The pandemic may have brought widespread digital change, but its digital transformation has been temporary, an academic from the University of Queensland Business School (UQBS) argues as he recounts the challenges the school has faced in adapting to the border closures that have trapped 75% of its students abroad.
National border closures were initially intended to be short-lived – but as the academic year began and weeks dragged on into months, years, UQBS was forced to completely reinvent its IT architecture.
“Everyone went home at the start of 2020 and said they would be back for the first week of college,” said Dr. Micheal Axelsen, senior lecturer for business information systems at the within UQBS, during the recent ISACA Oceania 2022 conference.
“Because we are such good analysts and can understand how things can go really wrong, we planned for the worst case scenario – and it happened, with 75% of our students going abroad.”
“We had to rearrange everything.
UQBS went into reactive mode, moving quickly to figure out how it could continue to keep 2,000 students and 170 staff connected well enough to continue delivering the school‘s 200 different courses.
The complexity of group assignments meant they were “out the window”, he said, while moving proctored exams online “was a real struggle”.
Unlike many companies, UQBS could not rely on VPNs to help its students and staff securely access resources and collaborate, given that they are illegal in China – hence the majority of The school’s international students are native.
The inevitable combination of Zoom conferencing, organizational compromises and learning flexibility has helped the school pull its students through the degrees, but “it’s been a real struggle to keep them engaged,” Axelsen said, noting that ” it just changed the way they work and the way they think about learning and engaging.
“We’ve had to really change what we do to go online and keep them engaged, and now we have a group of students who have been overseas and some have never been to Australia – which is really unfortunate when they graduate.”
And while the pandemic has forced many companies to accelerate digital transformation efforts that were already in place, Axelsen made a distinction between digital change – rushing to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances by deepening cybersecurity and changing governance structures – and digital transformation, which is more of a journey to a new operating state.
The changes we made were about making things work, and we just had to aspire and see – as opposed to transformation where it’s much more planned.
“We didn’t have the luxury of planning,” he continued. “We were notoriously bad at distance learning, and suddenly had to do everything remotely.”
Still, while “digital change has happened,” Axelsen said, “I don’t think digital transformation has taken hold.”
“The transformation must be sticky: it must stay and be sustainable. But now we have to unravel some of that to come back to a new balance for us in the future.
Maintain customer service in difficult times
The challenges UQBS faced were by no means unique – but as an increasingly difficult economic environment forces organizations to rethink their transformations, business leaders are prioritizing their spending to maintain funding for customer experience initiatives.
It’s a nuanced challenge that mirrors the expectations of CFOs defying pressure to cut costs, with a recent Gartner survey finding that 72% of CFOs plan to maintain service and customer support (CSS) and 21% say they will actually increase their CSS spending, despite the economic slump elsewhere.
“In response to inflation, supply chain disruptions and a tight labor market, CFOs will make compromises in spending that affect CSS leaders,” said Sarah Dibble, practice director CSS from Gartner, flagging continued financial support for digital initiatives as a “good point”. for client organizations that prioritize business areas such as real estate, facilities management, and finance.
It’s clear that customer service innovation is seen as critical to sustaining financial performance during today’s challenging times, as are digital innovations, like customer self-service, which can lower cost per contact and improve profit margins. crucial.
While analysts note that many customer experience (CX) initiatives only aim to influence customer buying decisions – but do little to map out customer “personalities” by capturing data on their post-purchase behavior and loyalty – successful data-driven initiatives require the collection and processing of ever-increasing volumes of data.
Once collected, Gartner noted, this data should be used to power four key pillars of technology innovation that enable businesses to innovate, including connection, process orchestration, insights and knowledge, and management. Resource.
“Efforts to increase the use of digital channels and improve automation rates using analytics are driving customer service technology spending, despite economic headwinds,” said analyst Drew Kraus. at Gartner.
This translated into an increasing focus on data-driven retail innovations, such as augmented reality for customer support; video contact centers; AI-based chatbots; customer data platforms that unify customer data from multiple channels; and workforce engagement management (WEM) solutions that support the customer service workforce experience.
“Automating business interactions has a huge business impact that cannot be underestimated,” Kraus added. “The emergence of sophisticated AI voice capabilities has made large-scale call center automation viable, with huge savings potential and positive CX.”
However, for staff-intensive organizations trying to return to something resembling their pre-pandemic normality, such automation cannot completely replace existing processes.
Ultimately, Axelsen said, the balance between new and old technologies would shift over time and settle somewhere in between.
“You don’t become a caterpillar that becomes a butterfly that becomes a caterpillar again,” he said. “Transformation means you’re not going to go back, and I feel like in business there’s a bunch of people who want to go back to how things were.”
“We will recover a bit, but people don’t learn like that anymore. The genie is out of the bottle, and we’re going to have to embrace and adapt.