Paving the Road to Digital Transformation

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Jackson Shaw


I recently had an “a-ha” moment when I realized I had just experienced digital transformation in practice. It happened while I was driving from Los Angeles to Ottawa – a distance of just about 3,100 miles. As with any road trip, refueling your car is a necessity and, as you can imagine, I was stopping at the gas station a couple times a day on my way to Ottawa.

I’ve been a long-time customer of a particular gasoline/petrol vendor as I have one of their credit cards and am a member of their loyalty program. At one of my first gas station stops along the interstate, my favorite provider wasn’t available, so I pulled into an ExxonMobil gas station. As I proceeded to fill up my tank, an advert for a gas payment app caught my eye:

I noticed the app—known as Speedpass+—supported Apple Pay, so I downloaded it. To my surprise, I was able to authorize the transaction from my smartphone, choose my pump, and fill up my car – all within a matter of seconds. Not once during this transaction did I take out my wallet for a credit card or cash. 

Aside from this being a “cool” app, what was my “a-ha” moment? And more importantly, what’s the connection to digital transformation?

Let me start with a definition: digital transformation is all about embracing and adopting the latest digital technical innovations, with the ultimate goal of driving revenue. You’d have to be a hermit to be unaware of the digital innovations happening all around us. Long gone are the days when we anxiously wait for the latest IBM mainframe or the newest PC to enable new business initiatives. Today, the cloud, advances in mobile computing, and the growing use of these technological innovations are driving our respective customers and end-users to adopt these innovations faster than even our companies can. The digital transformation also gives end-users and customers a more direct connection with a company that had previously been impossible.

The Rise of Mobile Payment Apps

One of the precepts of digital transformation is generating top-line revenue for the company. This was the “a-ha” moment for me. I literally said to myself, “Wow, this app is so cool and it uses Apple Pay, so I’m going to switch to ExxonMobil and use them from now on.” It’s no surprise that mobile payment apps are growing in popularity. A recent study from eMarketer forecasts that in the U.S., mobile payments will triple within the next year as approximately 37.5 million people will make use of the technology.

But what about security? One of my biggest concerns about using my credit card at gas stations is one of credit card fraud as a result of credit card skimming—when crooks install a small device to physically scan and store credit card data from the magnetic stripe. Personally, I’ve had to replace my credit card twice in the last six months so any opportunity to avoid swiping my card is welcome in my book.

While still in their infancy, payment apps are constantly iterating on ways to enhance their security features. According to Security Intelligence, popular mobile payment app Venmo now includes multi-factor authentication, so that if a sign-in attempt is made from a phone or browser that is not already linked to a user’s Venmo account, the company sends out an alert with a six-digit text code to the primary mobile number.

The fact that I was now relying on my mobile device’s security features coupled with those of Apple Pay – versus a traditional credit card reader – tells me the digital transformation is in full force.  

Embracing the digital age with BYOD

Another one of digital transformation’s core tenets is “bring your own device,” which ExxonMobil embraced by implementing a hassle-free, mobile method of payment. Rather than retrofit all ExxonMobil pumps with NFC readers, the company built an app that enabled more than 6,000 stations to immediately accept payment via their Speedpass+ app. By using the phone’s GPS, the app automatically recognizes which station you are at and easily allows you to pick the pump you want to authorize.

Again, this is but one great example of embracing today’s digital transformation through BYOD.

The human element of digital transformation

Speaking from the customer’s perspective, I have a direct interaction with ExxonMobil now. Rather than using a credit card to pay for my purchase, I’m using the Speedpass+ application. On top of this, the application offers customers the ability to provide station feedback directly from the app. Instead of assuming the status quo as a faceless corporation, I’m not only able to, but encouraged to provide direct feedback to ExxonMobil about any station that I visit.

This experience showed me that the digital transformation has arrived and organizations are embracing the latest innovations to provide customers with anytime, anywhere, any way access. Now, ExxonMobil has a new customer and a new revenue stream: me.

About the Author: Currently the senior director of Product Management for Dell Security, Jackson Shaw has been involved with directory, meta-directory and security initiatives for 25 years. He has spoken at various industry events and writes a popular identity management blog. Jackson oversees product direction, strategy and go-to-market activities for Dell’s suite of identity and access management products.

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