A few months ago I was honoured to be tasked with the creation of Bluefin’s Digital Transformation practice. Having always had a keen interest in all things digital, I have since fully immersed myself in this ever burgeoning world. There’s no doubt that on initial inspection there is a huge amount of confusion and apprehension as to what ‘digital transformation’ means for businesses and organisations. But as noticeably, if not more, there are a bewildering number of definitions of what is meant by ‘digital transformation’.
The research from a-z
I have read, amongst many others, McKinsey’s take on the 7 Traits of Effective Digital Enterprises, a Deloitte article looking at which market sectors will be impacted the most by digital technologies, and a fascinating editorial in the BA Inflight magazine on what the workplace will look and feel like in 2030. Whilst the themes differ, one message ringing out loud and clear is that digital transformation is here to stay. It is not optional. It is accelerating and it has no respect for what has gone before.
As I ruminated on my research, I found myself challenging just how revolutionary digital transformation truly is and started to question as to whether it is more of a technology enabler than the ‘great disrupter’. I went back to some of my business management books that had been gathering dust on the shelf. There’s one that has had a long lasting impact on me; Ken Blanchard’s Raving Fans, published back in 1993. Ken focuses on customer service and discusses the fact that delivering stunning customer service, (‘Raving Fans’ not just satisfied customers) can have a dramatic impact on a company’s bottom line.
Eureka! I had found some clarity. For digital transformation to work, we must start with our customers. Put them at the centre of what we trying to do. There’s absolutely no point in having a Digital Tsar, acquiring and ring fencing digital talent, implementing new agile methodologies, if we haven’t fully immersed ourselves in our customers’ world and fully understood exactly what they want from us. Customers don’t wake up in the morning and say “I’m going to have a digital experience”, nor when they go for lunch do they think “I’m going to have a retail experience”. No, they just know that as and when they want to engage a company or service will be available for them to do so.
This sentiment is irrespective of whether they are internal or external customers. Only last week I was with the CIO of a consumer manufacturing company and we were discussing the needs of his field salesforce. It materialised that there was a growing demand for mobile solutions, so that reps could access real time information about the retailers they were visiting, capture merchandising information, etc so they could increase their capabilities.
The above example takes me back to the point of why digital transformation can only be successful if you first start with your customer, whether they be internal or external, and their needs. Start anywhere else and I would suggest that you are doomed to failure. By understanding how your customers want to interact with you will inform, for example, how you re-engineer your supply chain to deliver the goods and services they are buying, how you organise your customer service teams to respond and know whether automating the contact centre is actually the right thing to do. Only once you have understood all this should you look to the enabling technologies that can make all of this magic happen.
There is no doubt that digital transformation has built up an unstoppable momentum and there are many examples of new entrants disrupting established markets. But to be really effective in embracing this new world, we should go back to basics and simply understand our customers. Get this right and through digital transformation you’ll have “raving fans” that are “spending fans”.