Digital Transformation - "Go Digital or Go Bust!"
Technological advances made over the last decade have been so rapid and significant that the resultant growth is equivalent to 2000 years of progress! Scientist and Futurist Kurzweil explains this poetically in his Law of Accelerating Returns. The supersonic pace at which the technology landscape is changing has given rise to myriad problems and novel opportunities for businesses, established and fledgling alike. Today’s CIO finds himself surrounded by digital transformation roadmaps, each with the potential of making or breaking the business, thus it’s imperative that he decide fast and get it right.
What is digital transformation? Here’s what I think - Customer Centricity has finally come of age and digital transformation is the greatest testament to this ascension. Being customer-centric was earlier a choice, now it’s critical to a business’ survival. Customers are increasingly becoming ‘digitalized’ & tech-savvy, a trend that has irreversibly altered their buying behavior and brand loyalty (or the lack of it). The relentless bombardment of brand information and content on digital media in a bid to shape brand perception and influence buying decisions has exposed the new-age user to a new dilemma - the choice paralysis. The emergence of new contenders challenging established brands in the digital colosseum enables customers to take a wide-world look at all options and make an informed purchase. In such a scenario, businesses have no option but to be seen and be heard, competing hard with all the other gladiators in the digital arena.
“How do we go digital?” As a digital transformation consultant guy, I get this a lot. Every company is unique in its own way and there’s no standard answer for their
digital transformation (DX)journey. However, if there’s one cardinal question that I ask of any company wanting to go digital it’s this:
Digital is state-of-the-mind, a way of being, thinking and implementing, it involves unlearning, learning, innovating, questioning and evolving, it’s the whole shebang, you can’t be ‘partly digital’.
Therefore, the very first step in going digital is HONESTINTROSPECTION:
“Are We ready? Is the Business ready? Are the Customers ready?”
and if the answer is a yes, resounding or tentative, commit and go all in.
It’s not all rosy. I’ve been privy to many DX endeavors gone wrong and it’s been disastrous for businesses. There’s a commonality though and the good news is that there is indeed a tried and tested blue-print for executing successful DX projects. Here are my five tenets to get you started on your digital journey:
Thou shalt identify & profile primary stake holders
In the DX journey, there are four primary stake holders –
Customers/Clients, Employees, Vendors/Partners and the Business itself (processes, technology, etc). The success of any digital transformation is largely dependent on stake holder-adoption and buy-in. The implementation matures and evolves over multiple iterations with feedback from end-users. This process is empirical, holistic and purposefully detailed.
Every participant needs to be hand-held through a rigorous 3-step process:
a) Digital Activation – getting started and acquainted
b) Digital Optimization – iterating and evolving
c) Digital Transformation – reaping benefits and preparing for the next DX sprint
Thou shalt define thy business outcomes
This is comparatively easy since senior leadership almost always has a sense of purpose. Business leaders need to clearly define at least 3 measurable outcomes that they wish to accomplish by leveraging DX.
Helpful Pointer: define outcomes for the long term (3 to 5 years). 29%-30% of the Fortune 500 companies surveyed by Gartner admitted that they did not have 2year+ roadmaps for their digital journeys and greatly attributed this to the chaos they found themselves in.
Thou shalt unlearn to relearn. Thou shalt repeat
Like I mentioned earlier, DX marks a paradigm shift in the business mindset and approach. You will need to unlearn old models and discover new ones. DX will get you to where your consumer is, to close from thereon is completely up to you. An example that I can quote is of a retail chain that completely reimagined their approach to loyalty – they started rewarding consumers on the basis of brand content consumption. This resulted in unprecedented customer engagement and subsequent spike in sales.
In Data and only Data thou shalt trust
This is one of the biggest merits of DX, i.e., the returns are measurable and therefore tangible. There are a million digital suites out there and another million ways to implement them basis your industry and requirements, however, with a purist DX approach, you can rest assured that the entire endeavor will be measurable and the implementation teams can be held accountable. I’d like to add at this point that some of the best DX projects involve early failures and successful strategy pivots that invariably lead to success. Brands, big and small have emulated this and benefited from the program’s success.
Customer Satisfaction shalt be your North Star
And finally, all of the digital transformation endeavors should be measured against one important yardstick – customer satisfaction. Achieving customer centricity is at the core of any DX project and we need to constantly evaluate our progress in this regard. Thankfully, C-Sat levels can be easily measured and monitored across various mediums (online and offline) and they’ll serve as a barometer of DX success.