Digital transformation deserves better than a buzzword and a marketing concept...
It is often associated with long, expensive and hazardous projects led by big consultancy firms, as well as expensive and (vastly) under-utilised technology. It should not be so.
I have helped deliver digital transformations fast and with a limited cost. I am pleased to share practical tips from 10 years hands-on experience with international companies, so that your company too can thrive in the digital world.
Tip #1: understanding the digital ethos
The irony in the digital world is that we, people, live and breathe digital in our everyday lives, when we shop online, exchange with friends and family on Facebook, check in on our smartphones, pay our taxes online… However, understanding the implications of how companies can grow in our everyday digital reality is clearly a different challenge when we put our corporate hat on.
The digital ethos is about:
nurturing your customers’ satisfaction, by delivering a seamless experience and active communication with them.
executing flawlessly on your brand promises.
The digital ethos is also about constant improvement, learning and outward looking, to keep up with a fast changing market.
Tip #2: digital transformation is all about the customer
I disagree with the idea that loyalty has gone.
Indeed the success of the GAFA is a story of strong loyalty driven by remarkable products:
Google as a search engine dominates as it is simply the most relevant and constantly tests and invests to stay so.
Amazon got me in because of their wide inventory, perfect delivery and impressive customer service.
Customers are loyal to those companies because they trust them. The improvements brought by those companies are based on a systematic test and learn approach, which is a form of automatic listening to the customers even without them noticing.
The market research I did for my customers consistently showed me that branded terms drive a clear majority of the search traffic in most verticals. Customers care very much about Brands, and traditional advertising (TV, radio…) is still very powerful.
However, to be relevant, Brands have to ensure that they keep their customers satisfied, by addressing any pain points, poor execution or bad customer service experience.
The customer feedback is also a priceless opportunity to improve their offering and innovate relevantly: the customer is the real asset for most Brands, shame that so few companies have customer KPIs in their CEO scorecard or annual report.
Tip #3: digital transformation is all about the staff
Can you name a great Brand with poor staff morale? You cannot sustain a successful business if you don’t build a strong team who feel proud of their company, are strong advocates, and are ready to work beyond 9 to 5 on projects which they are excited about. Your staff also need to be genuine customers of the company (don’t force them), providing them with this healthy external view of their own company.
It is also a great time to fully recognise the value of the operation and customer service staff:
they are the face of the company and have a decisive influence on the customer perception.
they are the eyes and ears of the company and can provide some essential feedback.
The operation staff understand the details of how the products and services are delivered and will have a critical input in opportunities to improve the service more relevantly than any external organisation consultancy firm. They need to be nurtured and engaged.
The staff culture will bring you the digital ethos. You might still need to complement your core team with digital talent, or coach your team how to do digital by bringing interim staff to develop the process and transfer the skills.
Tip #4: a digital transformation is data driven
Every sperm is sacred laughed Monty Python.
In digital, so is every interaction and every item of spend as they form the basis of actionable insights to make better decisions across the company: how can we drive retention, how can we increase satisfaction, where can we invest profitably, which are the pain points we need to address, where should we focus our attention?
The issue is that before you know it, you can be drowning in data. This is one of the biggest challenge companies face: how to effectively “gold pan” your digital data? To solve it, you need to combine 3 skills which don’t come together often:
business acumen (you need to understand what the business is about as well the economics of revenues and costs by product, customer and channel).
digital proficiency (understand the digital levers and prioritise them based on the former).
data wizardry (how to quickly and then consistently provide the right information to execute the key processes).
This is very much my speciality, passion and business; and I am really proud to have seen businesses do a fast turn again whilst cutting on their marketing addictions, by focusing on those areas that mattered.
Tip #5: a digital transformation is all about the culture
Combine the previous tips, and you start getting the picture of what a digitally transformed company looks like. They are:
customer-centric as opposed to inward looking.
fact based rather than opinion based (let alone hipo Highest Income Person Opinion based).
information is shared and connected rather than standing in silos.
they favour collective intelligence rather than ego.
It is a strong team culture where the energy is focused on collectively beating the outside competition.
Tip #6: it starts from the top
The digital transformation needs to touch all the parts of the organisation, cut across silos and foster a sharing culture. It cannot just happen or be contained to a specific team or department.
No digital transformation can happen unless they are sponsored by the CEO, and the C suite embraces the digital ethos: the C suite creates the cohesion by setting a compelling vision, and embodies the company values by leading by example.
Tip #7: it is not about technology, even less about money
Obviously, having modern tools such as analytics, CRM tools, ability to gather customer feedback and act on it, investing effectively in marketing is important, and technology can support companies execution very effectively.
However, none of the internet stars was ever created by hiring hundreds of big 6 consultants, or splashing money on expensive technology: digital transformation projects relying on technological promises will fail more often than not.
The focus on technology misses the digital ethos and culture dimension, they move the focus away from daily execution and absorb precious management and staff bandwidth: very often, process improvement generates better benefits than new developments.
Technology led projects also pay themselves by reducing staff, sometimes at the detriment of customer service or operational excellence.
Money is even more questionable as the technology is increasingly cheap as it evolves very fast: investing a lot in a tool which can be obsolete by the time it is implemented is not always very effective.
Tip #8: there is no silver bullet
Companies are bombarded by the latest tool which can turn around the business in the blink of an eye: I have got news for you, there is no magic wand or silver bullet.
You as management of the business and only you own the future success of the company, by proper planning and mobilising your workforce. We can help you there, using simple but effective audit and planning methods to identify your key areas of focus, and developing effective plans and processes accordingly.
This is really my business: help businesses see the wood for the tree, and bring people together around a compelling project. More Dumbledore than Harry Potter, really.
Tip #9: you need to focus on what you are best at, and work with trusted partners
There are very few pure digital or technological companies. Whether you are a travel agent, an airline, a retailer or a law firm, your company has a clear product and services proposition, and customers will keep on working with you based on the quality and consistency of those products and services, and how well you treat them. Period.
In a fast changing and highly technical data and digital world, it is hard to hire and retain individuals and build strong teams from scratch. Competition is high, and you also need to give their fair share of daily challenge to individual who are motivated by problem solving.
It is also very difficult to build a pragmatic but effective digital architecture to support your business. The good news is that we can help you on both aspects, recommending and implementing simple, effective tools which will not break the bank but deliver high value. We also train your people to look at the data they need to constantly improve the company performance.
Tip #10: it is beautifully simple
You just realise that digital transformation is a new name for business re-engineering, or no more than a reformulation on how best to create a business for the long term.
It is about developing a compelling customer proposition, focusing on the execution and customer service, communicating effectively (Brand is really the formulation of the company proposition), underpinned by a great company culture based on facts, trust and accountability.
Having done this a few times now for small, medium and big companies, I will be delighted to help your business thrive.
I cannot recommend enough the read of the attached article: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/the-ten-deadly-mistakes-of-wanna-dots. What is still baffling me is how fresh and accurate it is despite dating back to … 2001, yes, that’s right, 16 years ago and counting.
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