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Why innovation isn’t just about shifting your services online

This article originally appeared on Pro Bono Australia news, to view the original article click here

With more Not For Profit and Government services being delivered online than ever before, I’ve heard leaders starting to talk about how their new online services are innovative and some have even gone on to win innovation awards. Whilst this trend towards digital is nothing new and the sector has been heading in this direction for some time, many say that Covid was the ‘kick up the ass’ the sector needed to catch up and truly embrace the digital age.

But is lifting and shifting your services online innovation? Well, really it depends.

Innovation is about creating something new that delivers value to your clients. It's a new product or service that does something better than what was offered before.

If your organisation took your same service you have delivered in analogue, turned it into a form and made it digital, is that innovation? In most cases, no. I’d say that what you have now is 1 service that is delivered across 2 different channels. Turning something digital or creating an app on its own isn’t innovation. Really right now, digital and app solutions are the status quo. That’s how quickly things have moved in the past 10 or so years.

I think in the case of services, it's not all about the technology you choose to deliver your service through. It's more about, what does that technology do for the people you are delivering that service to? To use the example from before, moving your service ‘as is’ online, doesn’t mean that service will be better for the users of the service. For example, your clients may actually really need to speak to a person, and liaising with you through a website or app is actually a worse solution for them.

A few years back, we worked with an organisation that was looking to shift their services online. We involved a panel of their clients as a sounding board in the design process and we found that some of the really personal services the organisation provided their clients, just couldn’t be put online. These were scenarios where the client was experiencing a high level of emotion and only a human’s empathy, effective questioning and reassurance would suffice. But, there were other scenarios that were low emotion and high in volume, that were perfect to be put online! We asked them what they needed to be comfortable experiencing these solutions digitally, and were able to successfully create great online experiences for these clients that they were happy to use. The moral of the story is, if this organisation hadn’t completed this process, they most likely would have paid a lot of money to build out all of the services, including those that people felt they needed to speak to a human for, and financially it wouldn’t have been viable.

You can also create really innovative services that aren’t digital. A face to face or telephone service can be innovative just by how you do things and what it does for the client.

I guess the point I am trying to drive home is it's about the client and their experience. We need to look at what we are doing through their eyes, and ask them, does this solve your problem or make your life better, easier, more fulfilling etc? Technology is just a vehicle, a way of delivering your service to your clients. It is not the answer.

The most innovative solutions we see these days are ideas that have been designed with the user experience in mind. No matter which channel you choose to deliver that through.

A quote from Gary Hamel who has written a lot about innovation is,

“The goal of innovation is to amaze customers with something that they could never have imagined, but after having experienced it, can’t imagine ever having lived life without it.”

My question to you would be, what is it about your online solution that makes people’s lives better? Why would someone give up their current way of dealing with you, to go online? When we set the bar there, we not only put ourselves in the shoes of our client, but we also challenge ourselves to do things a hell of a lot better for them.

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