Amazon’s back office secret for digital transformation


By Simon Shah, Chief Marketing Officer, Redwood Software

Almost nine in 10 businesses (87%) recognize digital transformation as a competitive opportunity, according to Capgemini. The problem? Most don’t know where to begin.

The phrase ‘digital transformation’ increasingly refers to simple-to-understand changes that enable businesses to give their customers a digital experience similar to the one they’d receive from a company such as Uber, TransferWise or Amazon. That’s not surprising: PwC reports 45% of executives state increasing revenue is the primary driver for digital strategies, while 25% expect them to deliver better customer experiences.

However, while an improved front office may be attractive, it doesn't bring as many benefits as a digital transformation strategy that optimizes both front and back office.

For example, putting a customer service chatbot on a website might offer a new way for a company to interact with its customers. It might even reduce customer service costs and feel more immediate than other channels. But it amounts to a standalone process that still requires human oversight.

By transforming underlying manual back office processes, organizations can create entire systems that require little or no human intervention. Instead, robots handle everything automatically.

Consider Amazon’s ‘One-Click’ shopping feature. The logistics of the operation were only made possible once the company had put in place a process design focused on customer self-service. As a result, Amazon now sells millions of items through One-Click each day. Those purchases are delivered to buyers without human intervention, aside from the driver of the delivery van – and soon a person won’t be needed for that either.

Beyond the buzz

In order to go beyond buzzwords, digital transformation must take place at every level of an organization: it should be thought of in terms of interconnectivity between all systems and processes.

It can be argued that robotization holds the key to removing the repetitive back office processes required for every customer enquiry, sale, quarterly close and other tasks. It enables organizations to save time and money, while better delivering against their performance goals.

Freeing employees from time- and innovation-sapping tasks pays its own dividends but digitalization also gives organizations better process and data visibility, thereby allowing optimization and further gains.

Holistic digital transformation – powered by robots

A truly holistic digital transformation strategy – covering front and back office processes – delivers further steps towards agility. Overhauling manual processes only to replace them with more efficient manual processes makes no sense when a robot can do the work faster, more accurately and at a lower cost.

Arguably, it’s the process of overhauling IT workflows and putting robots in charge of legacy platforms that provides the potential to underpin further digital transformation within the business. The more that’s robotized, the more money that can be saved and reinvested in other areas.  

Digital transformation is a convenient label for an easily implemented customer-facing intervention but, by focusing on eliminating costly and unnecessary processes throughout the business, organizations can build an environment where agility and innovation are truly part of their DNA.

As Amazon has shown, this can lead to entirely self-service business models across any number of different verticals, from buying books to hosting cloud instances. At its core, it’s the digitalization of every step in Amazon’s processes that allows it to operate in the way it does. It’s much more than just a website – behind each of its processes are highly-automated robotized systems.

IDC predicts that by 2018, 80% of B2C – and 60% of B2B – companies will have created immersive omni-experiences for customers, partners and employees. By putting automation robots at the heart of this, businesses can ensure they remain fully scalable for the future. 

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