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How IT innovators turn digital disruption into a business productivity force multiplier

The next BriefingsDirect business innovation thought leadership panel discussion examines how digital business transformation has been accomplished by several prominent enterprises. We'll explore how the convergence of cloud, mobility, and big-data analytics has prompted companies to innovate and produce new levels of award-winning productivity.

To learn how these trend-setters create innovation value, we're joined by some finalists from the Citrix Synergy 2016 Innovation Awards Program: Olaf Romer, Head of Corporate IT and group CIO at Bâloise in Basel, Switzerland; Alan Crawford, CIO of Action for Children in London, and Craig Patterson, CEO of Patterson and Associates in San Antonio, Texas. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Olaf, what are the major trends that drove you to reexamine the workplace conceptually, and how did you arrive at your technology direction for innovating in that regard?

Romer: First of all, we're Swiss traditional insurance. So, our driver was to become a little bit more modern to get the new generation of people in our company. In Switzerland, this is s a little bit of problem. We also have big companies in Zurich, for example. So, it’s very important for us.

Romer

We did this in two directions. One direction is on the IT side, and the other direction is on the real-estate side. We changed from the traditional office boxes to a flex office with open space, like Google has. Nobody has their own desk, not even me. We can go anywhere in our office and sit with whom we think it’s necessary. This is also on the IT side. We go in this direction to go for more mobility, an easier way to work in our company.

Gardner: And because you’re an insurance organization, you have a borderless type of enterprise, where you need to interact with field offices, other payers, suppliers, and customers, of course.

Was that ability to deal with many different types of end-point environments also a concern, and how did you solve that?

Romer: The first step was inside our company, and now, we want to go outside to our brokers and to our customers. The security aspect is very, very important. We're still working on being absolutely secure, because we're handling sensitive customer data. We're still in the process of opening our ecosystem outward to the brokers and customers, but also to other companies we work with. [See related post, Expert panel explores the new reality for cloud security and trusted mobile apps delivery.]

Gardner: Alan, tell us about Action for Children and what you’ve been doing in terms of increasing the mobile style of interactions in business.

Crawford: Action for Children is a UK charity. It helps 300,000 children, families, and young people every year. About 5,000 staff, operate from between 300 and 500 branches. So, 300 are our own and a couple of hundred locations are with our partner agencies.

Crawford

When I started there, the big driver was around security and mobility. A lot of the XP computers were running out of support, and the staff outside the office was working on paper.

There was a great opportunity in giving modern tablets to staff to improve the productivity. Productivity in our case means that if you spend less time doing unnecessary visits or do something in one visit instead of three, you can spend more quality time with the family to improve the outcomes for the children.

Gardner: And, of course, as a non-profit organization, costs are always a concern. We’ve heard an awful lot here at Citrix Synergy about lower cost client and endpoint devices. Has that been a good news to your ears? [Learn more about Citrix Synergy 2016.]

Productivity improvements

Crawford: It has. We started with security and productivity as being the main drivers, but actually, as we’ve rolled out, we’ve seen those productivity improvements arise. Now, we're looking at the cost, about the savings we can make on travel, print, and stationery. Our starting budget this year is £1.3 million ($1.7 million) less than it was the year before we introduced tablets for those things. We're trying to work out exactly how much of that we can attribute to the mobile technology and how much of that is due to other factors.

Gardner: Craig, you're working with a number of public sector organizations. Tell us about what they are facing and what mobility as a style of work means to them.

Patterson: Absolutely. I'm working with a lot of public housing authorities. One is Lucas Metropolitan, and other is Hampton Redevelopment Agency. What they're facing is declining budgets and a need to do more with less.

Patterson

When we look at traditional housing-authority and government-service agencies that are paper-based, paper just continues to multiply. You put one piece in the copier and 20 pieces come out. So, being able to take the documents that contain secure private information of our clients and connect those with the clients out in the field is why we need mobility and efficiency and workflows.

And the cloud is what came to mind with that. With content management, we can capture data out in the field. We can move our staff out in the field. We don’t have to bring all of the clients into the office, which can sometimes pose a hardship, especially for elderly, disabled, and many of those in the greatest need. Mobility and efficiency with the cloud and the security have become paramount in how we perform our business.

