Forrester Digital Transformation 2017 wrapped up in Chicago last week, and while the sessions and breakout conversations are still fresh I wanted to take an opportunity to share my thoughts and takeaways from the event.
The overall message this year was clear: digital transformation is no longer a choice but a requirement for surviving in hyper-competitive markets. To succeed will take more than just adoption of new technologies, improved customer experiences and closer collaboration among cross-functional teams, but nothing short of enterprise business transformation and invention of new business models.
This is actually nothing new, and many of us that work in the digital transformation space have already reached a similar conclusion. Despite the scope of this challenge, the good news is that many companies, including those that presented at Digital Transformation 2017, are reporting some success (and lessons learned) on their transformation journeys.
Below are a some of the key themes that were repeated across many of the sessions, and perhaps unsurprisingly you have probably heard many of them before. There is no silver bullet solution that will guarantee a successful digital transformation, but there seems to be broad consensus across multiple industries about which approaches tend to work the best.
Urgency – Time to Stop Waiting and Start Transforming
George Colony, Chairman and CEO of Forrester Research, opened with the premise that successful digital transformation is no longer a differentiator between market leaders and laggards, but is essential to the survival of all companies. This is an increasingly daunting challenge as new digital capabilities are continuing to deliver cross-industry disruption at a faster pace than ever before, thanks to cloud-enabled technologies and proliferation of connected devices. Add to that customer expectations that have become “industry-agnostic,” as innovative companies deliver fresh, intuitive digital experiences that immediately reset expectations and place the bar higher for all future interactions. With new AI and machine learning capabilities such as chat bots, virtual agents and predictive analytics already making a splash, the pace of disruption is not expected to let up anytime soon.
This oft-repeated phrase surfaced multiple times in just about every session, and for good reason. Improving customer experience across digital channels continues to get a lot of lip service these days, but it is clear that many companies continue to struggle with defining and delivering the right experiences to retain existing customers and drive new growth. The stakes are high and so is the temptation to carefully plan the perfect solution that will address as many customer journey pain points as possible, which can often spin out of control as more stakeholders become involved then inevitably devolve to “analysis paralysis.” Fortunately, many companies at Digital Transformation 2017 reported success with this approach.
Launch MVP. Learn. Iterate.
Companies such as Bloomingdales, GE, AIG and Expedia have adopted agile methods to decrease time to value for new digital capabilities in commerce, marketing and customer service by focusing on quick wins and testing hypothesis incrementally. Defining a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is no easy task, but by adopting an outcomes-based approach and learn-fast mentality, the customer insights received provide valuable input to the next iteration, and allow for adjustments throughout the process. If the mark is off by a wide margin, then re-planning and even cancellation can be considered before more significant resources have been spent, providing an extra layer of flexibility. The catch? An agile, iterative approach to digital transformation requires a new way of thinking that is still foreign to many companies, and existing processes and policies often inhibit wider adoption.
Customer-Centric Data Insights
“Data is king.” “Data should have the loudest voice at the table.” Many of the companies that presented this year, not surprisingly, had something to say about the essential role that data is playing in various decision making processes. However, a common challenge remains that decision makers are increasingly buried under piles of customer and operational data and are having difficulties sorting through it all. Establishing a clear set of KPIs to measure success can help, but companies still tend to focus more on business metrics that do not provide the right insights that are needed to improve customer experience. A more customer-centric approach to KPIs is needed to achieve this, and to ensure that companies remain focused on improving what their customers care about most.
The bottom line is that successful digital transformation continues to be a challenge for many companies. Fortunately, there are proven methods and technologies to achieve success, and at Avionos we share a passion for helping our clients achieve their digital transformation goals through our MVP approach, solution partners and outcomes-based model.