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Everyone’s digitally transforming their businesses… aren’t they?


By Sarah Burns, Data2Action (Apr ’19)

We frequently get asked by clients to help with their ‘digital transformation’ programmes, sometimes at the outset as they work out exactly what such a programme could or should include and some, at the point their programme is deemed to have failed.

Many start out with a strong view that to achieve future success they must ‘transform digitally’ but when we dig a little deeper and ask exactly what they mean by this they struggle to give a direct answer. Some confuse digital transformation with digitalisation. Others feel they’ll be left behind if they don’t have digital technology in their business or they feel they need such a programme as ‘everyone else’ has one, haven’t they?

Well yes, that may be the case for both points and admittedly, ‘digital transformation’ does seem to be one of the current buzz words in business with benefits to business being widely reported.

However as we explain, it’s much more than just about new technology solutions and more about a whole business transformation, a complete programme of change geared around the organisation strategy and goals and which creates a fundamental new business model. To add further clarity, we explain the difference between digitalisation which is more akin to updating existing processes with a digital solution and digital transformation which is fundamentally doing something different.

Alarmingly, whilst many seem to be undertaking digital transformation programmes, a recent survey by Forester shows the majority (over two thirds) state they had failed to realise their business objectives. Only 16% in fact claim to have realised improved performance and more importantly, sustained improved performance.

So why might this be the case? Well, our experience shows many organisations approach digital transformation on mass and very often from an internal perspective. They implement new digital technology solutions that address an internal challenge, for example, to automate processes and cut costs, or because it’s the latest technology and it’s perceived to have worked for other businesses. That may well be the case however, all businesses are different, and its important to implement change that fits each business and more importantly is aligned to outcomes to improve either products or services for customers.

Taking a more external view such as a customer led approach, is much more likely to yield greater value. We’ve experienced situations where organisations have developed a new app for their customers or implemented an online chat solution into their service proposition. Both may well be game changing developments however this will only be the case if the solutions have been created from a customer (external) perspective. Just because you have new digital technology solutions available for your customers doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll automatically see any value and hence use the new solution as you expected.

Taking an external view will ensure your customer needs and experience are carefully thought through, before deciding what new technology is right to meet their needs. Taking this approach where customers are at the heart of the solution will result in greater usage, an improved customer experience and in turn improved business results.

So, if it’s about adopting an external view and truly understanding the needs of customers, how do you go about creating a digital transformation programme and what are the core components that will achieve your digital organisational strategy and goals?

From our experience, such a significant change programme must be created, led and supported by the Leadership team, but with input from employees and customers who hold vital insight into what is working now and what needs to change. This data and insight more often than not sits within your business. Do you currently measure your customers experience, or do you measure retention rates for example, if so, then this, amongst many other sources of data and insight, will lead you to understand what and how to transform, be it a change to a product or the service you provide.

Furthermore, creating a clear company communication plan that sets out the vision for the change will engender employee buy in and trust rather than fear and resentment. Hand in hand with communicating the vision is to develop a digitally savvy work force. This may mean upskilling current employees and/ or attracting new skills into the business. And finally, equipping your digitally savvy workforce with digitally enabled tools to do their jobs, and empowering them to think and work differently from more traditional methods, all of which will create a mindset and cultural change to achieve improved and sustained performance.

To find out more about how we can help with your digital transformation please contact us at info@data2action.co.uk

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