Gardner: I suppose another aspect of mobility is the ability to bring data in analytics to the very edge. Have you yet to take advantage of that or do you see that it’s something that you’re going to be working toward?

Patterson: We know that it’s something we're working toward. We know from the analytics that we’ve been able to see so far that mobility is the key. For some time, people have thought that we can’t put online things like applications for affordable housing, because people don’t have access to the Internet.

Our analytics prove that entirely wrong. Age groups of 75 and 80 were accessing it on mobile devices faster than the younger group was. What it means is that they find a relative, a grandchild or whoever they need that allows them to access the Internet. It’s been our mindset that has kept us from making the internet and those mobility avenues into our systems available on a broader scale. So, we're moving in that direction so that self service to that community can be displayed more in a broader context.

Measuring outcomes

Crawford: On the analytics and how that’s helped by the mobile working, we had a very similar result in Action for Children in the same year we brought out tablets. We started to do outcome measures with the children we were with. To reach a child, we do a baseline measure when we first meet the family, and then maybe three months later, whatever the period of the intervention, we do a further measure.

Doing that directly on a tablet with the family present has really enhanced the outcome measures. We now have measures on 50,000 children and we can aggregate that, see what the trends are, see what the patterns are geographically by types of service and types of intervention.

Gardner: So it’s that two-way street; the more data and analytics you can bring down to the edge, the more you can actually capture and reapply, and that creates a virtuous cycle of improvement in productivity.

Crawford: Absolutely. In this case, we're looking at the data and learning lessons about what works better to improve the outcomes for disadvantaged children, which is really what we're about.

Gardner: Olaf, user experience is a big topic these days, and insurance, going right to the very edge of where there might be a settlement event of some sort, back to the broker, back to the enterprise. User experience improvements at every step of that means ultimately a better productive outcome for your end-customers. [See related post, How the Citrix Technology Professionals Program produces user experience benefits from greater ecosystem collaboration.]

How does user experience factor into this mobility and data in an analytics equation?

We're looking at the data and learning lessons about what works better to improve the outcomes for disadvantaged children, which is really what we're about.

Romer: First of all, the insurance business is a little bit different business than the others here. The problem is that our customers normally don’t want to touch us during the year. They get a one-time invoice from us and they have to pay the premium. Then, they hope, and we also hope, that they will not have a claim.

We have only one touch a year, and this is little bit of problem. We try to do everything to be more attractive for the customer to get them to us, so that for them it’s clear if they have a problem or need a new insurance, they go to Bâloise Insurance.

We're working on it to bring a little bit of consumerization. In former years the insurance business was very difficult and it wasn’t transparent. The customers have to answer 67 questions before they can take out insurance with us, and this is the point. To make it as simple as possible and to work with a new technology, we have to be attractive for the customers, like taking out insurance through an iPhone. That’s not so easy.

If you talk with a core insurance guy to calculate the premiums, they won’t already have the 67 answers from the customers.  So, it's not only the technology, but working a little bit in a differently in the insurance business. The technology will also help us there. For me, the buzzword is big data, and now we have to bring out the value of the data we have in our business, so that we can go directly with the right user interface to the right customer area.

Gardner: Another concept that we have heard quite a bit at Synergy is the need to allow IT to say yes more often. Starting with you Craig, what are you seeing in the trends and in the technology that is perhaps most impactful for you to be able to say yes to the requests and the need for agility in these businesses, in these public sector organizations?

Device agnosticism

Patterson: It’s the device agnosticism, where you bring your own device (BYOD). It’s a device that the individuals are already familiar with. I'm going to take it from two angles. It could be the employee that’s delivering a service out to a customer in the field that can bring their own device, or a partner or contractor, so that we can integrate and shrink-wrap certain data. We will still have data security while they're deploying or doing something out in the field for us. It could be inspections, customer service, medical, etc.

But then, on the client end, they have their own device. By our being able to deliver products through portals that don’t care what device they have, it’s based on mobile protocols and security. Those are the types of trends that are going to allow us to collect the big analytics, know what we think we know, and find out whether we really know it or not and find it, get the facts for it.

The other piece of it though is to make it easy to access the services that we provide to the community, because now it’s a digital community; it’s not just the hardcore community. To see people in a waiting line now for applications hurts my feelings. We want to see them online, accessing it 24×7, when it makes sense for them. Those are the types of services that I see becoming the greater trends in our industry.

