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Search Strategy Marketing: Blog post series on the six stages of digital transformation

by: Christine Penchuk, Search Strategy Marketing

The following is a seven-part blog series by Search Strategy Marketing on the six stages of digital transformation, originally presented by researchers Brian Solis and Jaimy Szymanski of the Altimeter Group, a Prophet Company.

Stage 1 – Digital Transformation: Business as Usual

Google recently discovered something called “Micro-Moments” after talking with people about their needs and discovering that people evaluate purchase decisions, solve unexpected problems, try new things and pursue big goals in the moment. These “moments” take place, and have developed as a result of widespread, and growing, mobile phone usage.

As Google puts it, “Mobile has forever changed the way we live, and it’s forever changed what we expect of brands. It’s fractured the consumer journey into hundreds of real-time, intent-driven micro-moments. Each one is a critical opportunity for brands to shape our decisions and preferences.”

The discovery of micro-moments is truly a game-changer. It means that companies must take a very personalized approach to their customer journey — making it less about the tools available and how they will benefit the company, and wholeheartedly about people. Specifically, it’s about the community of people that a company serves. One company’s community, or customers, are unlike any other. And therefore a company’s customer journey and the technology put into place to support the customer journey at each “micro moment” with contextual content in the form of blogs, videos, etc., will be unique.

The Customer is at the Center of Digital Transformation. Stay Focused.

A Prophet Company, Altimeter, has been studying digital transformation for the past several years, with research led by Brian Solis and Jaimy Szymanski. They have worked alongside some of the biggest change agents in the field and have broken the process of digital transformation down into six phases. These phases are very open and fluid, leaving the ability for companies to skip a phase or be in multiple phases at the same time. The first phase in Altimeter’s road map to digital transformation is known asBusiness as Usual” and the last stage is “Innovative and Adaptive” – where companies reach a point of actualization in that their customer journey has not only been uncovered, but is supported, digitally, with processes in sync with their unique customer’s journey.

For digital transformation to have meaning and to be effective, companies must let customers take the lead by studying, in-depth, the journey that they take. From awareness stage >> consideration stage >> decision stage — and every micro-step in between. Customers must be met with the right content at the right time.

Leaders in every industry are realizing that in order to maintain customer loyalty and continue to grow profits, they must be willing to undergo a digital transformation so that they can meet their customers at critical points within the customer journey.

The current definition of digital transformation is:

“The realignment of, or new investment in technology, businessmodels, and processes to drive new value for customers and employees to effectively compete in an ever-changing digital economy.”

Your Company’s Customer Journey is Unique – And Likely More Complex Than You Think

The good news is that there are increasingly more points to meet your customers where they are. These “micro-moments” are varied and plentiful. The difficult part is uncovering these segments and building context around them so that content can be created to “serve” the customer where they are.

This first stage of Digital Business Transformation is where most organizations begin —  under a “business as usual” model. They treat customers the same way they have for the past several decades. They use the same metrics and processes that were used before mobile phones and social media existed. And instead of using technology to help tie all of the various pieces of the business together, and to capitalize on business that is being left on the table, technology is used sparingly and in isolation — and thought of as an “add-on” vs. an integral piece. Because of this, quantifying results captured using technology is difficult, and therefore obtaining business goals is oftentimes accomplished apart from technology.

Technology is mainly used as a means to an end internally — to scale-up or to increase efficiency within a company, but it is not empathetic to customers. This limited use of technology is seen, by companies in this phase, as “sufficient” to maintain digital relevance. A presence here and a presence there…unaware that integral segments of the customer journey are being ignored.

Business as Usual Does Not Meet Customers Where They Are

Oftentimes, organizations get caught in this first stage because they are overly risk-averse and because they do not have workplace cultures that encourage innovation where change agents within a company feel that they have the freedom to emerge and to be the catalyst for change.

To see if your organization might be caught in the “Business as Usual” phase of digital transformation, take a look at five tell-tale signs in various organizational areas:

  1. Governance and leadership: In this phase, leadership is not concerned with a need for change, much less a need for digital expertise. Departments do not collaborate, and instead they each work on their respective area, creating silos, which lead to a disjointed customer experience. Because of these silos, digital literacy may exist in a few areas of the organization — but it is rare and isolated.
  2. Customer experience: The best description of the customer experience in the “Business as Usual” stage is disjointed and outdated. Rather than allowing customers to influence the road map used, the road map is designed around technological processes that are outdated and their acceptance with customers has been minimally researched. The disjoint of the customer experience is caused by limited collaboration between departments.
  3. Data and analytics: During this phase, understanding the customer is not a priority, very little unification of measurement exists and the value of analytics is minimized (i.e. results are not acted on). There is also a lack of shared key performance indicators across the organization and most departments measure their individual efforts in isolation.
  4. Technology integration: While there might be several promising digital solutions being used by different divisions in an organization, it’s all done independently and without oversight from the IT department. In addition, the IT department, or IT specialist, uses technology-based road maps instead of customer-based road maps. This then leads to technology being used based on its ability to further businessgoals rather than improve the customer experience.
  5. Digital literacy: For organizations in the “Business as Usual” stage, digital training is seen as anything but a priority. It might make it into marketing training programs, but if individuals want to learn more, it is their responsibility.

