Last week we co-hosted a breakfast for digital leaders with our technology partner, Sitecore and Nimbus Ninety, the technology and disruptive business network. Some of the best-known UK and international brands came to the table with diverse, yet similar challenges.
How do I fix a fragmented customer experience combining both legacy and new technology? How can I reinvent a product without alienating an ageing customer base? How do I continue to differentiate in an always-on online world? How do I shift from product focus to customer focus? How can I reinvent the business to work with new technology?
Sounds familiar? These are common challenges that all fall under that enormous umbrella term, digital transformation. Two years ago it was the buzzword du jour. Now people shy away from using it. According to Forbes, 84% of digital transformation projects fail. So do we avoid using the term because it tempts fate? Or is it because we fail at the outset to define the objectives, the roadmap and the KPIs by which success will be measured?
These were the questions that we set out to debate, trying to put a steer on how to define the roadmap that sets up a digital project up for success. Here are some top tips:
Don’t place all your money on big bets
The word ‘transformation’ implies a big bet, doesn’t it? If you transform something, you radically change its state. And perhaps that’s one reason why digital transformation fails; because everyone’s looking for invention or reinvention. The reality is that transformation is usually much more about renovation and innovation.
Renovation is where it starts - because we all start with something. A legacy platform, an ageing audience, a product focus. Starting with a clean sheet clearly provides an edge - you only need to witness the platform-first disruptors taking the market by storm - but most of us have baggage. This calls for renovation, more subtle platform changes, system upgrades. Then we can look at plugging innovation in. Blue sky thinking is great but make the innovation incremental, then it’s achievable. Think of it in terms of percentage change, rather than big bang. The new Tesla features around 7,000 small improvements that together constitute a big win. Start small, think big.
Know what you want to achieve and why
Sounds obvious, right? However, you’d be amazed by the conversations that still begin with the requirements for a website. Knowing what you want to achieve begins with asking what the requirements for the business are. So the fundamental question should be, what are you doing today that you want to want to do differently tomorrow. The answers that we tend to get from our clients can generally be categorised into four areas of value delivery:
- Topline revenue growth
- Brand equity
- Customer loyalty
- Internal efficiency
Define your objectives and know exactly what your KPIs are. A KPI for Facebook in the early days was to get all their users to over seven friends. A strange thought now but the theory was that if you had more than seven friends, you’d stay on Facebook. A simple, clear KPI.
Technology is just a starting point
Businesses have been transforming since business began. The difference with digital transformation is that people tend to forget the fundamental principles of transformation. A technology investment does not equal a transformation. If organisations don’t prepare to change the way that they work around the technology, it becomes an expensive cost, not an asset.
Organisations need to revisit the fundamental principles of transformation and ask themselves who needs to be able to do what to effect the desired change?
Build a roadmap
Once you’ve answered this fundamental question, you can begin to build a roadmap. When you know who needs to be able to do what, you can start thinking about which tools they’ll need and what level of data and insight they’ll require to drive the business outcomes. The roadmap is crucial because it’s your weapon against the barriers to change. It will help you to argue the case for investment. And once you’ve done that, a roadmap means that you can show people where you are going and demonstrate that path to change. If you can’t take people on the journey, you won’t change.
Be ready to adapt very quickly
Today business moves quickly and waits for no-one. Strategy lives in execution. So planning has to be done on the move. The waterfall cycles of big idea - big launch - finish are gone for good and the proof that you are on the right track lies in an MVP that is then tried, tested and improved. Agile used to be an IT process. Today it’s a marketing process and the hard work starts when the product or campaign is launched.
Sell it in at the outset and then walk the talk
A well thought-out roadmap will help you to speak the language of the Boardroom and sell your project in. A truly transformational project will require a mindset shift from the top and that’s not always easy, but it’s critical. One breakfast attendee explained why his kids spend too much time on their devices. He asks them to put them to one side - go and do something else for a couple of hours. Then they find him on his phone. And guess what - it’s not working. You have to get C-Suite buy in and they have to walk the talk.
I hope this resonates with you? We were lucky to have this insightful discussion over eggs benedict and coffee overlooking the Thames and Tower Bridge. But we’re adaptable! We can come to your office - or you can come to ours - for a half day workshop that will help you figure out what your roadmap should look like. Just get in touch!
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