What is digital transformation really about?
There’s been a buzz across many industries in recent years about digital transformation but for a lot of business leaders, there’s still uncertainty about what it is, what it means for them, what they need to do about it and more importantly how they go about doing it.
Technology is evolving at an increasing rate and business leaders are faced with the on-going challenges of how to make best use of new technologies to enhance and reinvent their business operations and strategies, products and services, and their culture and goals, for future growth.
In order to remain competitive and grow and evolve with ever-changing consumer expectations, it is necessary for businesses to fundamentally transform.
An even bigger challenge is understanding what ‘digital’ actually means. The word digital is overused today and means many different things. It can have a marketing focus, looking at digital marketing – emails, surveys, websites and more, and the CMO and his or her team are the experts here, with digital as the key channel. It can have a content focus, looking at the new ways of consuming content and the shift from the traditional physical media to pure streaming models. It can be technology focused, with a shift to cloud platforms away from more legacy in-house applications and services. It can also be part of the sales focus and looking at new digital revenue streams from your ecommerce channels.
Many of these what used to be new ways of working are fast becoming the norm and calling them digital now isn’t enough.
A November 2016 report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) highlighted the discrepancy in companies’ definitions of digital.
It is of course critical to have the right digital leadership in place. Executive boards are often missing someone from the technology side who has the necessary experience at the senior leadership, commercial and customer level. With digital playing such a key role across organisations now, having this digital leadership function is key. Your digital leaders need to challenge any digital inertia with authority and respect and help bring in a new element of business innovation, and work as the boards’ technology advisors and mentor. We are still in a transition period, where there is a need for roles like your Chief Digital Officer (CDO) to drive forward this change and take the lead for all things digital, but this will change and over the next 2-3 years all board members will be more digitally literate.
Everyone needs to understand the digital world going forward, it is not just the remit or responsibility of one key person. To ensure they are not left behind in the digital world, businesses need to look now at what they are doing around digital leadership, to agree on who’s responsibility it needs to be and what they are doing to attract the right talent into the business to ensure success.
Digital transformation comprises a number of key elements:
- Aligning and adapting your business operations and commercial models for the world of hyper-connectivity – always on 24×7 access to everything.
- New and more demanding customer expectations and customer experiences, driven by consumerisation. How do we use digital to drive brand awareness, gain new customers, retain existing ones and make customers want more?
In this new world, our back office business tools and processes need to integrate with each other and with the front office services seamlessly. They need to make use of the data being stored and provide new insights that you weren’t aware of before.
Putting the focus back on the customer is fundamental to your digital transformation, and improving your customer experience delivers real benefits. Satisfied customers spend more, exhibit deeper loyalty to companies, and create conditions that allow you to have lower costs and higher levels of employee engagement. Growing customer expectations for superior services continues to challenge businesses, and understanding the customers’ needs and wants has to be fundamental to our business strategies and to maintain our competitive advantage.
From recent research carried out by Salesforce, into customer service attitudes in the UK, they found that poor customer service is the single biggest reason that consumers are put off a brand – according to 73% of respondents.
From other recent surveys, three-quarters of online customers said they expected help within five minutes, have used comparison services for consumer goods, and trusted online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Technology itself is not the real disruptor or change agent. Not having the customer at the heart of your business is your biggest threat – and a this is the essence of what digital transformation is.