18/02/2014 | Expert opinion - Nicolas Odet, Hardis Group Executive Vice President

With the growth in digital technology, value creation is now organized more around services than around products. This is a shake-up for businesses, who need to switch from an industrial process culture, to an economic model based on experimentation, agility and complicity with its customers.

The legacy of the industrial revolution

While the industrial revolution now seems far away, its legacy is still very much a force to be reckoned with in companies. Work is organized to suit the mass production of standardized products and services designed for the tastes and needs of the greatest number.

In the industrial model, the aim was to produce more, quicker. This led to a specialization of tasks, especially embodied by Henry Ford, and to work organized in silos: R & D, production, sales, marketing and communication, support, etc. In this model, the processes of development, promotion, marketing and even customer relations are generally themselves highly standardized, again with the stated goal of improving the company's productivity.

From the industrial revolution to the digital revolution

But what worked for over a century and a half seems to have reached its limits, with the advent of the Internet. This new area of expression, which allows everyone to give his opinion, share with others, or even organize a form of opposing force, has profoundly changed the situation: when a product or service is poor, the information spreads quickly on the Web.

Faced with customers who now both create and consume and who want to have their say, companies have no choice but to profoundly change the relationship they have with them. Exit commercials and half-kept promises! To attract and retain a customer as expressive as he is unfaithful, brands must now engage in dialog, justify and prove the value and quality of their products and services, or even give them meaning.

Ultimately, value creation is today more about customer interactions and (customized) services surrounding the product than the product itself. In this context, the strength of digital technology is to create value quickly and efficiently. And contrary to popular belief, digital services are not "virtual" or "less human": they instead make it possible to "humanize" all stages of the customer relationship, to make the process customer-centric (from designing a service to after-sales) and to propose a unique experience and journey.

At a time of experimentation and iteration

However, at the same time the digital revolution has also brought about a significant reduction of time-to-market. Demanding and less loyal than before, today's customers want everything and they want it now. And they have no hesitation in turning away from one brand as long as another, more agile one is more responsive to their needs.

To quickly offer digital services that create value, brands now have every reason to proceed by iteration: launching a digital service, even if it is not 100% complete or successful, and then developing by integrating consumer opinion. This is an approach that can at first seem risky but which has the advantage of reducing the time-to -market, and transforming the risk of being discredited into a genuine opportunity, through the link created with consumers.

So out with long, standardized processes of the industrial age. And enter the agile company, interaction with customers, cooperation between the various operational departments, and experimentation. More a revolution than a development, and one that requires an in-depth transformation of the company at all levels: organizational, managerial, HR, etc. This type of transformation can hardly be implemented in "big bang" mode, and should also lead to in-house testing.

Digitizing companies: industrial processes with experimental processes