Three companies using IT for dramatic transformation

Three companies using IT for dramatic transformation

By Mark W. Schaefer

I used to work for a big global company. Here was the management view of the IT department:

  • It is the help desk
  • It is a necessary evil
  • It is a cost to be cut.

Of course, times have changed. Or … have they?

Tom Webster and I had a great discussion on our Marketing Companion podcast recently about what it means to be “digital.” We discussed the fact that in many companies, the IT Department is still a “cost center” and not strategically integrated into marketing and sales functions.

Of course IT still “runs” things. Technology is kind of the blood coursing through our company’s veins these days. But if that’s ALL you believe, you’re missing the most profound marketing opportunity since television.

Data centers don’t need to be physical locations anymore. Offices don’t need to be in a building.  Communication with customers, students, and patients doesn’t need to be face-to-face. A digitally transformed organization is re-invented, unhindered by limitations of processes, resources, and people.

Truly digital organizations don’t collect data, they unleash it in ways that create new business models. As we will see in a moment, they can even use technology to make their business more interesting and fun.

Here are three examples of companies selling make-up, auto repair, and health check-ups that are not just using IT to run things, but to using IT for dramatic transformation.

Sephora

I had lunch with some of my students recently and all they could talk about was how they loved Sephora, and they pulled out the app to show me. This cosmetics retailer’s commitment to digital transformation is more than skin deep. Technology is driving growth, conversations, and customer delight.

My students used their app to show me how a certain shade of lipstick looked on me. I and I have to admit, it looked pretty damn good. They then shared my photo across their social media networks, much to their delight and my dismay.

But their app can do so much more, it is a virtual shopping assistant, beauty consultant, and loyalty program:

Sephora-iphone-App2

Sephora’s commitment to technology is profound. They just opened a digital innovation lab in San Francisco.

Think about the implications for marketing transformation:

  • Sephora is directly collecting customer data that can be used in hundreds of ways
  • They have daily opportunity for product discovery and deals
  • They’re making cosmetics a conversational event

Firestone

Firestone is best known for tires but they are also using big data to transform their automotive repair centers.In this case, technology is where the rubber meets the road.

Repairing cars is still as much as an art as a science. There can be multiple causes for problems and even the process of FINDING the problem can be expensive. Firestone Service Centers fix millions of cars each year and they are using data from these repairs to create a diagnostic system that can reveal the highest-probable cause of a problem for the specific make, model and year of any car, based on thousands of similar repairs.

The technician can access a simple interface to determine the most likely problem, based on a statistical analysis, and an efficient workflow (including the right tools and techniques) to get the customer back in action for the least amount of money and the shortest amount of time.

The company is also using this data, and the repair record of your car to create a personalized car care app.

Think about the beauty of this. Firestone is leveraging their size + vast data collection for new customer value. The company repairs a lot of cars and they are using insights from Big Data as a point of competitive differentiation.

Health Net Connect

Health Net Connect  is using technology to completely re-imagine healthcare delivery. Their technology solution enables doctors to conduct complete physical exams remotely, cutting hospital readmissions by as much as 70 percent.

Patients receive a touch-screen tablet (with a built-in video camera, microphone and speaker and a range of wireless capabilities) that can help doctors monitor their condition without a personal visit.

The tablet has the capability to provide blood pressure and glucometer readings for monitoring hypertension and diabetes; a four-lead electrocardiogram; a weight/BMI scale; a portable oximeter for measuring oxygen saturation levels in the blood; a spirometer for evaluating lung capacity; an ear thermometer; and a high-definition, advanced otoscope with various attachments to capture and transmit eye, ear, nose and throat images.

This is driving dramatic cost-savings and customer convenience. The technology enables nurses to see as many as 20 patients a day via virtual house calls, compared with just four in-home visits a day if they were driving.

What are your favorite examples of how companies are using technology to change things, not just run things?

 

SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

This post was originally written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. For more on these topics, visit Dell’s thought leadership site PowerMoreDell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.

Illustration courtesy Toothpaste for Dinner

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  • Jim Hart

    Maybe the current generations of digital natives will spawn more individuals that are both highly skilled at ‘IT’ and also marketing savvy. Have seen too many companies struggle with digital transformation because digital is headed up by an IT person. If you have that rare hybrid on board, lucky you. If you don’t, you need a partnership between a marketing person and a strong IT person, with the marketing person breaking ties when they don’t agree.

  • Jim Hart

    Maybe the current generations of digital natives will spawn more individuals that are both highly skilled at ‘IT’ and also marketing savvy. Have seen too many companies struggle with digital transformation because digital is headed up by an IT person. If you have that rare hybrid on board, lucky you. If you don’t, you need a partnership between a marketing person and a strong IT person, with the marketing person breaking ties when they don’t agree.

  • Very interesting observation Jim. Thanks for adding that to the discussion.

  • Very interesting observation Jim. Thanks for adding that to the discussion.

