Digital transformation:
fails and fixes

Illustration representing digital transformation

Congratulations – you’ve completed a digital transformation. How does it feel? Was it awful? Do you find yourself with better metrics but no real difference to your day-to-day? Did you spend a lot of money only to find yourself dealing with same problems? Or bigger?

Digital transformations often feel lack-lustre – or fail outright – because the program only focused only on ways to digitize products, services, and processes. But you’re still left with the same conflicted relationships to customers.

Put it this way – if your back office and front office don’t talk to the people delivering the service, you’re going to have the same issues regardless of the CRM or product in place.

We’ve worked with a global grocer who would source produce from local farms. They underwent a digital transformation of their online ordering and couponing, which was great for sales. But their supply chain with local farmers was not part of the scope.

The grocer had always struggled with maintaining accurate inventory levels from store to store. And as you can imagine, that was exponentially amplified when sales went digital.

We also see this happen when the clients purchase off-the-shelf software to digitize specific functions like customer support. But these tools only speed up the process around serving customers; they don’t address how you should serve your customer.

If you don’t close the gap between fulfillment and sales, your experience may be digitized, but it won’t be transformed. Yes, your customer service team is getting great numbers in that they’re talking to more customers. But they’re likely just taking more complaints.

Digital transformation is not the easy way out of existing operational problems

Instinctively, we all want the easy wins and therefore we focus our digital transformation efforts on solving existing operational problems. This is great for operations, but it tends to assume that all the other issues affecting the business will go away. And it’s solving these interdependent problems that really drives transformative change.

Admittedly, solving interdependent problems involves a lot more political risk than many folks are willing to take on. We all are measured by our performance in our specific area – why would we want to jeopardize our bonuses by expanding performance metrics to departments where we have no control.How can my department function better is a question that’s easily answered? How can I work better with other teams and other departments is a much harder solve.

What to do:

Of course, none of this means that going through a digital transformation process within a department is bad. It can and does create operational efficiencies by giving teams tools that they never had before.

Digital transformation will give you the infrastructure and channel access you need. But it will scale and speed up internal conflict and completion that will, in turn, be reflected in your product and buying experience.

All eyes on the end-user

Your internal modernization should be given the same research and rigour as your customer experience. Your working experience matters and can unlock that shared accountability and awareness.

That’s why a focus on the customer – with clear outcomes and a shared vision that includes the needs from and shared wins for competing departments will break through the tension and remove the internal “seams” of your experience.

Most companies digitize already siloed groups or problems. Marketing and product departments may have great new tools, but are they in sync now that they do? For example, are new product updates released with enough awareness and preparation for clients?

Frankly, we like to say that companies in this situation have simply “modernized” the silo, speeding up the degree to which these areas are cut off or withholding from greater efforts.

Look outward, not just inward

Digital transformation can distract you from your market by keeping your attention inward and not on what your competition has released. These efforts can keep you too internally focused for a long time, thus missing out on the potential market opportunities.

Product teams can see internal projects as “breaks,” which is why internal projects tend to reveal symptoms in the strategy, vision, and delivery that need to be addressed – not punted until later. Staying focused on the end-user can help you balance making progress on infrastructure efforts while still supporting the customer.

Create sustainable co-dependency

Granted, teams will struggle with prioritization when co-dependent, have different metrics for success and compete for the same resources. A shared vision for bringing departments together will generate a more holistic customer impact.

To do this, design experiences for your customers that end in better outcomes for them, and connect departments across your business to deliver. Create the possibility for an organizational win through business, service, and product design to bring an end-to-end experience to your customers and capture new and unmet demand. Improve your experience holistically throughout your company – both for workers and customers.

Create sustainable codependency by establishing processes where teams must contribute and plan to support the whole rather than compete to achieve broader strategic outcomes. Define metrics and goals so that there are no downsides to supporting the common good versus the single group.

An integrated perspective

Experience blueprints are a useful framework for unifying customer-facing and “back office” products, services, and operations to unite your business in every customer touchpoint.

We see an exponential return on the investment in digital transformation projects when we’ve helped executive leadership craft an experience blueprint vision for how everything connects to get to that shared outcome.

This is beyond just a vision – but it combines elements of a vision, plan and ideal customer journey and then maps out how each team can contribute and deliver. When teams are coached through the process, they report back to the shared blueprint.

Whether it’s new marketing tools, new digital products or new customer service platforms, the last thing anyone wants is to invest money in an expensive program without getting any benefits. If that’s where you find yourself, a blueprint can help identify how to link that investment back to the greater group (and greater good).

Share this article