Making the Customer THE Priority Enables Growth

When these areas of your organization are showing similar signs, you are in the “Businessas Usual” stage. There are two main downsides to remaining here.

1.) You will see minimal growth in your organization. Growth will remain a problem until you make the customer experience the priority. This means that technology should not only be utilized, but embraced to create a more unified and holistic customer view and an improved customer experience.

2.) Your workforce will remain uninspired in this stage because they are stuck in a risk-averse environment. You might have several very innovative and passionate employees. To stay on top of valuable employee retention in an increasingly competitive job market, encourage inspiration and ownership of the organization.  Leadership can do this by allowing employees to take risks and pursue digital transformations that can be tested and then implemented uniformly throughout the organization.

Remember, Digital Business Transformation Starts With the Customer Journey

The micro-moments mentioned above are the first step in discovering your company’s unique customer journey — a series of moments that portray customer behavior. These steps, when uncovered, can be managed in winnable scenarios that meet the customer where he is with content that speaks to the stage where he is.

Guiding customers to and through purchase while also delivering great experiences requires new, intentional, empathy-based strategies and investments to help brands become discover-able and capture attention.

Stage 2 – Digital Transformation: Present & Active

Altimeter, a Prophet Company, compiled years of interviews and research with digital transformation change agents. After analyzing the data, they found that there is a six-phase process to digital transformation. The second stage is called “Present and Active”.

As we covered in our last blog post on Digital Transformation, the first stage, “Business as Usual” is characterized by a lack for any drive for digital transformation.During stage two, “Present and Active”, things begin to change. It is during stage two that several stand-out employees begin to embrace digital technologies. These individuals are known as “change agents”. They come in all shapes and sizes and have different ways of bringing about change. Some might keep their digital use quiet — and simply download tools that help them with their day-to-day responsibilities, in isolation. They do this because it is oftentimes easier than waiting to get permission.

Other change agents are fighters; they push for new technologies to be tried out in the workplace. Both of these individuals push the momentum of digital transformation forward by showing success with various digital tools.

During the Present and Active stage of digital transformation, unique characters start to emerge from different portions of the organization that represent various facets, including data and analytics, customer experience, governance and leadership, people and operations, technology integration, and digital literacy. The six summaries below depict how these portions are affected in this stage of digital transformation.

Throughout this process, it’s important to keep in mind that the customer experience is the catalyst for Digital Transformation. During stage two, we see the “inward” focus of an organization and its processes begin to morph into an “outward” focus on the customer experience. At this stage, a common vision to address the customer experience has not yet been established, but we see an unearthing and evaluation of current processes.

Data and Analytics Are Utilized Differently

During phase two of digital transformation, data and analytics start to be utilized differently. Rather than looking at data to find ways to improve efficiency or cut costs, data is now being used as a tool to improve the customer experience. Organizations begin to use social media to find out what customers want. The metrics of customer experiences are analyzed–usually starting out with social sentiment and online analysis. There is just a bigger overall effort to bring in more data so that the customer experience can be approved. One major hindrance that still exists during this phase is that, for the most part, customer data from each division is still in silos.

Customer Experience

Competition forces many organizations in this stage to experiment with different channels. Various departments begin to rework their customer engagement because they see that their current digital framework, which does not take the customer into account, causes a disjointed customer journey. Because many of the departments are beginning to experiment with new channels and customer experience programs, and because these departments need to see a return-on-investment, more collaboration and sharing between divisions is sparked.

Governance And Leadership

While there is nobody currently in a leadership role who is overseeing the digital customer experience, executives start to take notice of the change agents in the workforce who are successfully utilizing new technology. This notice soon turns into deals that are made with change agents in order to promote what they are doing and encourage them to continue testing and learning with different programs. In addition, executives start to see a need for digital customer experience leadership in the organization as the change agents start to emerge as leaders in their individual departments.

People And Operations

The increased interaction and interest in customers during this phase have uncovered needs in other departments to improve the customer experience. These needs and the increased experimentation often are at odds with current marketing and customer engagement processes, but are becoming more and more in-demand by consumers. However, even though there is digital experimentation in most of the departments, it is still done in silos.