  • Holly McIlwain

    Mark, like you, I worked many years in I.T. sales and consulted with CIO’s managing mammoth multi-departmental information technology divisions, who were under pressure to not let the *tail wag the dog,* so to speak. Now, over ten years in my own small biz we’ve had a similar approach as my mega customers, that is, until now. Formerly, I was interested in the bare bones IT to keep us going and not that interested in the topic or the time to do much with it. That has changed. So far this year, we’re in the middle of implementing a new work force automation system, which of course includes a smart phone (or tablet) app, and researching file sharing options and various on-line marketing scheduling tools, which is all leading us to taking a different approach to our hardware, data storage and work-flow process. Of course, since we both wear many hats running this thing, or as they say in the Caribbean, many shirts, my sales shirt, which has morphed into a marketing shirt, is running IT along side my partner, making it very much in line with overall growth objectives of our company. So far 2016 could be labeled “The year for IT,” which is something I never thought I’d experience in a company as small as ours. Love my cup of coffee and dose of “Grow”ing! Thanks!

  • Holly McIlwain

    Mark, like you, I worked many years in I.T. sales and consulted with CIO’s managing mammoth multi-departmental information technology divisions, who were under pressure to not let the *tail wag the dog,* so to speak. Now, over ten years in my own small biz we’ve had a similar approach as my mega customers, that is, until now. Formerly, I was interested in the bare bones IT to keep us going and not that interested in the topic or the time to do much with it. That has changed. So far this year, we’re in the middle of implementing a new work force automation system, which of course includes a smart phone (or tablet) app, and researching file sharing options and various on-line marketing scheduling tools, which is all leading us to taking a different approach to our hardware, data storage and work-flow process. Of course, since we both wear many hats running this thing, or as they say in the Caribbean, many shirts, my sales shirt, which has morphed into a marketing shirt, is running IT along side my partner, making it very much in line with overall growth objectives of our company. So far 2016 could be labeled “The year for IT,” which is something I never thought I’d experience in a company as small as ours. Love my cup of coffee and dose of “Grow”ing! Thanks!

  • Wow thanks for sharing that great personal experience Holly. Impressive!

  • Wow thanks for sharing that great personal experience Holly. Impressive!

  • Holly McIlwain

    Mark, thank you for the reply. Just have to take this opportunity to thank you for “The Content Code.” We are reading the book out loud to each other and discussing every page. It’s as if you are here in Birmingham, AL with us, facilitating the creation our new marketing plan, which we have changed dramatically this year. Beyond your actual actionable content, which is plenty, are the inspirations coming from the two of us reading it together. We have created all sorts of amazing new initiatives that constantly spring from between the lines of your book as our management team studies it. I can’t thank you enough for writing it. And just a side bar, in case you’d like to know, we checked it out of the Amazon Kindle Unlimited library, and I already decided we’re not sending it back and may end up purchasing it, because I’ll need to reference it all year. Holly

  • Holly McIlwain

    Mark, thank you for the reply. Just have to take this opportunity to thank you for “The Content Code.” We are reading the book out loud to each other and discussing every page. It’s as if you are here in Birmingham, AL with us, facilitating the creation our new marketing plan, which we have changed dramatically this year. Beyond your actual actionable content, which is plenty, are the inspirations coming from the two of us reading it together. We have created all sorts of amazing new initiatives that constantly spring from between the lines of your book as our management team studies it. I can’t thank you enough for writing it. And just a side bar, in case you’d like to know, we checked it out of the Amazon Kindle Unlimited library, and I already decided we’re not sending it back and may end up purchasing it, because I’ll need to reference it all year. Holly

  • I’m lucky in that I work for an IT solution provider…so I get to see all kinds of cool ways clients use tech. My favorites are probably

    (1) a large appliance company that now allows you to prepare your shopping list on the appliance itself, drag things to the cart, and then checkout for grocery delivery.
    (2) an irrigation controls company that allows farmers to control those huge commercial sprinklers from their iPhone or iPad. They can turn them on/off, adjust the flow or range, etc.
    (3) a managed care consortium that is allowing patients to have virtual appointments, so the providers can judge whether the patient should have labs done/etc. before coming into the office – saves on co-pays! They also do predictive analytics to determine if patients are high risk based upon certain markers in their file…and years of “similar outcomes” available…good ole big data.

  • I’m lucky in that I work for an IT solution provider…so I get to see all kinds of cool ways clients use tech. My favorites are probably

    (1) a large appliance company that now allows you to prepare your shopping list on the appliance itself, drag things to the cart, and then checkout for grocery delivery.
    (2) an irrigation controls company that allows farmers to control those huge commercial sprinklers from their iPhone or iPad. They can turn them on/off, adjust the flow or range, etc.
    (3) a managed care consortium that is allowing patients to have virtual appointments, so the providers can judge whether the patient should have labs done/etc. before coming into the office – saves on co-pays! They also do predictive analytics to determine if patients are high risk based upon certain markers in their file…and years of “similar outcomes” available…good ole big data.

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