Marcus Wareham on digital transformation

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GamCrowd met up with our own in-house digital transformation expert Marcus Wareham to discuss all things innovation and how to ensure that your organisation understands the processes that will govern how it will adapt to change. We start by discussing the degree to which the industry is weighed down with legacy technology that stifles even as it provides barely enough functionality for companies to continue in business.

GamCrowd: To what degree do you feel that the online gambling industry struggles with issues around the implementation of further digital processes?

The sector is doing pockets of great work and there’s certainly no shortage of ideas. Where it struggles is with joined up thinking. Digital transformation is a consumer state, the evolution of consumers adopting digital services into their everyday lives. It’s no longer the preserve of the early adopters or technologically savvy, with the advent of smartphones and tablets and even the re-invention of browser and desktop operating systems, everyone is now technologically savvy, although they don’t necessarily see it like that. Millennials have only known a world with digital services and the older generation have been given the environment in which to leverage digital services without fear, in a simple, easy to understand way. Whatever their age or demographic, customers now leverage digital technologies in some or all of their consumer spending, every day. From buying a coffee in the morning to deep dive researching their next purchase, the journey is either started, supported or ends on a digital device. What businesses need to understand is how this is affecting their customers and their customers reason to choose them over their competitors. This is the start of becoming a Customer First business and one that understand how to apply that principle to everything they do. Why, I hear you ask, if we’re doing good things, is this important? The answer is simple. Customers don’t just think, they expect their experience to be joined up. Their relationship is with the brand not the department. From Customer Services to Mobile App, from the CRM email they receive to their retail visit, they are one customer interacting with one brand and a seamless, consistent experience needs to reflect this. This is what we mean by joined up thinking and a Customer First approach.

GamCrowd: How does the failure of the online gambling industry to understand the process of digital change manifest itself?

I would argue that there’s no such thing as failure in this new digital world, failure is just one result from a test, the other being knowledge. There’s no single business in any sector that can claim to understand the process of digital change, there are however those that are setup to learn whilst the ever-fickle consumer goes on the journey of digitally transforming themselves. Unless you are a retail business that still uses paper to track transactions and only accepts cash as payment, you are already transforming digitally. There are pro’s and con’s to being at the bleeding edge of this transformation rather than being in the herd, however everyone in the sector is already on the journey, some are just more advanced than others, what’s important is to understand where.

GamCrowd: What are the vital ingredients of digital transformation that need to be considered by anyone entering into such a process?

As articulated above, the start point is to understand where you are in the journey, technologically, culturally or organisationally. Central to digitally transforming is to become a Customer First business, understanding what that means for you and your customers. This might be as simple as a strap line for your brand, what do you stand for, such as ‘The Worlds Favourite Airline’ (ahem, are they?) or ‘Earth’s most customer centric company’, something which can galvanise thinking at all areas of the business and manifests itself in daily execution everything you do. Once you have some guiding principals for your brand and you understand that digital transformation is a consumer state, you start to see that it goes beyond just the products you build. Don’t get me wrong, these have to be good, but the joined up thinking I referred too means understanding the business model and your customers’ experience across all digital and analogue services. This ambition or objective needs to be shared, communicated and understood by everyone in your business, empowering colleagues not just to understand but able to act with these principals in mind allowing you to start delivering customer focused services. As a customer, when I talk to anyone working for the brand, I expect them to be able to deal with me, help me, support me, not have to chase down the right department myself. Whether by email, social media messaging, telephone or through a retail employee, my relationship is with the brand and I expect the brand to be able to help me. This is what we mean by connected and joined up services. This is why you need to have joined up thinking.

GamCrowd: Is digital transformation a cost issue? Or is it more about people?

Whist there is a need to invest, this actually needn’t been a vast expense before returns are seen and then it becomes a question of re-investing, however this relies on the right culture existing. No-one knows what consumers will adopt and anyone trying to predict the future too far in advance will likely get it wrong at their own cost. What needs to exist is a test-and-learn culture and understanding that failure is part of the roadmap to success. Any business held up as a mentor for getting it right has a list of failures far longer than the number of successes, that’s why they’re successful. Uber, for example, started life as a Limousine hire App, Twitter an SMS platform for groups of friends. Fear of failure is the biggest stifler for innovation, however embracing failure requires businesses to structure themselves in a way that allows rapid development of ideas, concepts and affordable ways of testing and learning. From this platform, ideation can flourish and the right ones can be developed further and turned into proposition and product features.

GamCrowd: How do you view the issue of regulation and how that interacts with company's plans for more fully embracing digital change?

Companies that embrace Digital Transformation will navigate successfully through any regulation and regulatory changes. Knowing more about customers is central to the value businesses get from providing enriched, experience enhancing digital services to its customers. This data can be central to both extracting value from them by way of loyalty and provide a better framework to satisfy regulators, particularly with the lens being pointed at problem gambling at the moment. Much could be made by proactively using technology for player protection purposes. Doing so can only enhance the industries reputation.