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Heather Mosley | SBJ

Metamorphosis: Digital transformation fundamentally changes business operations

Posted online

 If Dr. Staci Rogers, chief transformation officer at CoxHealth, were asked to pull together all the C-suite transformation officers she knows locally and form a club, it would be a pretty small group. To her knowledge, she’s the only one in Springfield.

Rogers works with the president of the medical group and the system president/CEO to drive change that benefits patient care, while also helping the health system as a whole. Her focus is to leverage digital technology to bring about this change.

“Part of my role is as a change catalyst for our system, but not just change for change’s sake,” she said. “I’m looking at opportunities across the system to gain alignment, to gain integration, to gain efficiencies.”

Rick Brattin, an associate professor in the Missouri State University department of information technology and cybersecurity, has firsthand understanding of digital transformation, or DX. Before coming to MSU, he worked on DX projects for Fortune 100 companies, including two decades with Tyson Foods Inc.

At Tyson, Brattin worked to transform most of the company’s business processes through an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars, introducing a variety of technologies and software packages while revolutionizing the thinking behind the business.

These days, he’s teaching the students who may one day become transformers, and he often finds himself explaining the concept of DX.

“Digital transformation is fundamentally changing the way a business operates, and that fundamental change is enabled because of technology,” he said. “The word ‘transformation’ in that term is important.”

Brattin said it is helpful to understand what DX is not. It is not mere digitization, simply converting analog or paper-based documents into a digital product of some kind.

It also is not the same as digitalization, using digital information in business processes, whether for marketing or to smooth customer interactions, as with a mechanic who can pull up a record of a customer’s past visits on a computer screen.

“Digital transformation can have many purposes, and certainly the customer experience is one of those,” Brattin said. “You can see it in operations, business operations, logistics; you can see it in other places like infrastructure. It involves all parts of the business.”

Shawn Latimer, virtual chief information officer for PCnet LLC, said DX seems new as it gains momentum, but the term was coined in late 2011.

“The definition is rather broad,” Latimer said.

He said people are missing the point if they think merely implementing technological solutions is the same as digital transformation.

“Digital transformation involves the use of technology to radically improve performance or the reach of business,” he said.

Latimer said DX is not yet prevalent in the Springfield area.

“There are, however, companies that are moving in that direction and some that have fully embraced it,” he said.

DX in action
At Central Bank of the Ozarks and Central Trust Co., spokesperson Andrew Tasset said “digital transformation” is not a term that is often used, but digital access is critical to customers and has driven significant investment in transformation efforts.

“That’s in the forefront of everyone’s radar here,” he said.

Rogers said patient care drives transformation at CoxHealth – and more and more, patients’ expectations are pivotal.

Patients want timely access to information, including their health records. They also want accessibility to care and the ability to schedule that care. There has been an explosion of digital and virtual options to help them meet those needs, Rogers said.

She said the COVID-19 pandemic was a driver toward CoxHealth’s transformation efforts.

“We were already in that space, but certainly with the onset of the pandemic, that just expanded the need for access virtually and digitally across the board,” she said. “We had to expand.”

While CoxHealth was ready to take advantage of new technologies, some patients were coaxed toward them by pandemic safety concerns.

“We always had a set of patients who were open to that,” Rogers said. “Looking at the pandemic as an opportunity, I think a lot more patients explored that option that maybe wouldn’t have without that set of circumstances.”

DX means more than virtual visits, Rogers said.

“It’s all the other ways we utilize technology to our advantage,” she said. “Some of those are patient-facing, like how we deliver education or other health care tools.”

There are other efficiencies, too, in areas like registration, scheduling, wearable technologies or patient-provider interaction.

“We’re also looking at how we use technology for some of those nonclinical activities, as well, to gain operational efficiencies or be able to analyze and use data that we have available to highlight opportunities,” she said.

According to DX market research firm International Data Corp., the pandemic accelerated investments in digital worldwide. IDC says in 2022, more than half the global economy will be based on or influenced by digital technology. In an October 2021 report, IDC said direct DX investments will accelerate by 16.5% each year through 2024, representing 55% of all information and communications technology investments by the end of 2024.

Tasset said COVID-19 helped to drive change, though transformation was already beginning in the banking industry.

“We had to shut down our branches and go to drive-thru only during the pandemic, and a lot of people that were not adopting online banking were kind of forced to do that since they couldn’t walk into the bank,” he said. “We saw a major shift then to people using the online banking mobile app and also the online banking system.”

Central Trust and Central Bank of the Ozarks are part of a larger holding company that includes 16 banks in multiple states.

“That kind of gives us some economies of scale so that we can dedicate the dollars to tech projects,” Tasset said. “We saw change coming many years ago; we saw it on the horizon, and we did invest as a company into what we saw coming down the pike.”

Just as CoxHealth patients can take hold of their medical experience, Central Bank customers can do things like turn their debit or credit card on or off if they temporarily misplace it and apply for mortgage or personal loans – all without entering a branch lobby. Tasset said Central’s mobile app has 4.9 out of 5 stars on Apple’s App Store with more than 32,000 ratings.

There are also eight virtual teller machines, similar in look to an ATM, in the Springfield metro area, and these allow customers to talk to a live person in a call center in Columbia.

Brattin said businesses should think of DX as a process, rather than a destination, roughly equivalent to research and development.

“If you invest a certain amount of funds and have the right people working it, good things will come out of it,” he said.

Some small businesses feel they can’t participate in DX because they can’t afford infrastructure, but there are technologies they can buy cheaply through cloud services, Brattin said.

“Invest a little of the digital transformation budget into cloud-enabling systems, and now you’re a step closer. Just build upon that,” he said.

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