What does full digitalization really mean?
Digitalization is the path an increasing number of traditional businesses are taking these days. But nobody really defines what it means. Usually it means that some, even most of the processes are moved from the physical world to the digital one. Some parts of customer interaction, for instance, are moved online.
However, usually digitalization changes an existing human-powered customer service to an online self-service. This means the service provider automates the work, and allows 24/7 service & lower costs to the customer, but at the same time the customer still needs to do the manual work. It might even mean that a process, which earlier needed just a phone call to the customer service, now requires online banking credentials for identification, access to the email, a lot of online forms to be filled, and more time the call would ever had taken.
In large corporate B2B, corporate to corporate business, we’re seeing a shift. A new wave of digitalization. I’ll call it “full digitalization” and I’ll tell you why.
Full digitalization means both sides of business interaction are moved to the digital world. The need for human interaction is removed both for the service provider and the customer.
Essentially, this means that any access to services or products previously available via traditional customer service, later online stores, would now be available to machines, computers on the client side.
Sounds odd, right? It’s not.
APIs to serve both customer and the service provider
We’re currently creating several digital service platforms for our corporate clients, integrated to their core background systems. The service platforms will offer an open, controlled, and easy-to-integrate APIs, usually REST, for end-users and large clients to integrate to.
You might still wonder who’ll have an automatic web-shop-buyer as a software running somewhere. Well, most corporations do. They’re called ERPs, and they surely can place orders on products and services that are needed frequently.
What we’re creating are service platforms, which connect the ERPs of the service providers to the ERPs of their clients.
See, corporations are still ordering their products and services via email by attaching a huge Excel sheet listing all the products and services they need. Very often, this Excel sheet might be exported from their ERP. And there’s no way these corporations would rather use a web-based self-service UI designed to serve well small customers.
The service providers wouldn’t like to handle these Excel documents by hand as it’s a lot of work and prone to errors. And they surely wouldn’t resist in getting the competitive advantage to be the only service provider from whom you can order services by clicking a button in your own ERP.
It’s a brave new world of interconnected service providers and customers, and they are all corporations running huge and customizable ERPs. But it won’t stop there.
A new level of freedom with IoT
Internet of Things is coming. And what it needs to do is to make the private customers’ lives easier. It’s easily done by automating some of the burdensome tasks of learning and using all these self-service platforms.
If you cannot imagine a fridge you can program to keep a certain number of groceries stocked automatically, I’m not blaming you. But please note the trashcans and septic tanks that’ll call home to be emptied that are currently on the market.
What I personally hope is that all these services and devices will maintain a degree of openness, so that customers are still able to freely choose the service provider in the future.
But the service providers still have to go through the path to full digitalization.
Kalle Varisvirta, Technology Director