Technology Integration

The change agents in each individual department become proficient in the tools that their department uses, however, there is still very little communication about the various tools used in different departments and what results are being gathered. The technology being used during this phase includes everything from cloud computing and CRM to content management and social media management systems.

Digital Literacy

Change agents start to attend workshops and conferences, as well as joining organizations that further their education. They also begin to seek out training from other companies that could either be attended by leadership and co-workers, or adopted by them. Finally, change agents begin to request and campaign for more emphasis to be placed on digital maturity and literacy.

 The Importance of Change Agents in Digital Transformation Process

One excellent example of a change agent introducing new technology to a company is Jason Browning, the Global Head of Social and Digital Communication and Head of Global Internal Communications for @Novartis. He recently stated:

“Sometimes the role of people like me is to offer employees technologies they don’t know they need yet. I’m gambling on what the next technology will be and consistently iterating and piloting with different communities within the company until I see something pick up. It’s a big challenge to decide, on an enterprise level, when to offer solutions at the right time.”

Browning, and change agents like him, are the ones bringing organizations into and through the six stages of digital transformation. And although digital transformation may sound like a big undertaking, it’s important to keep in mind that the end goal in fostering this type of change in the first place is to get an organization closer to its unique customer journey.

Those that undertake digital transformation understand that getting to the heart of the customer journey IS the most important endeavor for any organization, one that will provide a multifarious return on investment for years to come. Companies that understand this also know that the time and effort spent getting to the bottom of the customer journey will never go to waste.

“They are inspired by their customers. Everything they do is by and for their customers,” said Brian Solis.

Stage 3 – Digital Transformation: A Sense of Urgency

This third stage of digital transformation — in our series that outlines the Six Stages of Digital Transformation for CMOs and other marketing professionals — focuses on the Sense of Urgency that starts to bubble up and build across an organization.

According to the Altimeter Group, companies go through six stages on the path to digital transformation, with the sixth stage being “Innovative and Adaptive”. Keep in mind that the path to digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. The sixth stage is not a finalstage so much as a new state where a company is more nimble, agile and ready to change in reaction to changing customer needs — a company prepared for the present and for the future!

The stage that we’ll cover today, “Sense of Urgency” is the third stage. In this third stage, we see momentum start to build, company-wide, as the importance to shift focus to that of the all-important customer journey is grasped.

The Sense of Urgency Felt by Change Agents Accelerates Change

This is the stage where change agents get their hands dirty. This stage demands that change agents reach across established company barriers to break down the established silos. Soon, the days of individual contributors and entire departments doing their jobs without regard to others, without considering how their roles relate to the overall customer journey, will be a thing of the past.

This growing sense of urgency, first experienced by change agents — and now perceived by many more across the company — who sense that there’s a need to modernize the customer experience. This growing sense is due to many factors that includes, but is not limited to:

  • Results from customer feedback
  • Results from prospect feedback
  • Lagging sales
  • Loss of market share
  • Success of competitors
  • Innovative new competitors in the same niche
  • The overall perception that the company is falling behind the technological curve

Change Agents – The Forces that Undermine the Status Quo

Change agents are the superheros of digital transformation. They face the giant that everyone else is afraid to slay. They are the brave souls who are sticking their necks out, initiating ideas, and pushing the envelope to get portions of an organization to see the opportunities that are being missed, taking a closer look at the customer journey, and sourcing the technology that will answer that call. They are the risk takers, the decision-makers, the trend-spotters. They are not satisfied. They see the opportunity costs associated with waiting — likely before many of the others in the rest of the organization. They can also identify the changes that need to take place to capitalize on these opportunities. They are the leaders in an organization, regardless of title. Leadership in a modern organization requires working as a change agent.

“Soon, the days of individual contributors and entire departments doing their jobs without regard to others, without considering how their roles relate to the overall customer journey will be a thing of the past.”

Change agents take on the responsibility of pushing ordinary workers and management to accept the new initiatives that need to take place in order to claim that rightful position, now owned, but that may soon be uppended by a company that can better cater to those at various stages in the buyer’s journey.

They lead in their area of the company, collaborating with others and each other to introduce changes. They set priorities to use technologies to change various departments, and they set the stage for a more unified transformation. Change agents, whatever their formal job titles and functions, are the exception; companies are wise to listen to them if they wish to thrive in the economy of the future.

Facing Digital Darwinism

“Digital Darwinism is a fate that threatens most organizations in almost every industry. Because of this, businesses not only have to compete for today but also for the unforeseeable future. Digital Darwinism is the phenomenon when technology and society evolve faster than an organization can adapt.” – Brian Solis

Change has always been inevitable, but in past eras it happened slowly enough that companies had decades to react to it. Change in customer behavior causes a change in the customer journey, or the influx of new customers, over a longer time period. The railroad industry provides an outstanding example of this. They failed to recognize how cars, long-haul trucks and the national highway system would reduce them to a tiny transportation niche. IBM, another more modern example, fared better. Even so, it went from being the top high-tech company in the world when it sold its mainframe computers — to its current status as a successful, but hardly dominant, technology company.

