We all receive too much junk email. But once in a great while, something hits a nerve and I open it. Last week I received one such article. The topic was “Zero-based budgeting: A return to the corporate toolbox.”  Over the course of my career, I’ve seen this tired approach make at least three rounds in financial services. But I was intrigued because expense management is baked into everything we do Nolan. And it was refreshing not to see the words digital; innovation; new operating model; customer-centric, etc., gratuitously tacked on.  So I read the article; and, to my surprise, they actually got it right.

Some people consider me a traditionalist, yet as a consultant I use my share of new-age buzzwords. It goes with the territory. But this article addressed core concepts we use in every Nolan engagement: Do only the right things (streamline and eliminate the unnecessary); do things right the first time (focus on quality); and do things at the right cost (eliminate unnecessary cost).  If you follow these principles, it is amazing how often your results will exceed expectations.  It is about the fundamentals, despite the buzzwords: Innovation is fundamentally about finding a new and better way.  Technology helps streamline and accelerate, ideally delivering a better product at a lower cost.

Though I’m not always a fan of zero-based budgeting, it is a twist on one of those core principles: Improve design or delivery, and objectively question the cost of the change.  With today’s shift towards “all things digital,” companies are reinventing processes – especially customer-facing processes – using connected technologies to provide “better, faster and cheaper” results.  But if your outcomes don’t achieve that holy trinity of continuous improvement, you are missing the fundamental objectives.  Speeding up a flawed process or business model just delivers bad results faster.

At Nolan we use our proprietary tools to help clients implement digital solutions that truly differentiate while assuring those fundamentals of improvement.  Having conducted many such projects and refining our tools along the way, we are constantly reminded of a deceptively simple message: The upsides of digital transformation are huge, and if you aren’t implementing digital strategies right now, you’re falling behind your competition. But despite the buzzwords, “going digital” doesn’t change the fundamentals of improvement: do the right things, with high quality, at the right cost.