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6 Missteps in Digital Transformation

Are you doing everything possible to ensure your digital transformation will be a success?

Wouldn't it be nice if your next digital transformation project was absolutely perfect? Imagine this: You kick off the process, and then a few months later, the CEO high-fives you in the hallway, remarking how all the customers are delighted, and business profits are significantly up.

Unfortunately, it's never that easy. Transformation initiatives are typically large and prone to complications. So, is the option to sit back and react when the inevitable happens?

Absolutely not, according to Matt Gilliss, Executive Creative Director at Goddard Systems. Matt Gilliss is an award-winning creative leader with over 20 years of experience driving strategic design solutions for iconic brands such as Anthem, Amazon, Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, Intercontinental Hotels, Walt Disney, WebMD, and The Weather Channel.

During our recent Concord Tech Talk: Taking Back the Digital Space, Matt shared potential missteps that can happen during digital transformation and ways to avoid them. Read on to learn more:

Misstep #1 – Failing to align to a digital transformation north star

Alignment is a critical factor in transformation projects — but it's all too easy to lose sight of the end game through the inevitable ups and downs that will occur throughout the process.

A digital transformation north star helps leaders stay on the path. By clearly outlining the endpoint of transformation goals, an organization can help ensure that the goals of each function and business unit align with the ultimate purpose of transformation.

The north star should encapsulate the long-term vision as well as the short-term and mid-term objectives. Most importantly, it should underscore how the organization's transformation efforts will improve the customer experience.

"These types of transformations are large. They are herculean efforts, so ensuring that alignment across teams and departments and aligning to that North Star — I think is critical," Matt said.

Misstep #2 – Lacking buy-in from across the organization

Digital transformation is hard. The challenge isn't just moving a technological system from point A to point B. A successful transformation project also requires that you change people's minds. You need buy-in from your leaders, team members, and, ultimately, everyone across the organization.

Engagement at all levels is especially vital if the transformation project will fundamentally change how people work and how you deliver value to your customers. A considerable part of this is having leaders who can guide the process and help employees through feelings of uncertainty.

"Finding evangelists throughout the organization to help spread the message on why the change is underway and what it really means — why we're doing it, what's the impact is going to be, what's the outcome going to be, and how they'll be a part of it — I think that's a critical component to the strategy," said Matt.

Misstep #3 – Forgetting to ask the right questions

Matt believes that asking the right questions is necessary to achieve the outcomes you want. While the questions will, undoubtedly, vary based on your project and industry, here are a few to get you started:

  • What's the potential? What happens if you do this? What happens if you do nothing?
  • What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) around the new digital capabilities?
  • What tools and resources do you need to support the transformation project?
  • What is the adoption strategy for implementation and onboarding?
  • How are you going to get top-down, bottom-up buy-in across the organization? How can you ensure everyone continues to align to the north star?

Misstep #4 – Staying in a narrow lane

If you want your company to provide the best customer experience in your industry, you'll want to take stock of what your competitors are doing — but that's just for starters. While you want to meet customer expectations for your industry, you don't want to be a carbon copy of your competitors — especially since your competitors don't always get it right. Matt suggests that a better option is to find inspiration outside your industry.

"There's a whole world of innovation out there; find it, embrace it. Chances are your customers already have, so expectations are real," Matt said. "Don't limit yourself to your own vertical."

People shop for healthcare in the same way that they do for consumer goods. Employees expect an experience that's as seamless as an Amazon shopping experience.

Thinking about what's next for user experience (UX) in the broadest sense can help you define best-in-class customer experiences. For example, consider what Apple, Netflix, and Google are doing. What ideas and processes can you leverage?

"Understand what your competition is doing … keep your eye on those outside your vertical and ways that they are innovating the experience," Matt said. "Just be cautious of what you're delivering because more is more sometimes and also because often you can get swept up in a sea of sameness."

Misstep #5 – Being too focused on the technology

Design experience can't be an afterthought. "It can't just be an overlay sitting above the new shiny technology," said Matt.

While digital transformation is ultimately an effort to integrate and update technology, it's essential to keep your eye on the digital transformation north star and how the project will improve the customer experience. That's why design must be woven throughout the overall strategy and delivery to ensure optimal use, adoption, and performance.

"It is the experience that is remembered. It is the experience that serves as a differentiator," Matt said. But you also want to make sure that your project isn't too focused on keeping up appearances.

"Front-end experience … is so heavily dependent on what's happening in the back end," said Matt. That's why companies should also innovate and advance the systems and technology that make it easier to facilitate the best customer experiences.

Misstep #6 – Rejecting iterative development

There's incredible pressure to implement the right technology as fast as your organization's budget will allow.

"Even in agile environments, there's a one-and-done mentality that seeps in," said Matt.

Unfortunately, the pressure of getting everything perfect the first time impacts outcomes. Scope creep, project bloat, and missed deadlines are all too common. And, perhaps, most significantly, "It crushes teams, it demoralizes teams along the way," Matt said.

Matt recommends that companies stay true to their digital transformation north star and roll out changes, iteratively and often. "There's a constant refinement that kicks in. We're always learning, always growing, and always improving upon the product," Matt said.

Getting your projects back on track

There are numerous ways for projects to veer off course, but you can avoid these missteps with the proper planning and correct resources.

"There [are] many skilled experts who can help map this out in terms of the processes and align the teams to forge ahead towards that goal. But you’ve got to have these fundamentals in place first. You need to have that alignment, and you must have a commonly shared vision to be successful," Matt says.

Digital navigators can help your digital transformation projects gain momentum and stay on track. To learn more, download our ebook, Into the Wild: The Modern CMO's Guide to Mapping Digital Strategy to Outcomes.

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