IT leaders face the challenge of managing a growing set of often disparate technologies and successfully delivering them to a wide audience of end users who demand simple experiences. However, today’s technology landscape is complex and fragmented.
Simplifying IT requires us to rethink our processes and what we mean by “experience.”
Unified experiences show us what’s possible when technologies, applications, and networks all work as one. Simplifying the end-to-end journey, which includes back-end systems and end-user experiences, comes with challenges, risks, and opportunities.
With insights from a panel of cross-sector IT leaders, we can examine what we’re simplifying and how that leads to superior experiences.
Simplify the back end
Whether driven by internal or external forces, innovation typically results in more systems and greater complexity. A closer look often reveals a patchwork of new and legacy systems that are burning through budgets, confusing customers, and squeezing profits.
A big part of this complexity stems from backward compatibility with legacy systems. It’s not so much a matter of redundant old systems taking up valuable resources, but rather maximizing value and operations efficiency across both old and new systems. This challenge lies at the heart of simplifying IT.
Graeme Howard, former CTO and CIO of Covea Insurance, points to legacy systems as a challenge for his organization’s digital transformation. “We built out a huge number of new platforms and new functionality, but we also had many legacy platforms that were far too expensive to change.”
In the process of driving customer experience, hyper-personalization, and data enrichment, legacy systems can pose a significant obstacle. Graeme encourages leaders to persevere and push through such challenges.
Focus on first impressions, Graeme argues. If it’s difficult for a customer or internal user to log onto a system or buy a product, that could mean losing customers and business.
Simplify for the customer
Simplifying IT for better experiences isn’t just about hiding the complexities of our processes from the customer. It’s also about including customers in the design of those experiences. Whether starting from scratch or taking on a complex project of integrating new and legacy systems, IT can no longer dictate to the user.
Instead of relying on customers to create their own demand for our products and services, Archana Jain, CTO at Zurich Insurance Group, understands simplifying IT as the opportunity to reach insurance customers with products and services, when and how they need them. Alongside traditional methods of insurance, she poses a simple question to get her industry thinking: “Can we offer [customers] insurance when they need it, as opposed to having something static forever and forever?”
For example, if a customer wants to go on holiday, instead of a lengthy process of booking travel insurance for flights, hotels, and car rentals, Jain suggests simplifying that experience through a partner so the customer can buy insurance with one click. That thinking conceptualizes travel insurance within the customer’s travel-planning journey, not as a stand-alone task. It’s a win for everyone.
Simplify to better manage risk
As IT leaders, we can be nimble in how we lead digital transformation. For superior experiences, how we responsibly simplify IT must extend to how we manage risk. Change for the sake of change, or moving too fast for stakeholders to keep up, can expose organizations to unnecessary risk.
Technologists leading successful IT simplification strategies can balance business value, business case, and legacy systems. Joanna Pamphilis, UniCredit’s Senior Vice President and CDIO, is one such leader. She believes organizations should be practical about the need to eliminate legacy systems, and deliver value while leading responsible change.
Jain at Zurich Insurance Group says operational alerts are a great example of how technology that is designed to improve a process can, ultimately, complicate it. How often do we hear stories of overburdened IT operations teams with piles of server, network, device, and security alerts (among others) with no way of sorting the high priorities from the quick fixes from the FYIs? But technology is also the answer to simplifying that same operation without completely unravelling the infrastructure.
According to Jain, Zurich Insurance Group’s IT operations team were handling thousands of alerts designed to pick up events like server issues. Ironically, the technology deployed to manage risk created the risk of not having the human resources to investigate every alert—and the risk of an unreliable user experience. To solve this challenge, Zurich now uses artificial intelligence (AI) to filter out the unnecessary alerts so their IT operations team can better focus on actionable items.
Consolidating customer, employee, and other types of data is a critical step in becoming proactive about risk and the customer experience, according to Ronald Martey, CISO at GCB Bank. He wants leaders to investigate different elements and systems, and ask, “What kind of data can I move onto the cloud that will not impact privacy and security regulations?”
Simplify for the future
From pioneering digitalization to pivoting to hybrid work, every era of digital transformation has been about optimizing organizations’ need to serve customers and grow businesses efficiently, reliably, and safely.
The process of simplifying IT requires us to assess our entire business, from customer interactions to back-end systems, and the role of data. It’s about rethinking our traditional methods and modernizing them, without the rush to rip out and replace everything.
The era of simplifying IT will test you, just like every era before it did, but the ultimate reward of a more simplified IT infrastructure is unified experiences that connect your customers and teams through technologies, applications, and networks that all work as one.
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