Competing in the digital economy is no longer a choice. To remain relevant businesses need to either transform by redesigning their business models or find new markets. Change as the only constant is no longer a “catch-phrase” but the reality facing businesses today. The pressure on business owners and leaders is quick adaptability to changing environments and to be future fit.

To embark on any journey, digital or otherwise, you need to start with a plan. The plan however would differ depending on your context and your desired outcome. A good reminder of the importance of being clear on your goal and then devising a plan to reach that goal is Lewis Carroll’s fictional characters in the novel Alice in Wonderland,

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to. Alice: I don’t much care where. The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

Organisational plans or Digital Transformation Strategies will depend on the organisation’s digital development stage and/or the core nature of the business. Currently, we have many successful companies that were conceived as digital startups. Businesses like Google, Meta, and Tesla, for example, are businesses whose core businesses evolved out of customer needs that were solved with digital products. These companies have built vast digital ecosystems that are highly integrated. This type of success is made possible by excellently executed digital strategies.

For the vast majority, whose core business is delivering products or services, the organisational digital architecture looks very different. Companies are at different stages of digital implementation. What they have in common is seeing the global trend towards digitisation. Leaders see the value in competing in the digital ecosystem as a way to not only increase revenue but also remain relevant. However, research shows that many organisational approaches to the rapidly changing times generally lack clearly articulated digital transformation strategies and customer experiences (CX) strategies specifically. Tomas Chamorro-Pemuzic quantified the humongous projected investment (LINK) in digital transformation to be in the region of $6.8 trillion by 2023, despite the vagueness of ROI. Chamorro-Pemuzic also argues for the critical importance of the following essential components, “shift in mindset, culture, and talent, including upskilling and reskilling your workforce”.

In an effort to avoid lagging behind the digital revolution we often see companies launch e-commerce websites or mobile apps, investing significant resources, without a robust digital transformation strategy. As a result, many companies create digital solutions in silos with limited impact on the rest of the value chain.  The key omission for many organisations is a consideration for the end to end customer experience i.e. the experiences, seen and unseen, the customer has with every aspect of dealing with the business also spoken of as the customer journey.

To illustrate the above, imagine a brick and mortar retail store developing an e-commerce store. Now if the brick and mortar store does not have their stock control system integrated into the e-commerce store then a problem may arise when a purchase is made. A customer may purchase something on the website, only for the brand to realise that all the stock was sold in the store. This results in a negative experience for the customer, who may likely decide to purchase elsewhere. A typical reaction to this, is to store stock for each channel separately. This can lead to inefficiencies, easily resolved by an integrated stock control system.

How do organisations ensure effective use of digital technology to transform businesses?

It is important to realise that digital transformation is less about technology and more about people. Ultimately digital tools and technology are simply business enablers. They are the medium through which we solve customer problems and improve business performance. We need a plan to utilise the digital tools at our disposal to drive the overarching business strategy. 

The companies that are most successful at large scale transformations build their transformation strategy with a clear understanding of their purpose and their customer strategy. The strategy needs to be based on a set of beliefs that serves as the purpose or raison d’etre.

Digital transformation strategy should focus on 3 key areas:

  • The customer experience – How are we going to improve the way our customers engage with us
  • The employee experience – How are we going to improve our employees ways of working so that they can better serve customers
  • The business processes – How can we improve our business processes in order to better serve the customers.

DON’Ts: do not start investing in technology or digital products without understanding how your entire customer journey, business processes and employee experience will be impacted by it.

DO’s: start with defining your organisation’s purpose and define the customer experience you are aiming to create. Then map out the service blueprint (based on current processes and workflows) and you will start seeing the opportunities of improvement and be able to prioritise them easily.

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