Successful digital transformation is more than IT

15th Jul 2019

70% of digital transformations fail. Fact! So, what’s going wrong? Surely with over 7,000 marketing technologies at your fingertips, it’s just a case of plugging in the right ones?

This is one of the biggest common mistakes that organisations make. Digital transformation is often undertaken under the misguided conception that a technology investment equals transformation. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Simply investing in technology won’t transform your business, it’s about so much more. Here’s why.

Competitive advantage lies in sustained customer-centricity, not in the technology itself. This may seem a counter-intuitive admission coming from a business that has built its reputation in the technology sphere but, too often, we see clients commit to big budget technology overhauls, without ensuring the process and structures are in place to ensure they make the most of this investment.

Customer experience has to lie at the heart of everything a business does, particularly in an era where consumers are becoming less loyal to brands, instead, buying into service. This trend is seen in our sister agency Wunderman Thompson Commerce’s new Future Shopper research where 91% of consumers want the item they are looking for to be in stock right now and 84% are looking for speed of delivery. The way Gen Z consumers are searching for inspiration is also changing, with only 34% going to branded sites but almost half (49%) finding inspiration through social media platforms.

Shoppers are also more digitally demanding, with 43% more likely to buy from digitally innovative brands and 70% wanting free samples based on their purchase history. The experience of shopping adds up to far more than the purchase itself. To serve this evolving consumer, businesses need to overhaul their offering to have a better view of the whole customer journey - which often starts from somewhere other than your own website - through to checkout and even delivery and returns.

In the launch episode of our new podcast, “The Experience Makers” we talk about the need to “Get platformed or Die Trying”. Becoming a platform business is about delivering on that customer experience promise and taking a holistic view of the digital offering, not just individual components. Traditionally, platform referred to the technology itself, but today platform really refers to an ecosystem or operating model in which producers and consumers exchange value in order to do business together - bringing together supply and demand and enabling commerce between. Working this way requires a mindset shift, not just a technology investment.

This mindset shift can be far more difficult to achieve than actually making the technology investment.  As a consequence, the technology becomes the familiar or comfortable part of the entire journey and, too often, the less comfortable aspects of change management around people and process fall by the wayside. To ensure that customer-centricity remains the core objective, all of this must be done in the context of the customer journey.

From first touchpoint to checkout, what will your customer need and expect and what are the magic moments that will make the experience memorable? Then you’ve got to work out what the capabilities are that you’ll need to deliver on this customer journey. It’s only then that you can really align technology, people and process to achieve the same goal and avoid a mish mash of different, conflicting tech solutions that fragment the customer experience.

At heart, digital transformation is a change management programme. Just like having children, it’s something that you constantly have to adapt to. Except in this scenario there aren’t just two parents involved but multiple stakeholders; some with a legacy, some new players and some who really don’t want things to change at all. The first task is to figure out who’s in it for the long term.

Then begins the journey to educate, demonstrate benefit and make all of this simple and seamless. Ultimately, change won’t happen until people realise the pain they are in, see a clear path to the promised land and a clear plan to get there.

Before embarking on a digital transformation project, be sure you’ve anticipated the potential impact and disruption and have a plan to manage that. Success isn’t measured by delivery but by the impact of enablement and adoption within and throughout organisations. You need to consider what the business will look like in terms of operations 101 days after release. You’ll have all this new capability but who’s going to make it happen and how will they do that? The key is to plan the operating model and enablement and then build the tech to realise this.

This is all in the context of consumer behaviour changing to be service-first. A few years ago it would be inconceivable to get in a car with a stranger, or stay in a stranger’s home. However, this is the new norm and consumers have confidence in using these platforms and trust in their ability to deliver on their experience.

As fast as consumer behaviour is changing, technology is changing even faster. What isn’t changing fast enough is the organisational structures to support this. However, without this revolution from within, brands and businesses cannot deliver on the promise of truly exceptional customer experience.


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Thanh Pham - CEO of Saigon Technology
By thanh.pham
23rd Apr 2020 10:06

Totally agree!
Running three digital transformation consultancy firms in Australia, Singapore and Vietnam, I believe that only 20-30% is about IT development, 70-80% is belong to strategic planning, business analysis and operation planning!

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