The topic of digital transformation has overtaken executive meetings and boardrooms, and for good reason. According to Gartner, 56% of CEOs in a recent study found that their digital strategy improved profits.
Despite the opportunity digital transformation provides, taking the plunge can be daunting. With so many components, it’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint where to start. Here are three things I encourage companies across industries to consider when embarking on a digital transformation journey that will ultimately help position them for success:
Customer experience first, last, and always
One of the most common misconceptions around digital transformation is that technology takes away from the number one focus: the customer. This couldn’t be further from the truth – and whether you call this step one, tip one, or check one, a focus on the customer is usually the most important part of any transformation effort. In fact, unsuccessful ventures into the digital world can often be mapped back to this misconception.
When we talk about digital transformation, it should always be in the context of becoming more customer-centric in today’s digital world, period. This doesn’t always mean that the customer will necessarily see or feel a change directly. Yet, whether it is in the form of new products, new delivery mechanisms, or new internal processes that help products and platforms communicate with one another behind the scenes, the customer will, in fact, have an improved product or service experience. Even if your organization doesn’t sell directly to customers, or meet face-to-face with them, customers and end users still need to be at the heart of your efforts.
Products, services, or both?
Once customer centricity has been established as the driver of every decision, the focus turns to the company or organization. With the understanding that digital efforts are key to improved customer experience, companies must then understand how today’s customers (both new and existing) want to interact with you. This is an ongoing process. As we’ve seen in industries such as retail, financial, and ecommerce, consumer needs and expectations are always in flux—in part, as they react to emerging technologies and innovations—and must be constantly monitored and catered to.
As organizations plan for transformation, it’s important that they define the actual goals of the transformation: Are they working toward improving product or service offerings or how they deliver those products or services? Not only does the answer help affirm that the decision to undertake a digital transformation strategy is the right one, but it also ensures that everyone in the organization — from management, to leadership, to the product team in the trenches — is aligned and out to achieve the same customer-centric goal.
Who will you be in tomorrow’s marketplace?
For many organizations, this third consideration goes hand-in-hand with the first two, but you’d be surprised how often companies skip over the understanding of digital transformation before building a strategy around it. Companies must ask themselves who they intend to be in the marketplace as its dynamics continue to change.
One answer might be “The company we are today, but better and with revised focus.” While this can be extremely successful, it’s not always as simple as you may think getting there, especially for established brands with long-term industry success. If the 2.0 version of your current business requires faster speed to market, agility with service offerings, and more customer-centric delivery, two things are likely going to happen: Your products may not look the same; and how you service them likely will be different.
While considering the full range of goals and ramifications of change takes courage and muscle, invest the time and effort to do so up front to make sure that your strategy fits the broader context of the industry, today and tomorrow. It can be the difference between succeeding and failing.
Before coming to Duck Creek, I spent years in both financial tech and ecommerce, watching disruption scenarios play out. Businesses have often had to change more than they might have believed. The same holds true across industries. You’ll likely have to take risks you’re not comfortable with, or make difficult, holistic changes to business operations. But acknowledging these realities and acting on them now is far better than doing nothing at all.
Meaningful transformation requires broad, deep, and multilayered thinking and strategies, as well as a commitment to constant change at increasing speed. But if companies start by boiling down their focus to a few simple questions, it becomes clear that the customer is at the heart of every decision.
Fil Firmani is Vice President of Product Management, Digital and OnDemand SaaS Solution, at Duck Creek Technologies.