Digital Transformation is a must: Transform or Die

Over the past few weeks, I attended several conferences and talks. Whether it was Digital Impact, Social Media Week or an event organised by a specific marketing technology vendor, two common themes dominated: Digital transformation, and the need to integrate to break down the silos across the organisation.

For several years now, technology experts and marketing thought leaders have been taking the podium to recommend that organisations should transform to meet the evolving demands of their customers, and that they should integrate their operations to provide a seamless customer experience. This year however, marketing leaders within brand organisation are the ones preaching how vital it is for brands to transform, presenting their own case studies and talking about their own journey.

So why this shift? What did it take for brands to become the advocates of what experts have been preaching for a long time? The reality is, there’s no escape from transformation. Whether it’s Tesco, EDF, Domino’s, or many other brands, ecommerce now makes up more than 50% of transactions. And these transactions are taking place on traditional devices like desktops but also on mobile devices, through apps. The challenge facing marketers is that their organisations are still not set up to interact with their customers seamlessly across the plethora of devices and channels they (the customers) have adopted, and unless the brands change, they will not survive, as their competition will take advantage of their latency.

The key questions that marketers are asking are, how to go about meeting these customer demands? How to make sure they are successful? There are many strategic and tactical options available to choose from, making it difficult to define a focused approach. While this is by no means a comprehensive checklist, here are some guidelines that should help you in ensuring a successful implementation of your transformation roadmap.

 

Get senior executive support to drive transformation

Transformation means change, which is usually met by strong resistance. To counter that, it’s essential to get executives to support and drive transformation initiatives.

According to a McKinsey Global Survey results (Aug 2013), the top factor that can make or break a company’s digital initiative is senior management’s interest in changing practices related to the initiative, and we are seeing more CEOs driving them (31% according to the same McKinsey study, up from 23% in 2012). Given that digital transformation is top of most CxO’s agendas*, marketers should therefore be able to secure senior executives’ support to drive successful digital transformation initiatives.

* 27% of execs rate digital transformation as “A Matter of Survival”, according to MIT Sloan Management / Capgemini, “Embracing Digital Technology”, 2013. 

 

Engage with and involve stakeholders across the organisation

Driving digital transformation within an organisation brings massive change to people’s responsibilities, how they work, the tools they use, etc… The normal response is resistance to these changes, as people fear they may be losing their jobs or control over what they do.

This can often be addressed through communication and engagement with stakeholders across the organisation. Digital transformation transcends the digital team and affects every function within the business. And who better than the subject matter experts in each area to provide input into that roadmap? Be it marketing, IT, finance, product management, customer care or any other function, It is essential that early on in the planning stages you build a cross-functional team, including the various departments within the organisation. Their role would be to provide input into the digital transformation plan, communicate back to their teams and drive implementation within their own department.

 

Be innovative and agile

Digital transformation initiatives may take a long time to implement, and success may take time to materialize. It is therefore critical that you do not fall in the trap of spending too much time planning, while the whole organisation is waiting for change to happen.

Successful digital transformation initiatives are implemented using an innovative and agile implementation approach, where you start planting the seeds for change with small successes, tackling the low-hanging fruit. This in turn will generate a vibe of excitement that the whole organisation can rally around to drive bigger change and stronger impact.

 

Try something, fail fast and move forward

Along those same lines, and as organisations have to be agile in the constantly evolving digital landscape, waiting for the perfect solution to be ready is not an option. The key to success is to adopt lean start-up thinking, where organisations test-drive ideas, develop iteratively, learn, then adapt their solution, as they progress with their digital transformation journey.

 

It’s about internal operations too

Digital transformation is not only about customer-facing interactions and communications; it’s also about the changes required within the organisation to allow team members to be more digitally empowered and enabled. A digital transformation initiative should therefore look at the internal ways of working and identify changes needed throughout the organisation, including changes to processes and adoption of tools that will allow staff to operate more efficiently and to be more effective.

 

Don’t get distracted by the latest buzz

Buzz words are simply that… they create noise and may distract you from focusing on your key priorities. For example, in the past 12-18 months, everyone has been talking about BIG data, how to amass more information and how to get the most out of it. The problem is, these organisations weren’t even taking advantage of the “small” data they already had at hand, and here they are, rushing to invest in massive “big data” solutions, from servers to store it on (in the cloud or in house), systems to analyse it and resources to manage it. And what is happening now is a shift towards “usable” data, where organisations are using agile methodologies, grabbing the “low hanging” data to optimise the customer experience, a much more sensible approach.

The key point is, there will be a lot of noise distracting you from your key priorities. Follow the lean start-up and agile approach of quickly evaluating it through an easy to implement pilot, using minimal resources to make that evaluation, then decide if it’s worth the investment before shifting all your priorities and resources.

 

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October 14, 2014 by Adele Ghantous

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