Those are the types of trends that are going to allow us to collect the big analytics, know what we think we know, and find out whether we really know it or not and find it, get the facts for it.

Gardner: Alan, what allows you to say “yes” more often?

Crawford: When I started with the XP laptops, we were saying no. So doing lot of comparisons in program within our center now, they're using the tablets and the technology. You have closed Facebook groups with those families. There's now peer support outside hours, when children are going to bed, which is often when they have issues in a family.

They use Eventbrite, the booking app. There are some standard off-the-shelf apps, but the real enterprise in our service in a rural community currently tells everybody in that community what services they're running through posters and flyers that were printed off. That moved to developing our own app. The prototypes are already out there, and the full app will be out there in a few weeks time. We're saying yes to all of those things. We want to support them. It is not just yes, but yes and how can we help you do that.

Gardner: Olaf, of course, productivity is only as good as the metrics that we need to convince the higher-ups in the board room that we need more investment or that we're doing good work with our technology. Do you have any measurements, metrics, even anecdotes about how you measure productivity and what you've done to modernize your workspaces?

Romer: Yes, for us it’s the feedback from the people. It’s very difficult to measure it on a clear technology level, but feedback from the people is very good and very important for us. You can see  with the BYOD we introduced one and a half years ago, a stronger cultural change in collaboration. We work together much more efficiently in the company and in the different departments.

In former times, we had closed file shares, and I couldn't see the files of the department next to me. Now, we're working completely in a modern collaboration way. Still, on traditional insurances, let’s say with the government, it’s very hard for them to work in the new style..

In the beginning, there were very strong concerns about that, and now we're in a cultural shift on this. We get a lot of good feedback that in project teams, or in the case of some problems or issues, we can work much better and faster together.

Metrics of success

Gardner: Craig, of course it’s great to say yes to your constituents, but it’s also good to say that we're doing more with less to your higher-ups and those that control the budget. Any metrics of success that you can recall in some of the public-sector organizations you're working with?

Patterson: Absolutely. I'll talk about files in workflow. When a document comes into the organization before, we mapped how much time and money it took to get it in a file folder, having been viewed by everyone that it needs to get viewed by. To give quick context, before, a document took a file folder, a label maker, copy machine, and every time a person needed to put a document in that folder, someone had to get it there. Now, the term "file clerk" is actually becoming obsolete.

When a document come in, it gets scanned, it’s instantaneously put in the correct order in the right electronic folder, and an electronic notification is sent to the person who needs to know. That happens in seconds. When you look at each month, it amounts to savings; before, we were managing files, rather than assisting people.

We can now see how many file folders you looked at, how many documents you actually touched, read, and reviewed in comparison with somebody else.

The metrics are in the neighborhood of just about 75 percent paper reduction, because people aren’t making copies. This means they're not going to the copy machine and along the way, the water-cooler and conversation pits. That also abates some of the efficiencies. We can now see how many file folders you looked at, how many documents you actually touched, read, and reviewed in comparison with somebody else.

We had as many as five documents, in comparison with 1,700 in a month. That starts to tell you some things about where your workload is shifting. Not everyone likes that. They might consider it a little bit "big brother," but we need those analytics to know how best to change our workflows to serve our customer, and that’s the community.

Gardner: I don’t know if this is a metric that’s easy to measure, but less bureaucracy would be something that I think just about everyone would be in favor of. Can you point to something that says we're able to reduce bureaucracy through technology?

Patterson: When you look at bureaucracy and unnecessary paper flows, there are certain yes-and-no questions that are part of bureaucracy. Somebody has it go their desk and their job is to stamp yes or no on it. What decision do you have to make? Well they really don’t; they just have to stamp yes. To me, that’s classic bureaucracy.

Well, if the document hits that person’s desk and it meets a certain criteria or threshold, the computer automatically and instantaneously approves it and it has a documented audit trail. That saves some of our clients in the housing-authority industry, when the auditors come and review things. But if you had to make a decision, it forced you to know how long it took you to make it. So, we can look at why is it taking so long or there are questions that you don’t need to be answering.

