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Standing on the shoulders of giants: Advice for conducting a successful digital transformation

Posted May 30, 2019
Businessman gets a better view on the Ladder

By: Mary Wardley, Vice President, Customer Care and CRM, IDC

Digital transformation has captured the imagination of organizations — and with good reason. The rate of change, the introduction of exciting technologies, and the emergence of radically new business models enabled by technology have propelled both consumers and organizations into what was merely a vision of a futuristic world into reality.

Self-driving cars and AI-driven images such as those of Salvador Dali are just two of the many exciting examples of what we now find commonplace in our blended world. And, why shouldn’t I be able to pick my favorite individual from history — maybe Elvis — to be my personal financial counselor? In a customer-centric world, personalizing the experience is meaningful and differentiating.

Customer experience (CX) is one of the leading justifications for organizations to embark on a digital transformation journey. Historically, customer relation management (CRM) served as the launchpad for technology to get closer to the customer. It was here that email response systems, chat products, SMS text messages, and even fax found initial homes in an organization.

This remains true today. Digital transformation is the means to reinvent the organization’s technology structure to modernize, upgrade, standardize, and embed digital capabilities that enable them to reach new markets, but the proof point is realized in the point of contact — the customer experience.

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Digital transformation: CX-driven use cases

While the potential outcomes of digital transformation for CX initiatives are compelling — new revenue streams, increased customer loyalty, innovative interaction models — the road to completion can be complicated without thoughtful goal setting, planning, prioritization, timelines and communicated expectations. The graphic below is a high-level view of the potential use cases outlined by IDC, intended to spur discussion and help get all participants ‘on the same page.’ Organizations can use this to help prioritize their goals in direction to ensure a higher level of success.

Use cases can be thought of as specific projects employing line-of-business and IT resources including hardware, software, and IT services. The use cases identified in the customer experience digital transformation taxonomy are those initiatives or projects that are of the most immediate interest to organizations and will be funded and implemented in the next one to three years.

Lessons from the field

Fortunately, significant digital transformation for CX projects has been undertaken and completed, affording us an opportunity to learn from the individuals involved in the initiatives. These leaders faced more than just a technology implementation — they also faced far-reaching go-to-market, business-process, and people-impacting change.

How did they do it and what can we learn from them? When asked what lessons these CIO heads, LOB leaders, and external partners had to share with others beginning this journey, they offered three key pieces of sage advice.

1: Be the Cat Herder

Multiple groups within an organization can be involved in projects related to the customer. However, not all groups are necessarily working together cohesively. For example, marketing teams are focused on awareness and lead generation campaigns, the customer officer team is responsible for the overall experience and the customer success team provides the tactical execution — but are all these groups collaborating? Who has the authority?

One large retail organization with multiple brands felt this pain when it embarked on redefining its overall customer experience through digital transformation while trying to maintain individual brand awareness. The CMO of the largest brand realized that each brand owner, CX lead and tactical group needed to work in concert. Enlisting the help and experience of the CIO, they were able to pull together a cross-organizational team to outline the overall direction. In this case, while the marketing and brand groups knew the direction they wanted to move in, they needed the guidance of IT. Working together with shared authority resulted in a successful outcome for all involved. As the CMO said, “Everyone came away learning something.”

2: Convince internal stakeholders it was their idea

There is perhaps no better selling technique than showing the success of a peer. This was the experience for the CIO of a large decentralized organization with over 600 IT employees. When the CIO first joined the organization, the IT foundation was not at a state to support the business in the digital economy. The CIO set about consolidating the platforms and standardizing on core tools. From there he was able to use that foundation to incubate innovative products, using his team’s example to persuade other business units.

In the words of the CIO, “Half of the job is influencing.” His success relied on taking small proofs of concept and building on them with each business unit. They implement, gain success, and then that serves as the next example to “sell” the idea to the other business units. The CIO describes it as “making an infusion” of the direction into the organization.

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Preparing for the digital customer experience: Asking the right questions to turbo-charge digital transformation

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3: Leave behind functionality that doesn’t serve you

According to a leading CRM development firm specializing in digital transformation, accurately scoping the project is a chronic hurdle to overcome with clients. With its comprehensive impact on the organization, clients “underestimate the complexity” of the project and bring over too much of their existing functionality, according to the firm.

Co-ownership needs to be established early and organizations need to take an active role in identifying the project’s earliest needs and the requirements. The organization will be responsible for maintaining and evolving the project, so an engaged partnership is fundamental. Clients need to be part of the “communication flow, the staff needs to be available and they need to attend meetings.” Digital transformation is not something that is “done” to an organization. It is part of its operating structure and needs to be evolved.

The consumer landscape is evolving, and the best companies are employing digital technologies to both differentiate themselves from their competitors and stay on par with their customers. The road to digital transformation is one that requires internal collaboration, a mind-set for reinvention — not merely a “lift and shift” — and a focus on iteration.

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