Just to set the context for what this website is all about (hint: digital transformation), we will attempt to arrive at a general purpose definition of the concept of digital transformation. Or scratch that. Let’s not do a definition. A precise definition for something as nebulous as this concept is going to be impossible anyway. Definitions are tricky. I still remember studying social sciences, and devoting time to examining the evolution of the definition of a concept like culture, marriage, and the like. When you undertake to define a concept, you take on quite a challenge. A definition must describe all essential properties of a concept with clarity, taking care to be so precise that the definition cannot apply to something else. For example, if I define ‘chair’ as a piece of furniture to sit on, I’ve failed, since the definition can easily apply to a couch, or a park bench.
Not too long ago, for instance, going digital was equated with ‘going paperless.’ But that was only a minor part of the process—merely the first step. As it turns out, once you go paperless, once your data is digital, there is a whole lot more that you can do with it—access it from anywhere, act in real time, deploy cloud computing to slice the data in a million different ways—and that’s just the beginning. As a result, we now have new parameters to that simple definition we started with.
So, no definitions. Let’s instead identify the essential signs of a successful digital transformation.
New Customer Engagement Avenues
This is coming straight from Captain Obvious, I know, but it’s best to get the simplest factors listed out at the beginning. A big driver for digital transformation for any business is playing catchup. When your customers are enjoying the hyper connectivity of Facebook Live and Facebook Messenger, of Twitter streams and Snapchat stories, of the near instantaneous services provided by Uber and Lyft, it is absolutely essential for a real estate company, for a pizzeria or a fast food chain, for a healthcare firm or an insurance provider—for any business really—to be available on the channels and media where their customers already are. And this doesn’t mean you build an app and the job is done. Before the advent of smartphones, for a long time, restaurants typically failed to understand what ‘being online’ meant, so we had these terribly designed flash-based sites that provided the menu in PDF format. We all remember how infuriatingly useless those websites were.
To benefit from the power of digital transformation in customer engagement, businesses must go beyond a simple app, and make key changes to their internal processes, customer engagement workflows, and essentially allow their customers to enter from almost any entry point, and also exit from just about anywhere. I might order a pizza over a Tweet, for example, then provide address and payment details to a chatbot over SMS, and then leave a review of the food and the service on Yelp or Instagram. Businesses can no longer afford to rigidly define where a customer should go for a certain interaction or requirement. Instead, they need to adopt a full service omni-channel presence where all channels are equally empowered, and customers can conduct entire transactions using one or all of these channels based on their convenience.
If engaging with customers in a variety of ways is important, so is empowering your workforce to achieve this. You might even say that this is the other side of the same coin. After all, if a business is going to connect with its customers using a variety of channels with a lot of flexibility and agility so that this connect is meaningful, it only stands to reason that the workforce at the other end be equally empowered, equipped with the right tools and knowledge. There are three key aspects to this empowerment.
Considering the tools that the workforce is using—whether for direct customer engagement, or for handling internal processes such as quality assessment, supply chain, and the like—they need a continual awareness of the larger picture in terms of the market scenario and consumer expectations and the like, as well as internal organizational goals and measures. QA may not traditionally be seen as a consumer facing activity, for example, but empowering QA teams with the right level of awareness regarding the data coming in from the product being used in the wild, especially int he context of consumer expectations, can only help them perform better.
This is simply an extension of the point above, except the focus here is on making decisions powered by this hyperawareness. As part of their digital transformation, businesses need to change their internal processes in such a way that new sources of information are leveraged, and this new data that was not available before is taken into account when making a decision.
When the data is available in real time, and can be sliced and segmented in a variety of ways to gather some very precise intelligence, it is imperative that the execution be also proportionately quick and efficient. For example, a company that makes cell phone cases may at one point have relied solely on quarterly sales volumes and market research efforts to determine its next design launches. But now, real time analytics would allow it better supply chain management, allow it to stock the right quantities of each design, and monitor social media to get a sense of how the various designs are being received, and how this information should impact its future product pipeline.
I started out with a much bigger list originally, but since this post has become long enough already, I’ll save the other points for another post. A part two, if you will.