Getting started with a large-scale digital transformation – Econsultancy

Much has been written about what digital transformation is and its goals, but relatively little covers what needs to be in place for an initiative to get traction in a large organisation.

To find out more about how large-scale digital transformation works, Econsultancy recently held a ‘fireside chat’ on the topic in association with Oracle in Jakarta, Indonesia with marketers and digital transformation professionals. Led by Wendy Hogan, Oracle’s Customer Experience & Marketing Strategy Director, Asia, the discussion uncovered how enterprises can get started with digital transformation and how to keep up enthusiasm for change, a summary of which is presented below.

Aligning stakeholders

The first challenge for companies embarking on a large-scale digital transformation is to make sure that stakeholders are aligned with the project and that the digital transformation team has the buy-in from management for the changes which need to be made.

Participants noted that the team should look for early quick wins to demonstrate the benefits of digital transformation. Small, but significant improvements help get management on board as well and make sure that the c-level understands the ‘north star’ or ultimate direction of the programme.

At the start, it is very important, said one marketer experienced with digital transformation, that the company’s investors, the board and the management have a clear indication of the end state of the digital transformation programme.

Maintaining buy-in

Keeping the organisation bought in, though, is about more than delivering quick wins, noted Wendy. It also requires agreeing on short term goals as well the long-term outcome.

This means that the transformation team should not simply pursue what they think is best for the company. Instead, attendees agree, the teams need to make sure that they are enabling their company’s existing businesses and employees. Doing so, first involves educating the business units and then making sure that they understand that the transformation team and the business teams are taking the digital journey together.

Preparing for the journey

Once the direction is understood, transformation team needs to let everyone know that digital transformation will not be completed quickly, and it could be a very long journey, indeed.

For companies which are just getting started with digital, this message could be discouraging. But, as one participant pointed out, those who are relatively new to digital could be at an advantage; they may be able to ‘leapfrog’ their business through many stages of digital transformation.

For example, a retail business which has kept up with digital innovations will have started with single channel retail, then multi-channel, perhaps have had a pure-play ecommerce business and now will be working on an omnichannel strategy. At each step, the company will have added new systems, each of which will require integration at the next stage.

Companies new to digital, however, have the potential to go straight from single channel to omnichannel, unencumbered by existing systems and processes.

But to successfully ‘leapfrog’ the competition, the transformation team need to make sure that everyone in the organisation understands the changes required and agrees with the steps which need to be taken.

This means that the transformation team must communicate frequently with the rest of the organisation and prepare them for the journey.

Setting priorities

Once the transformation team, management and the board agree on the goals of digital transformation, priorities must be set.

This often proves to be more difficult than it first appears, especially in large organisations. While the transformation team will be keen to develop the successful quick wins, other departments will want digital transformation to solve their own problems.

One approach taken by digital transformation professionals is to ensure that the business hires people who can enable change within each vertical. Then, the transformation team can devise high-level strategies which can be executed smoothly across the business.

An example of this approach was given in which the transformation team discovered that many people across the organisation were not familiar with the company’s customers. To address this issue, the team had each unit install touchpoints to capture the customer data and enabled sharing so that everyone had up-to-date customer information.

In doing so, the transformation team added value by providing new insights across the organisations while requiring relatively little effort by each individual department.

Building data capabilities

To draw insights, the transformation team needs to play a pivotal role in building data capabilities. They need to put data at the core of what they do and build organisational data intelligence, even before considering digital marketing.

For one company, this meant establishing a data team which works across all the company’s verticals. The data ‘centre of excellence’ includes data science, data intelligence as well as a CRM team.

With the right data, the transformation team can then deliver highly-effective digital marketing and omnichannel initiatives, but before they can do that, they need to have the data.

Market considerations

High-quality data, however, is not the only factor in a successful enterprise-wide digital transformation programme. Local market characteristics must be considered, as well.

For example, in Indonesia the ecommerce penetration rate is less than 5% and a huge percentage of the population remains unbanked. This means that a lot of people shop at stores and customers do not have emails.

So, if a brand plans to deliver an omnichannel experience to this market, they need to ensure that they can adequately segment their customers – by location, geography and even how digitally connected they are. Then, when planning how the business will interact with the customer digitally, the transformation team can use the right approach and the right channel. Email may work for affluent customers, but it will probably be wrong for many of the less-connected customers.

This, suggested Wendy, is why an omnichannel approach has become so important to retail and other companies with many customer touchpoints. With omnichannel, businesses can orchestrate the digital touchpoints across the customer journey and ensure that they are relevant to each individual consumer.

Developing digital transformation

It is clear that digital transformation teams need data and market orientation to get started, but what are the next steps?

Digital transformation, according to the industry experts, has several stages at a large organisation. First off, it requires streamlining internal processes so that the company has better customer data and can be more data-driven.

Next, the team should deliver customer data to the c-level that they can use to drive corporate intelligence. One transformation team at the event accomplished this by providing the board with dashboards which included real-time top-line numbers – a great improvement over the quarterly updates they used before transformation.

Then, the transformation team should consider the platforms required to accelerate digital adoption. For retail firms, this might include a system which coordinated omnichannel marketing activities or one which provides in-store analytics. One attendee discussed how they implemented a system which produced heat-maps of customer foot traffic so that the business could analyse how the retail space affected sales.

Companies should also seek to upgrade their CRM system and ensure they are able to use customer data to improve the whole customer journey.

Maintaining organisational enthusiasm

In the longer term, transformation teams run the risk of ‘digital fatigue’ in large organisations. Wendy asked how people can keep up the rate change and drive continuous learning in the enterprise.

One suggestion was that teams should rely on external partners to scale up if they cannot achieve their objectives with the internal teams. Partners can also teach the team about new technologies and help them build capabilities internally.

Transformation teams should also continuously communicate with both management and those affected by transformation to coach everyone on what exactly the end game is.

And, finally, the message to everyone in the organisation must be consistent. The digital transformation team should keep repeating the same story and remind everyone, daily, what the team is doing and where they are all heading together.

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