Originally Presented at the 60th Annual ELFA Convention in San Antonio
Moderator: Denis Stypulkoski
Panelists: Greg Clark, Jeff Bilbrey, Katie Emmel, Leonard Lane, Michael Baez, Scott Nelson
The pressure to be competitive in the equipment finance industry has never been higher. The Covid-19 pandemic and the current economic conditions combined with the need for equipment finance companies to satisfy both current and future customer expectations have driven the industry to a place where digital transformation is no longer “nice to have”, it’s essential. This was how Denis Stypulkoski introduced a panel of experienced professionals at the 60th Annual ELFA Convention to discuss the idea of thinking and operating like a digital company.
Personal Digital Expectations
Today we are seeing new disruptors appear at a rapid pace. This pace of change has been driven by the “experience economy”. In the experience economy you aren’t just selling your product, you’re selling an experience. The success of your business is directly tied to you customer’s ability to have a personalized and digitized experience. Can your customer access what they need from your organization at any time from any device?
The word digital has changed meaning over time. Just a few years ago digital meant saying “there’s an app for that”. Today, digital isn’t just using technology, it’s the way that we think and operate. The best example of this is the iPhone. The tech involved in the product is great but what makes it so popular is the consumer experience and ease of use.
Jeff Bilbrey described how in the last 25 years we’ve gone from VHS to DVDs via snail mail to digital services empowered by artificial intelligence technology to help you find the things you’d be interested in. These changes have led people to a common misconception that going digital just means automation. What people don’t often realize is that technology is just a component of being digital.
The world has moved beyond digitization only – it isn’t enough to apply digital capabilities to a piece of an existing process. Denis Stypulkoski shared that to stay competitive, companies have to transform. For many this transformation looks like fundamentally rethinking the entire business from beginning to end to be digital first in their experience.
The idea of being digital isn’t a new concept. Katie Emmel explained how at this point in the post-pandemic world, digital transformation should be in the rear-view mirror. We should now be in a place where we can look forward toward the experience economy while thinking about how we can implement technology into everyday workflows.
New digital companies are entering the market with a purpose. Your company needs to be ready to respond. The best way that your company can be ready is by being agile. Identify the product owner, identify the product team, then empower them. Bring your customers along on the journey so you can better respond to their needs. This is just the beginning of being agile.
Another element to agility is utilizing the technology you have already put in place. Getting to know the data you have and learning to ask questions can help you utilize the information and see how your data can work for you. Standardize your data, analyze it, identify the patterns, then use it to provide better experience for your customers and employees.
This leaves you with one question: “How do you put digital first in your strategy?” The short answer as discussed by the panelists is to weave digital into all that you do. Aspire to make digital ubiquitous in your business strategy.
Creating a Digital Culture
Creating a digital environment within your company is vital to having a successful digital strategy. Each organization must start where their needs can be met. This process won’t happen overnight, it takes time. Start with the area where improvements are needed, then move onto ways that you can innovate the process. Then your company can transform and become the industries next disruptor.
As a part of the process, it’s important to make sure the people within your organization understand are buying in and that switching to digital methods isn’t about replacing the human element. Scott Nelson shared that it’s about augmenting cognitive ability labor and speeding it up. So, how do you create buy-in within your organization?
One method, outlined by Greg Clark, is utilizing key players. Pluck out key people from different departments throughout your organization and try out new methods and ideas. This way you have a test group of sorts to help you figure out what will work best for your organization. Once you find something that works well, then you roll-out to everyone else. Those original key players act as change agents that have not only already bought into this new technology or process, but they also know it well so they can help with the implementation.
“It’s a long journey, you don’t get there alone.” – Denis Stypulkoski
Utilize those within your organization who are already invested in digital to empower your whole team. Find those people who are infinitely curious and give them the space they need to innovate propel your organization forward. Digital transformation isn’t an event, it’s a lifecycle. A lifecycle isn’t sustained by those just checking off boxes, it’s sustained through the forward thinkers striving to be the next disruptor.
A digital culture will not only drive your business forward and keep you competing within the industry, but it will also attract young talent. The equipment finance industry struggles immensely with this due to a failure to meet the digital expectations of the new generation of workers. The next generation of leaders is among us, and they won’t stick around companies that aren’t digital. Millennials have grown up in a digital world and they expect no different in their careers.
Moderator Denis Stypulkoski finished off the panel by talking about the role of leaders. He explained how ultimately you can talk all you want about creating a digital culture, but it means nothing if the leaders aren’t willing to model the change. Going digital means trying new things and that means that sometimes things won’t work and there will be failure. It’s the responsibility of those in charge to foster an environment that understands that failure happens, especially when it comes to innovation.