Digital Transformation Is Human Transformation First

Most leaders think their companies are prepared for the future, but the reality is that most of them aren’t investing enough in long-term plans for digital transformation.

Digital Transformation Is Human Transformation First

by Jamie Gutfreund

Posted on 03-26-2018

Most leaders think their companies are prepared for the future, but the reality is that most aren’t investing enough in long-term plans for digital transformation.  

This disconnect was on display in Wunderman’s recent global study of 250 business decision makers. We found that, despite 72% of respondents who said they are future-focused and willing to invest in new technologies, roughly the same number (70%) reported they aren’t willing to sacrifice short-term gains for long-term benefits.

The problem I see? Too many companies expect to be able to buy digital transformation out of the box, as if it were a quick software upgrade, but that approach is backward. Digital transformation is human transformation first, and overall transformation cannot happen without embracing change from within for the long term. Einstein famously said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In this marketplace, my definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the sameresults. This is going to be the topic of my session for the Marketing Innovation track at Adobe Summit, March 26-29.

The best strategy in the world means nothing unless it’s integrated into every layer of the company, from the CEO to point-of-sale and every person in between. The first step toward digital transformation is for a company to identify what kind of experience it wants to provide customers to have and the key performance indicators that will be used to measure success. It’s critical that everybody, not just marketing and HR, agree on both; without universal buy-in, it’s unlikely that the strategy can be fully implemented and goals will be met.

One of the primary challenges is that most companies are set up vertically, with each department or division in its own silo. But customers experience companies horizontally. When they walk into a retail outlet after calling customer service five times, they fine it frustrating to have to explain the issue all over again to the clerk at point-of-sale. In other words, silos that keep different departments from sharing information internally also create a fragmented external customer experience.

The idea of silos as a functional innovation killer is not revolutionary, but our study’s findings highlight the degree to which they impact companies’ relationships with customers. A full 73% of respondents said their companies are “very or somewhat siloed.” When asked to what extent silos impact cohesive messaging, a whopping 89% answered “a great deal or somewhat.” These findings demonstrate how silos are barriers both internally (cohesive messaging) and externally (customer experience).

But with leadership and a very clear mission, it’s possible to break through. For example, in January, T-Mobile received the highest-ever industry scores among full-service providers in the “2018 J.D. Power U.S. Wireless Customer Care Performance Study.” The telecom giant achieved this milestone by becoming customer-obsessed and communicating a clear vision to every single person.

Another critical component of digital transformation is ensuring that all employees understand why a technology is there, how to use it, and how best to benefit from it. When, for example, T-Mobile was ready to roll out a new sales platform, it included an artificial intelligence tool that walked retail employees through the steps of the sales process and addresse any pain dpoints around using the new system. (As a bonus, this served as a test case for AI tech that could later be rolled out to customers.)

The platform, by the way, gives employees access to customer information that was formerly siloed, empowering them to use data to solve customers’ problems. The key here is that the tech is in service to people—not the other way around.

The goal is to bring creative, data, and technology together to give the customer the desired experience. That means being proactive. Rather than viewing change as an obstacle to be overcome, successful companies–those on their way to becoming future-ready–initiate and embrace it. They understand that it’s impossible to predict the future, but it’s very possible and necessary to prepare for it. And all that starts with changing culture.

Topics: Insights & Inspiration, Leadership, Experience Cloud, Trends & Research, Insights Inspiration, Digital Transformation, Future of Work, Trends & Research, CMO by Adobe