A lot of businesses will just throw the tech at the staff, but others will utilise the whole process and aim to make it work by ensuring that the processes are in place to make that tech work and get the true return on investment on the tech. However, some do not have the staff to do that either so there is no point in throwing tech at the problem because if the process and the people are not right then it is not going to work.
Ben: Often tech can be blamed but sometimes it is the analysis of people and process.
Patrick: I think this is a really common issue in businesses. Many organisations particularly from the top level know a huge amount from the executive level about what the tech should do or what the potential in the tech is, but they do not know how well we as an organisation are utilising our tech. Many times, we will say ‘hey we have this email platform, and we need a new email platform as this one doesn’t do what we need.’ However, when you look under the hood, less than 20% of the functionality of that platform is currently being utilised even though 100% of it is being paid for. That is the equivalent of having a store open 20% of it’s trading hours, no one would ever do that but that is a really common thing.
Also, there is a huge amount of focus on the individual people in an organisation from recruitment to management to taking care of them to making sure they’re engaged and developed and promoted, but there’s far less effort being done by most organisations on the process through which those people work together and in ecommerce you have a very multi-faceted world where from product to customer facing technology to back-end technology to content to design to paid marketing, unpaid marketing, etc. it all has to work together in a bit of a synergistic dance.
Process might sound like a boring term, but it is really how well are our people are going to work together to serve our customers and I do not think there is enough executive level attention paid to that. It is not very hard, it does not take very long and once you nail good processes then you can train people in the processes. The amount of effort spent between the lines from senior to middle to front line workers when processes are not very strong is another huge underutilisation of people’s efforts let alone the inefficiencies. Then people complain and talk about how the system does not work and pragmatically it is a massive issue. I do not think anyone has worked out a model yet for how to quantify that but it would be a smart person and rich person that could figure it out because that is a huge sink and one that is probably one of the reasons for incumbents becoming slower and more bureaucratic because there is a lack of processes so therefore, things become a bigger issue.
Peter: And if they do not do change management properly and process management then it will always be the tech’s fault no matter what.
Patrick: Absolutely! A poor builder blames his tools, right? Yes, you can get better tools, but you need to know how to utilise those tools. If I buy a Ferrari engine and drop it into my car but I put it into the boot, then it is not helping me very much is it? It is that simple but unfortunately it is the unsexy thing to talk about but this is a People & Culture issue as much as it is a customer issue as much as it is a tech issue because people become frustrated by poor tools and customers then get poorer experiences. Digital is so wide in organisations and now that these become issues that impact every silo or every function of the business, they deserve executive level attention.
Ben: Just to pick a couple of examples in that, we talk in the industry a lot about customer experience and about unified commerce, when you both go into these organisations nowadays do you see that properly aligned from sales channels all the way through fulfilment, customer service, returns, refunds? That whole concept that you have mentioned there Patrick is that it is all about the dance within the organisation. Are there processes that align to those facets of unified commerce and customer experience that an organisation is doubling down on?
Patrick: For me it is a mixed bag but if you can win at that every function of your business operates better.
Peter: Absolutely! I have had it where all they want to do is put in click and collect and the first question I ask is ‘do you actually know what stock is in your stores?’ If you do not know that how are you going to provide a great customer experience when that customer goes in to pick up his product and it is not there? I have a business that we are working with and we showed them the functionality within their current system that it can absolutely do click and collect/store-to-door and the business turned around and said ‘fine now we know that the technology can do it, we have to work out our processes. We are going to have workshops on how returns are going to work, how pickup and store to door is going to work before we even turn this technology on.’ They are absolutely doing it absolutely the right way.
Ben: I always find there are a few what-if scenarios in there as well if we do not have product then where are we going to get product? When is that going to come? What is the price back to the customer? Who is going to communicate with the customer? Those things are changing and there is a lot that goes into that let alone reverse logistics which is a lot harder that one way logistics.
So given that we are talking about internal tech stacks, what importance do you think organisations of different shapes and sizes who play on that technology audit or that internal audit of their own tech and then wrapping that around with people and process?
Peter: It depends on the size of the business. Quite often you can do an audit of the tech stack and they say ‘well we are stuck with the erp so work around it’ and then you have to go and try and find some middleware to be able to get some data from one system to the other and that adds a failure point to it. On the other hand, there are those who have a great tech stack but do not have the skills or processes in place to be able to use it properly, so you walk in and think ‘wow you’ve got everything in place here’ but then nobody knows how to use the system. There is definitely a mixed bag.
Ben: Patrick, you talk about attention to detail in terms of bringing people in and the amount of investment that goes into hiring processes, is the same amount of investment going into training people within the business on technology that arises or are we usually too busy doing our jobs?
Patrick: It is often one of those things and training should be a part of our jobs. Take the Ferrari example. No one knows how to drive that car and it looks pretty in the garage, but I think that on average it is not scoped properly into the timelines or into the cost. It is thought about as the part that we can do without if the project is getting expensive.