptional customer engagement.


This article originally appeared in Forbes France.