MARKET | Nov 28, 2019

The culture of data and the future of our projects

How to produce innovation initiatives which can transform not just the business, but the future of all of us.

We have been talking about it for years, yet systematically, every time we approach a new job, a new project, a new contract, a new customer, someone, sooner or later, when faced with a proposal for change or innovation, in whatever business context, says the fateful phrase: “It cannot be done, but the problem is not technical (or organizational, of money, time, or resources), the problem is cultural”.

When someone, instead of talking about organizational difficulties, or about resources or timing, brings up the cultural issue, I personally would always answer: so what?

Mind you, the concept of culture is a complex one and refers to circumstances which stem from the individual – from his/her own identity and ability, evolution, pride and sense of self and a thousand other things – and which extends to the entire community of which he/she is part, but if someone reacts to the idea of change by raising the paddle on the “no” side and justifying the choice with the cultural attribute – a bit like projects that always fail due to lack of communication – it is clear that what is missing in the first place is the sense of “tomorrow”. And this is even more true when we talk about technology, which by its very nature evolves (better and faster) in a favorable cultural context and which triggers the evolvement of the culture it feeds on.

Understand the big picture

There are many operational ways to obtain the famous map of where we stand and where we are going, there are consolidated Business Analysis frameworks which allow us to identify the needs of the organization, to define the strategy of change and the Solution Scope, but if we are really interested in knowing what the project we started will become, we should all strive to broaden our horizons, to have new ideas and not just to re-engineer the processes. We should always bear in mind that the context in which we operate is primarily a digital context; that our decisions are based on information and that information – and our own imagination – feeds on data. And the value of the data depends on how much we are willing to invest in order to be ready to receive inputs that allow us to make the right decisions, not only for the business, but for the future of all of us.

It has to be said that some already do so.

The culture of digital payments: the Telepass case

With a view to becoming the leading player for mobility in Italy, evolving its identity from a specialist in the automatic collection of motorway tolls to a provider of mobility services, Telepass has begun its journey towards digitization, overcoming the adoption of a different technological model in favor of a new interpretation of its business model, starting with the Telepass Pay onboarding project which has led to doubling registrations in one year. The project was created, in fact, as a service platform to respond on the one hand to the needs which arise at different times of mobility – from the payment of parking fees to ferry boarding, from motor third party insurance payments to parking in blue line (paying) spaces, up to refueling – and on the other in response to the scenarios of change introduced by the 2019 European Directive 520, which, in fact, has opened the door to new operators in a market which up to now belonged exclusively to Telepass.

But it is not possible to become the top mobility player in Italy without knowing what one’s users are like – without an accurate reading of the aggregate data of the latter – and without having a clear culture of digital payments in our country.

Over the last fifteen years, the number of digital payments per capita in Italy has increased significantly, but the number in other European countries has also increased at the same rate. Our gap with them has remained almost unchanged. In 2017, annual per capita payments with cards were 42 in Italy compared with 120 at European level. Whatever product one wishes to activate in this scenario must therefore necessarily possess a series of characteristics which allow overcoming the atavistic and cultural preference for cash of a significant part of users (which remains several percentage points higher than in our competitor countries).

However, developing a product with such specifications is a necessary but not sufficient condition: it is then necessary to ensure, through correct communication, that the consumer should perceive its value thanks to a Social CRM strategy, as Telepass has done, by transforming itself from an abstract entity associated with the unpleasant ritual of motorway tolls into a talkable brand, which dialogues with its most digitally active customers practically in real time. The Facebook page of Telepass has about 35,000 users: a community which asks for information, makes complaints, posts advice, while the company responds to direct requests and stimulates discussion and involvement, whilst simultaneously trying to attract new talents and to develop new products through a call to action.

And where until yesterday our senses associated the sign with a yellow background to entering motorway tollbooths with a simple and easy access, today the same logo expresses both the will to continue along the digital path undertaken and the curiosity to find out what our innovation project will become tomorrow.