True Digital Transformation, still elusive to many companies

Most Companies Don’t Fully Embrace Digital Transformation

Every company, in every industry, in every geography is being impacted in some manner by Digital Transformation. Yet there are many companies who aren’t thinking about what they need to do to adapt, and those that are thinking about it, the majority aren’t thinking about the end-to-end transformation necessary to compete effectively in our digital world.

When companies think about making changes to how they work, many jump first to “What technology can we buy to fix this?”. But rarely, if ever, is slapping new technology into place the solution to a business problem. Digital Transformation is no different. That is not to say that there isn’t a technological element to the transformation, for sure there is. It’s just not the starting point. Companies also need to consider business processes and models, as well as its customers’ experience. All four elements are essential pillars of effective Digital Transformation.

The fact is, many companies miss one or two of these elements, or, they consider all four but focus on one (most commonly customer experience and/or technology), or don’t execute their transformational strategy/ies coordinating the efforts amongst the four pillars.

In this, the first of a two-part series, let’s look at what Pillar 1 – Technology Transformation  and Pillar 2 – Business Process Transformation look like.  

Pillar 1: Technology Transformation – the enabler of the other three pillars

Technology is an essential enabler. Companies that lack the right technology mix, even those with the smartest digital marketers, can face an insurmountable barrier to success. While even the best technology in the world will not create the seamless digital journeys that customers expect, but they can help in delivering them. A business’ ability to respond to shifting markets, demographics and aggressive competitors relies heavily on having, and leveraging, current and emerging digital enabling technology.

The Trifecta of Technology Transformation

Technology is more than code and servers. There is a people and process factor, as well as the data it generates, to consider. In order to evolve and mature to meet customers’ evolving and maturing expectations companies should address the technological aspect of its digital transformation across three areas.

  1. Platforms and Systems: Understanding what makes up your Marketing Stack is the first step to maximizing its utility. From content management and marketing automation, to transaction processing, authentication, and security – knowing what systems are available, what they are capable of, and how to integrate them to maximize their value and minimize redundancies will help build and maintain an effective, scalable and flexible technology stack. This kind of martech stack is foundational to being able to handle your customer’s constantly evolving digital interactions.
  2. Processes: The systems and software that your customers depend on to interact with your business are evolving faster than most companies can keep pace with. Yet you have to keep pace, or at least try, or risk losing customers because their behaviors, devices, and/or expectations of their experience have changed but you haven’t. Companies that are successful at digital are more agile than ever before. They have processes that not just allow, but enable them to continuously develop new capabilities and deploy on an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, path. Organizations still working on a waterfall premise – where processes require weeks or months between releases for full testing and deployment – are way behind the curve, some would argue that by now these types of companies may too far behind to catch up.
  3. Big Data. Little Data. Qualitative data. Quantitative data. It all plays a role in Digital Transformation. Great digital journeys are based, at least in part, on data – primarily about the customer and your products or services. Having the right processes for collecting data, keeping it clean, making it accessible and analyzing it to generate actionable meaning is also an essential competency for digital success.

New customers with new expectations taking new journeys and paths to conversion require new technologies (or at least up to date technologies) to support them. Most companies recognize this, but all too often underestimate the degree of transformation that will be required, putting them even further behind and challenged to keep up with competitors who are supported by flexible, modern architectures.

Pillar 2: Business Process Transformation

Gone are the days of relevance for (most) pre-digital business processes. Transforming to meet the demands of today’s digital-first world requires companies to optimize their products and services for the digital world. And, by the way, adding “digital” in front of legacy team names and processes doesn’t make you, them, or your organization digital. This doesn’t mean a company has to adopt the full breadth of marketing technology out there – have you seen Scott Brinker’s 2017 Martech 5000 diagram! – but it does mean changing the way you do everything – including understanding our customers, designing and building products and services, recruiting, customer service, and performance management. The fundamental realities of marketing in a digital world require very different skills than were needed “back in the day,” and as the composition of work and skills in any team shifts substantially, it requires a re-think on how the team is structured and managed.

Many companies skip or overlook the process aspect of transformation; thinking “things will fall into place on their own”. No, they won’t. Companies have to step back and considered (or re-consider) the organization’s structure; from the CEO right down to the recent grad hire. Training and re-training is a critical success factor, as is hiring the right people, to be able to adapt and evolve so that the company can implement technologies, optimize processes, and enable continuous innovation across your digital customer journey. Getting this right is not optional, but a critical first step to customer experience success in the digital age. 

Nothing in life is fair – so do newer, younger, more agile companies that were born in the digital age have an advantage? Yes, yes they do. So, while some companies (Nike, Apple, Lego) have evolved to meet the digital demands of today, and successfully compete against competitors born in the digital age (Amazon, Zappos) others (Blockbuster, Borders Books, Xerox) failed to pivot and change, and paid the price. Waves of transformation have formed, reformed, and transformed companies and industries for hundreds of years – so those caught by “surprise” by the revolutionary impact of Digital Transformation have only themselves to blame because the they only needed to look back over history to see that it was coming.

 

 

 

 

Cathy McKnight
As a founding partner of Digital Clarity Group and leader of its enterprise consulting practice, Cathy helps organizations transform the way technology can enable business strategy and performance. In her current role, Cathy has helped dozens of companies realize their digital transformation objectives. With more than 15 years of global experience and expertise in digital partners, content management, intranets, marketing technologies and customer experience, Cathy has led strategic business transformation initiatives as well as the detailed execution of enterprise technology implementations.

Prior to DCG, Cathy served at Aon Hewitt as the Innovation Lead and a Senior Associate for the Communications Consulting Team, building an innovative Web solutions practice for the company and leading communications and organizational change initiatives. As Director, Client Services at Prescient Digital Media, Cathy led a team of consultants delivering enterprise strategies and technology and agency selection projects for an array of global clients. As Senior Communications Advisor for IBM’s Global Services division, Cathy led the overall change management strategy and messaging of IBM’s values and mission to internal IGS audiences.

With her background crossing technology, emergent business trends, and change management, Cathy focuses on working with clients to bridge leadership, business process, and technology acquisition and adoption. Cathy is a frequent speaker and workshop facilitator at numerous events around the world.
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Author: Cathy McKnight
As a founding partner of Digital Clarity Group and leader of its enterprise consulting practice, Cathy helps organizations transform the way technology can enable business strategy and performance. In her current role, Cathy has helped dozens of companies realize their digital transformation objectives. With more than 15 years of global experience and expertise in digital partners, content management, intranets, marketing technologies and customer experience, Cathy has led strategic business transformation initiatives as well as the detailed execution of enterprise technology implementations. Prior to DCG, Cathy served at Aon Hewitt as the Innovation Lead and a Senior Associate for the Communications Consulting Team, building an innovative Web solutions practice for the company and leading communications and organizational change initiatives. As Director, Client Services at Prescient Digital Media, Cathy led a team of consultants delivering enterprise strategies and technology and agency selection projects for an array of global clients. As Senior Communications Advisor for IBM’s Global Services division, Cathy led the overall change management strategy and messaging of IBM’s values and mission to internal IGS audiences. With her background crossing technology, emergent business trends, and change management, Cathy focuses on working with clients to bridge leadership, business process, and technology acquisition and adoption. Cathy is a frequent speaker and workshop facilitator at numerous events around the world.