Well over a year on from my first post on Digital Transformation, I’ve read a flurry of articles on the subject, discussed at length the trends and yet the reoccurring patterns still manage to harbour progress for many (whether we like to admit it or not!).
Instead of penning the woes which tend to echo for many across the globe, I thought it would be worth getting down the top three critical shifts I believe all businesses, large and small, private or public must make to get serious about Digital Transformation and clearly sighted on the 2020 agenda.
Be honest with employees
Is honesty the best policy when it comes to digital? ‘Abso-friggin-lutely’ - since when did plotting a digital strategy become a need to know dossier for only the ‘chosen ones’?! Yes, OK we all get the competitive advantage slant to achieving your ‘rabbit out of a hat’ moment, but this could be doing more to prevent your strategy coming to fruition than you realise.
It’s time to get your employees comfortable on the subject, help them to understand ways in which digital can act as an enhancement to existing efforts and be sure to put in place a way for them to ask questions regularly. At times in our careers we’ve all felt a little uncomfortable or intimidated by new technologies, processes or even suggested outcomes - and most importantly, let’s not forget, it’s always good to talk.
The emphasis on getting company culture and mindset in gear for digital change is a frequent theme. This doesn’t happen overnight, in fact, this doesn’t just happen - it’s an always-on method for empowering your workforce to strive for better. The examples I have of employee fatigue are due to feeling ‘out of the loop’ on the digital planning and are often a result of not being better informed or consulted at any stage of the process - don’t leave your workforce sailing at rough seas to a promised land they don’t believe exists.
Take Your Data Seriously
The rumour that for years your IT systems have been processing and (likely) stockpiling data has, until only very recently, crossed your mind...Ah yes, GDPR that’s the one - the compliance prompt that got the data conversations happening in board rooms across the globe, in what was perhaps a first for many.
In this case, I’m assuming a watertight approach when it comes to adhering to GDPR compliance and so we can move to the point as to why making the shift for taking your data seriously is of paramount importance.
‘Old habits die hard’, so goes the saying and it’s fair to say that those who will leave the competition behind will be those businesses who invest now (or will have already) to understand their customers through data and be better poised to predict demands.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to find out what data you have, where it is securely stored and how requests are routed inbound and outbound for the likes of reporting / wider business intelligence.
Invest in your own data of excellence and make this centrally visible to all in the organisation. When it comes to revising KPIs you need one version of the truth, get everyone clearly sighted on the rules of engagement and leave no room for error when adhering to guidelines and data compliance.
‘Don’t go chasing Waterfalls...’
The pitch has ended, the board are in agreement and the funds are allocated - the CEO signs on the dotted line and so it begins. For some, the IT / CTO takes the lead, for others a Programme Lead is hired in and next comes the ‘see you in 18 months’ wave into the sunset, as everyone is left in anticipation of what will be...
As time passes the wider business is left shackled to prevent straying too close to what could be deemed disruptive to the programme. Frustrations boil and morale hits the floor - budget revision after budget revision, the promise of better days seems a far distant memory.
If this sounds all too familiar then perhaps the waterfall project approach has swept up too much of the transformation ambitions in play.
I’m not going to bat on about the benefits of agile, many good examples have been shared - but what I will say is there must be a strategy in parallel to large scale transformations which focuses on how to make smaller improvements to complement the end game. Ensure resources are available and willing to support employees whose eyes and ears remain close to the customer playing back their needs day-to-day. It is this crucial play which could influence your investment, paying early dividends through the likes of retention and NPS. The alternative is to risk an even harder climb as your employees work tirelessly to convince your customers to sit patiently, left repeating the words ‘bear with us, we are working on this...’
In summary, how you choose to sight employees on the digital challenge, knowing where and how to harness owned data and ensuring more than one route for measured impact (on potentially your biggest investment risk to date) are all, in my view, fundamental to targeting a better set of outcomes. Digital Transformation is swiftly being acknowledged as a ‘must-have’ strategic pillar for hundreds of businesses globally. For many however, the question of when this day will come still remains.
>Disclaimer: All views expressed herein are solely my own.
James Coughlan is an entrepreneurial leader with a wealth of experience in digital leadership, e-commerce, end-to-end customer experience, media and content, mobile, commercial marketing and of both owning and consulting PE & VC backed startup's in the consumer technology, retail and entertainment space.
He has an exceptional track record in delivering business growth strategies through innovative digital transformation, sales, customer-centric product/brand positioning and demand generation across international markets. He has worked with organisations including HMV Retail and Soniqplay on digital transformation projects.