Gardner: So let the systems do what they do best and let the people do the exception management and the value-added activities. Alan, you had some thoughts about metrics of success of bureaucracy or both?

Proxy measure

Crawford: Yes, it’s the metrics. The Citrix CEO [Kirill Tatarinov] talked at Citrix Synergy about productivity actually going down in the last few years. We’ve put all these tablets out there and we have individual case studies where we know a particular family-support worker has driven 1,700 miles in the year with the tablet, and it was 3,400 miles in the year without. That’s a proxy measure of how much time they're spending on the road, and we have all the associated cost of fuel and wasted time and effort.

We've just installed an app -- actually I have rolled it out in the last month or so -- that measures how many tablets have been switched on in the month, how much they're been used in the day, and what they've been used for. We can break that down by the geographical areas and give that information back to the line managers, because they're the people to whom it will actually make sense.

I'm right at a stage where it’s great information. It’s really powerful, but it’s actually to understand how many hours a day they should be using that tablet. We're not quite sure, and it probably varies from one type of service to another.

We look at those trends over a period of months. We can tell managers that, yes, total staff used them 90 percent, but it’s 85 percent in yours. All managers, I find, are fairly competitive.

There are inhibitors around mobile network coverage and even broadband coverage in some rural areas. We just follow up on all of those user experience information we get back and try and proactively improve them.

Gardner: Well, that may be a hallmark of business agility, when you can try things out, A/B testing. We’ll try this, we’ll try that, we don’t pay a penalty for doing that. We can simply learn from it and immediately apply our lesson back to the process.

Crawford: It’s all about how we support those areas where we identify that they're not making the most of the technology they’ve been given. And it might be human factors. The staff or even the managers are very fearful. Or it might be technical factors. There are inhibitors around mobile network coverage and even broadband coverage in some rural areas. We just follow up on all of those user experience information we get back and try and proactively improve them.

Gardner: Olaf, when we ask enterprises where they are in their digital transformation, many are saying they're just at the beginning. For you, who are obviously well into a digital transformation process, what lessons learned could you share; any words of advice for others as they embark on this journey?

Romer: The first digital transformation in the insurance business was in the middle of 1990s, when we started to go paperless and work with a digital system. Today, more than 90 percent of our new insurance contracts are completely paperless. In Germany, for example, you can give a digital signature. It’s not allowed for the moment in Switzerland, but from a technical perspective, we can do this.

My advice would be that digitalization gives you a good situation to think about to make it simple. We built up great complexity over the years, and now we're able to bring this down and make it as simple as possible. We created the slogan, “Simply Safe,” for us to rethink everything that we're doing to make it simple and safe. Again, for insurance, it's very important that the digitalization brings us not more complexity, but reduces it.

Gardner: Craig, digital transformation, lessons learned, what advice can you offer others as they embark?

Document and workflow

Patterson: In digital transformation, I’ll just use document and workflow. Start with the higher-end items; there's low-hanging fruit there. I don’t know if we'll ever be totally paperless, which would really allow us to go mobile, but at the same time, know what not to scan. Know what to archive and just get rid off. And don't hang on to old technologies for too long. That’s something else that’s starting to happen. The technological revolution in lifecycle of technology is shorter and we need to plan our strategies along those lines.

Gardner: Alan, words of advice on those also interested in digital transformation?

Crawford: For us, it started about connecting with our cause. We’ve got social care staff and since we’re going to do digital transformation, it's not going to really enthuse them. However, if you explain that this is about actually improving the lives of children with technology, then they start to get interested. So, there is a bit about using your cause and relating the change to your cause.

You’ve got to follow through on all this change to get the real benefits out of it. You’ve got to be a bit tenacious with it to really see the benefits in the end.

A lot of our people factors are on how to engage and train. It's no longer IT saying, "Here’s the solution, and we expect you to do ABC." I was working with those social-care workers, and here are the options, what will work for you and how should we approach that, but then it’s never letting up.

Actually, you’ve got to follow through on all this change to get the real benefits out of it. You’ve got to be a bit tenacious with it to really see the benefits in the end.

Gardner: Tie your digital transformation and the organization’s mission that there is no daylight between them.

Crawford: We’ve got the project digitally enabling Action for Children and that was to try and link the two together inextricably.

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At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.

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