Nuffield Health: Transforming the business’s core with digital
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Nuffield Health: Transforming the business’s core with digital

Iain O’Neil — September 2016

Digital projects need to focus on dramatically enhancing key facets of the business — not take it in unpredictable directions, says Iain O’Neil, digital director at Nuffield Health, the UK healthcare, gyms and corporate fitness center provider.

Few things have had as profound an impact on the customer journey as digital transformation. Over the past decade, organizations across all sectors have embraced digitalization and unlocked countless practical benefits.

Despite the countless success stories, however, those charged with navigating digital transformations know that few organizations are truly ready to embrace this new way of creating value. Indeed, digital teams find they need to address widespread skepticism and wariness among their business colleagues at every step of the journey.

Iain O’Neil, Nuffield Health
One of the main barriers for such initiatives is that many professionals feel a lack of ownership over digital projects. Instead, they view these projects as operations performed on the business, ones that often demand high budgets without producing adequate, tangible benefits. In order to receive the support and funding they need from their organizations, digital teams must therefore dismantle this barrier, ensuring they can move forward with important projects and deliver success to the business.
Developing a sense of digital ownership
At Nuffield Health (the largest not-for-profit healthcare provider in the UK, operating 31 hospitals and 112 fitness and wellbeing gyms) we have found the key to overcoming this reluctance is building cross-functional teams for digital projects. Core members of each team must be in the room during every step of the process. Depending on the nature of the project, this can include members of human resources, finance and operations, as well as those who communicate with customers on a daily basis.

For example, when developing a new customer-facing process for front desk services at a gym, decision-making must include all stakeholders — from finance who will reconcile the money it generates, to the front desk staff who will be using the new system on a daily basis. Such a project would involve implementing an entirely new process within the business — the digital component simply being the method of delivery — so there needs to be input from those who will be affected by its implementation. By adopting this approach, all those affected will gain a sense of ownership over the project, allowing for a smoother implementation and therefore quicker and more meaningful results.

“Digital teams should always be focused on digitalizing the existing business, not on applications for spaces in which the company doesn’t operate.”
The nature and scope of digital projects also need serious consideration. Digital teams are typically instructed to pursue ‘innovation’ and so it’s worthwhile exploring what should be considered innovative in this particular context. The scope of digital projects is often overly ambitious or directed towards areas that are only tangential to the core business model. Actually building unnecessary standalone apps or aiming to become ‘the Facebook of your sector’ could be considered the antithesis of innovation.

In many cases, the most innovative projects are the unsexy ones, working at the core of your existing business to digitalize customer journeys and key operational processes. Digital teams need to build confidence throughout the business in order to receive funding and support, and the easiest way to do so is often by delivering on some very basic projects that can show very visible benefits. Projects like online booking, online payments and collecting data for marketing purposes are examples that have worked for Nuffield Health. Even if such applications are not optimized at launch, they still provide organizations with valuable data that shows they are moving in the right direction and can be refined as the transformation continues.

Digital teams should always be focused on digitalizing the existing business, rather than inventing new processes and applications for spaces in which the company doesn’t currently operate. While this is something most companies discover early on in the digital transformation process, learning this lesson the hard way could cost them valuable time and resources.
Digital dividends
Enabling online booking and payments in particular can have a highly positive influence on marketing capabilities, as these allow businesses to gather valuable customer data. The more data organizations acquire, the more effective their automated marketing solutions become, representing a tremendously important return on investment.

In the context of health and fitness services at Nuffield Health, this starts with the key functions of enabling members to book gym classes and physiotherapy appointments online. By knowing members’ preferences for certain classes we can personalize communications accordingly. For example, if data indicates a member has frequently booked zumba classes online, they can automatically be offered a discount on zumba classes when their membership is coming up for renewal. Conversely, enabling online booking will also ensure customers don’t receive offers for classes that would be inappropriate, such as highly intensive workout courses being offered to a customer who regularly attends physiotherapy classes.

Regardless of what services your company offers, the impact of smart, personalized marketing is undeniable. With this in mind, companies looking to gain more from digital should be driving as much engagement as possible through digital means.
“Digital teams must act as evangelists for digitalization, pursuing digital projects that demonstrate value in a way that everyone can understand.”

Personal banking is a classic example of how big of an impact digital transformation can have on the customer journey. While most business decision-makers will be familiar with this, it’s surprisingly rare for many of them to make the connection between the digital transformation that has already taken place in areas like banking and the potential that digital transformation holds for their own sector.

Whether executives understand the power and importance of digitalization or not, its growth will not slow. With this in mind, digital teams must act as evangelists for digitalization, pursuing digital projects that demonstrate value in a way that everyone — regardless of their department — can understand. Projects should focus on delivering tangible difference to the business through transforming foundational capabilities, and be implemented on a regular basis. By doing so, digital teams can ensure their projects are received with confidence, rather than reluctance.

Iain O’Neil will be speaking on creating a digitally enabled culture at Technology for Marketing 2016 in London, September 28-29.

First published September 2016
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