As we pass the halfway mark of this series it is a good time to ask the question about when and how?
If you have read the previous parts of the series, I hope you agree by now that digital transformation is inevitable and necessary, but you may be unsure of the urgency. Maybe sales are strong, your customers are happy, your employees are productive, and now doesn’t seem like the time to embark on a resource-intensive project that will shake up your operations.
There are a few reasons to embrace the digital future sooner rather than later.
Engaged employees. Disengaged employees costs world wide economies trillions of rands each year. Digital businesses empower employees through transparency, learning opportunities, and open communication. By providing employees with data (something 90% of employees want, according to a recent survey in the MIT Sloan Management Review), businesses can track and improve their performance. It has been proven that engaged employees have a direct impact on your revenue. If you are in business to make money, surely you would want to increase your revenue right? Start with your employee engagement.
Increased profits. Businesses can expect to grow revenues by 23% as a result of adopting digital strategies like using data to make smart decisions and training employees in emerging technologies. Not only are you driving revenue up, but also driving costs down by digitising processes, operational automation, data driven decisions and the list just goes on.
Greater resilience. New technologies will continue to shake up customer expectations and processes. A digital business builds resilience by replacing rigid structures and inflexible processes with a workplace culture and infrastructure that can respond and adapt to new demands. This is especially true if you are a B2C business. Customer expectations are growing as fast as technology. In fact I will go so far and say that in some cases consumer expectations grow faster than technology which is the very reason for the technology growth in the first place. Technology growth exists to satisfy the crazy fast growing needs of the consumer.
Avoiding the competency trap. Many companies assume that their current success (and the methods that enable it) will continue indefinitely. Then they end up scrambling to adapt when it stops working. You’ll have to change eventually, and waiting until you have to, means you’ll be making decisions for short-term survival rather than long-term growth. You will be playing catch up for a while, that will change to hanging on for dear life and soon the crash will hit you like a fast moving train. You could have been on the train had you acted early enough.
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So with 2019 being the year it is meant to be – a massive focus on our customer’s experiences and building stronger and much deeper connections with our customers. Our enterprise’s ability to deliver (and compete) on customer experience hinges on whether our digital transformation strategy is on par with where it needs to be.
A frightening realisation that crossed my mind was that even though executives understand digital’s potential to transform how businesses create and deliver customer value, most do not have the required skills or talent to carry out this transformation or drive the process and that only a handful of leaders have confidence in their technologies to execute their digital strategy.
To some executives digital transformation is a threat to their careers and instead of embracing this much required change, they navigate around it. It is 100% obvious that very large percentages of sales in the future will come from digital sources which will be devastating or even detrimental to companies that do not have the digital processes and strategies in place to capitalise on those opportunities.
Clearly, many companies are failing to face the digital transformation imperative. How can they resolve this?
In my opinion, there are three stages of transformation that leads to a digital first organisation.
Phase 1 | People
As discussed in the previous parts of this series, successful digital transformation is really all about people.
Before your organisation can digitise, your people has to undergo massive transformation. I am talking about a massive paradigm shift in the way people perceive work. Change at this level is hard. I learnt this the hardest of ways. I realised that you get those that change, and that you need to get rid of those that cannot change. People often need to go through a personal risk assessment before they commit to helping you change the organisation. They need to know how the changes will affect them. They worry about whether they’ll be able to perform — and some will lose confidence and wonder if they should start looking for a different employer.
So to start, you need clarity on the role, or roles, people will play in the process.
Who should be involved?
Who’s in charge?
Who owns the transformation?
Who needs to work better together to make digital a new way of life?
So many firms with a mature digital strategy see competing departments wanting to own digital as the most significant barrier to effective digital transformation in their organisation.
Do you have the right people with the right skill sets? Will you need to outsource? Can you build a transformation engine fast enough, or would bringing in outside experts speed things up?
Address these aspects first and then clearly define roles. Without the right people and the right alignment, digital transformation will remain just one more siloed initiative.
Phase 2 | Technology
Today’s products are really about product plus experience, which naturally leads to these questions:
What impact will digital transformation have on your product and the experience around it?
How is your product going to evolve because of this, and most importantly, the user experience?
After you get the people factor right, your next focus should be on the technology needed to support the kind of digital transformation that improves customer experience. While 89% of enterprises are investing in tools and technology to improve their customer experience initiatives, too few are relying on real-time data to inform decisions. Today’s customers expect a hyper-personalised experience, and to truly provide that, you need a 360-degree view of the customer.
Comprehensive customer experience data platforms offer a secure, singular view of the customer in real time. They provide users with insights into every customer interaction across every touchpoint so customer experiences can be truly personalised. This is a critical aspect of digital transformation.
Next, how will you measure success?
Digital transformation requires significant investment in people, processes and technology, so how will you measure your return? Is revenue the only measure? Or might decreasing the cost of customer acquisition, fulfilment and store investments with more e-commerce gauge the value of digital transformation to your enterprise?
It should be noted that the most important performance metric is the impact on customer experience — which translates into increased retention and revenue. Brand value and Net Promoter Score can also be non-revenue and non-cost vital metrics to track performance.
Phase 3 | Processes
The obvious path is to have IT drive digital transformation in cooperation with marketing. But keep in mind that the impact on customer experience should drive decisions around your process.
Digital transformation must happen across the enterprise, but it doesn’t have to happen all at once. Start where it will make the greatest impact coupled with a high probability of success (and, often, with the lowest risk to negatively affecting customer experience). Should it be internal or external? Online only? Online and in store?And which areas of the business will undergo transformation first?
Remember, where you start will have a ripple effect on the entire enterprise and a correlating impact on customer experience. Quick, small successes are infinitely better than a grandiose strategy with a high degree of risk that takes forever to implement. For example, bots are still in their infancy, yet some enterprises are deploying them because of the promise they offer to cut customer service costs and provide faster response times.
The process you use to drive digital transformation must be carefully balanced with the maturity of the technologies you’re implementing, the ability of your people to implement them and the patience and tolerance levels of customers to experience them. Your process may not be IT and marketing first — it might be IT and customer service in conjunction with marketing. It might be IT and logistics and fulfilment. Customise a process that truly makes sense for your enterprise. It doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s path, it just has to work for you and your particular needs and goals.
Keep Moving Forward
Digital capabilities such as e-commerce, websites, mobile apps, email marketing and social media will fall short if the enterprise is not able to hyper-personalise customer experience and meet the customer in the moment, when and where they choose to engage. Implement the three Phases of digital transformation and you will successfully bring your enterprise into the Digital Age and position your business to compete on customer experience.
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Digital transformation refers to the adoption of digital processes and tools to achieve strategic business goals and automate operational processes. It’s a complex, multifaceted process that represents a massive cultural shift in the workplace and impacts every part of an organisation.