Because zu has been at the forefront of the digital space for over 20 years, it’s understandable that people think of us as a “website” or “app” company. And, rightfully so! We take great pride in the websites and apps we build for clients. However, our process goes much deeper than simply building pretty or functional things. If we’ve had the privilege of working with you, then you’ll know we do a lot before we ever design a wireframe or write a line of code. Of late, a big focus for zu has been around strategy and helping our clients with Digital Transformation.
As a concept, Digital Transformation sounds simple. Build a new website or other digital tools. Maybe start a facebook page or twitter account for your business if you haven’t already done so. And sure, you might find some level of success, but unless you can equate your efforts to a significant and tangible net benefit to the business, these are merely digital initiatives. The impact of these initiatives are often stunted because they are executed in isolation of a broader, organization-wide, digital transformation strategy. So, the question remains, how can legacy companies embark on the digital transformation journey.
Start at the top
Large transformational initiatives require momentum. Momentum can only be created by leadership that portrays a sense of urgency and clearly articulates the importance of digital transformation for the survival of the business. This means that you may need to bring in the right leadership for such initiatives, such as a Chief Transformational Officer or Chief Digital Officer, who has the backing of the CEO. Look for individuals that aren’t just “trained” to think of new ideas and lead initiatives but rather live and breathe digital transformation and are able to inject that culture into your organization. Breaking down silos between different segments of an organization becomes an important task for such. True transformation requires change across an entire organization. It goes without saying that this would require all departments and locations to collaborate efficiently, but this is often met with great resistance and protectionism.
The CEO must empower leaders to drive the change required while holding them accountable for creating collective, cross-functional collaboration. This will allow leaders to digitize and improve areas along various business process and all your customer touch points. In the process, they will also help attract and onboard new digital talent, and grow internal skills, all of which helps to keep the momentum moving towards transformation.
Resting on the laurels of a business’s current or historic success while only advocating incremental improvement simply encourages the status quo to thrive. It’s important to have a bold vision for what you want to accomplish. There is a reason people often reference Amazon as one of the most innovative companies in the world. It’s the same reason many legacy based companies also fear being “Amazon’d” and having their entire industry overrun by the digital giant seemingly overnight. Why? Because Amazon isn’t afraid to think big and pursue bold ideas. For example, when Amazon first introduced the idea of delivery by drone, people thought it was an April Fool’s prank. Yet, every few weeks we hear updates about how their continuing to inch closer to this goal. In the process, Amazon has also forced the hands of companies like UPS to pursue similar, innovative ideas. Boldness raises everyone’s game.
As important as it is to think big, it’s equally important to think specific. For digital transformation to be successful, it’s important to have both. Thinking specific gives your entire organization a focus – a destination to drive towards rather than spreading resources thin without delivering results. Additionally, it’s best to have input from all areas of your organization to help identify the most impactful ideas. For example, a goal to double online sales is much more likely to lead to transformational ideas than a goal to have a better web presence. The specifics of the sales target goal encompass the entire customer experience from ordering online to how quickly and efficiently they receive their orders, so will generate many valuable tactics compared to the vague goal of “better website”.
In my last startup, Farm At Hand, my co-founder and I made the phrase “progress, not perfection” our team motto. It was even written on a whiteboard in permanent marker. That’s because for digital transformation to scale, you must continue to make quick and regular progress. Continual progress is the single biggest differentiator and competitive advantage exhibited by young nimble startups. Searching for the perfect solution, product, or for “enough” analysis allows old processes to creep in and significantly hinder progress.
The concept of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Rapid Prototyping are concepts well known across many industries. It’s import that these concepts are understood and central in your approach to digital transformation. As early as possible, you’ll get products and prototypes into the hands of potential customers to test ideas. When followed, not only will you receive valuable customer feedback, you will avoid costly mistakes and prevent development of unwanted assets based on assumptions and personal bias. These approaches preserve resources and help you adjust quickly to get to a product that provides the most value to your customers.
Think customers first
This brings me to the last and most important factor in the success of digital transformation, the customer. You must think about the customer first. In Design Thinking we give this the fancy name of “human-centred design.” Put simply, when you place your customer, external or internal, at the centre of your strategy the best ideas come to the surface. Think about the entire customer journey and all the different touch points they have with your organization and ways you interact with them. Think about how you can improve all aspects of how you service your customer. Doing so will keep your digital transformation focused and yield the best ROI.
Like any other true transformation, there is no “easy” button to digital transformation. But starting on this path and using these methods to achieve some early wins will set up your organization to face the upcoming chapters where technology continues to accelerate change, and with it your customers expectations.
If you are interested in embarking on a digital transformation, or wish to expose an executive or project team to these effective and energizing methods in a smaller engagement, we’re just one call, email, or tweet away.