Learning From Edison: a Digital Pioneer who Considered End-to-End Processes

When trying to connect digitally with your customers, are you thinking of the lightbulb, or the end-to-end process?

Today’s business world is going through a massive “digital transformation.” Every organization you read about, or talk to, is trying to figure out how to innovate, digitally connect with customers and improve their overall customer experience.

There’s a parallel that can be drawn between this transformation and the electricity introduction/transformation that Thomas Edison was leading in the late 1800s.

More Than Just a Lightbulb

the end-to-end process
Illuminating a light bulb takes work that occurs “beneath the surface.”

At the time, Edison was working to transform the way the world was illuminated at night, and there is a direct application of what Edison accomplished to what we are experiencing today.

What many people don’t realize is that, as he was developing the incandescent light bulb, Edison was also focused on the “end-to-end process.” Challenged with transforming the customer experience of seeing at night in a better, cheaper and safer manner, Edison worked on building the physical end-to-end process of generating and delivering the power necessary to illuminate the bulb he had developed.

The world only saw the “end customer experience” of the illuminated bulb – and how it would change the world. But not many people realized that this couldn’t have happened without Edison’s focus on the end-to-end process: How the bulb would get illuminated.

A Lesson for Today

This parallel is crucial when thinking about today’s digital transformation. Too often, organizations are focused on the end customer experience, i.e., the light bulb. As long as the ‘light bulb’ looks good, responds well, is intuitive and has the features we want, then the organization considers their efforts a success. Unfortunately, organizations that only focus on this aspect ultimately do not achieve the full transformation they are hoping to achieve.

Learning from Edison, it’s necessary to make sure a successful digital customer experience is tied to an efficient, integrated, end-to-end business process. The process needs to be able to execute the customer request quickly/efficiently, effectively manage exceptions and ultimately achieve what the customer is trying to do with no interruption.

Compare this to digital experiences with which you interact every day; notice ‘light bulbs’ that are tied to incomplete or inefficient supporting physical processes.

Some examples:

  • When requesting an internal transfer of funds between two bank accounts via mobile app. Many of these are not instantaneous, impacting the overall customer experience.
  • When sending an online email via website to the bank’s customer service department with a question, and the response is days later – or never!

A Question of Focus

As you think about your own digital transformation, be sure to ask yourself:

  • Are we taking into consideration the end-to-end business process?
  • Is the final customer experience going to be what the customer expects? How do you know?

Or are you just focusing on the light bulb?

Bottom line: Only focusing on the light bulb misses the mark, and the value of digital transformation falls short of its potential – or worse, becoming just an interesting experiment.

Matt Cotter_464Matt Cotter has more than 10 years of management consulting experience working with the country’s largest and most strategic retail banks, GSEs, asset managers and merchant services. He has spent majority of his career focusing on process improvement/definition, data analytics, merger and acquisition, strategy and risk management for financial services clients. Since being with Centric, he has been responsible for leading the BPM and BPI service offerings and Financial Services industry vertical at a local level for Centric Cincinnati. Contact Matt to learn more. 

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