And although technology is the vehicle for keeping in close connection with a company’s customer base, do keep in mind that digital transformation is not all about technology. The customer journey is the impetus for digital transformation, and it is happening at such a rapid pace. Never has there been a time or such a great opportunity to meet customers where they are with contextually valuable content in order to take advantage of every point possible along the customer journey. In summary, when companies do not take the time to learn what their customers want and how they can BE in the places that their customers are — to provide them with the content that they’re asking for — they risk survival and growth by losing potential sales, market share and reputation.

What Are Your Customers Asking For?

We’re all familiar with the famous quote that was erroneously attributed to Henry Ford, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Although these were not his words, they accurately portrayed his sentiments when it came to paying close attention to the customer experience. Unfortunately for Ford, this disregard led to tremendous loss in market share and internal strife and left Ford Motor Companysubject to changes in the market’s tastes and competitive innovation.

Fortunately, in today’s auto industry, we see people like customer experience execution and planner, David Mingle, of General Motors, following the path of digital transformation.

“We’re creating a mindset around listening to customers and reacting, it’s been transformational. We often find things that look small but, once unraveled, are big opportunities for us,” said Mingle.

This quote exemplifies the potential of digital transformation.The customer is the most important facet of every business; the revenue gained by one change in the customer experience varies, and is difficult to quantify. The wholehearted pursuit toward the heart of the customer journey is well worth the temporary, uncomfortable aspects associated with change.

Stage 4 – Digital Transformation: Strategic

By Stage Four, along the journey of Digital Transformation, we begin to see the hard work of change agents’ take shape. The attention of the C-suite has been captured; executives have agreed to come up with a strategic plan to implement digital transformation across their organization.

Stage Four is aptly named, “Strategic”.

In our last post, we covered Stage Three along the six-stage journey, where momentum started to build around the sea change known as digital transformation.

In Stage Four, we see leadership’s acceptance of technology as purposeful as it’s implemented to drive goals. Oftentimes, the acceptance and emergence of digital transformation is evidenced in a new role that’s created — Chief Digital Officer or Chief Experience / Customer Officer. And it’s accompanied by a multi-year digital strategy road map that’s focused on the customer experience.

The City of New York’s New Chief Digital Officer

Sree Sreenivasan, recently named the City of New York’s Chief Digital Officer, once served as Columbia University’s first CDO, then as The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s first CDO. His new position with the City of New York will officially begin in October.

Like many change agents, Sreenivasan is passionate about using technology to create better connections with consumers along the customer journey. Referring to his future role, Sreenivasan stated,

“It’s a real honor for me to serve as the CDO of the world’s greatest city. There are so many opportunities to extend the Mayor’s Digital Playbook, collaborate closely across various sectors and help bring more startups here. I will draw on what I’ve learned working in four critical NYC industries: education, media, arts and culture, and nonprofits.”

Change agents, like Sreenivasan, are the catalysts that bring organizations toward and into the journey of digital transformation.

“To move our city’s digital ecosystem into the 21st century, we need to ensure our city’s resources are at the fingertips of every New Yorker. With Sree Sreenivasan’s wealth of experience, I am confident that he will work to promote transparency, access, and progressive values with our digital tools, helping spread access across the five boroughs,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Referring to his time at The Met, Sreenivasan stated that the museum’s CTO, CMO, and Head of Visitor Services all worked together to see digital transformation rolled out collaboratively across the organization. “You can’t just have one person doing it all; it has to evolve as something that multiple people are invested in to show its value,” he said.

In This Fourth Stage, Executives See The Customer Experience as Central to Obtaining Business Goals

Perhaps most importantly, during stage four, executives see the importance of the customer experience. And change agents are encouraged as they begin to see the fruit of their labor. They have achieved their goal of earning mind share around the importance of digital evolution to support the customer experience, and sponsorship and attention from top executives has been garnered. Organizations start to use technology purposefully to connect with buyer personas along their customer journey, and to drive business goals forward.

The organization clarifies a road map so that all of the departments in the organization are on the same page; HR brings in new skilled labor to execute on the new plan, and finance improves investments in necessary digital infrastructure.

Manifestations of the Fourth Stage of Digital Transformation

As you will see below, there are six key areas where change in this stage begins to develop across an organization.

“The entire organization is recognizing the need for change, and efforts are more ambitious and formally recognized.” – Six Stages of Digital Transformation – Altimeter

  1. Data & Analytics – Silos are becoming a thing of the past, and leadership begins to track the organization’s new digital efforts, allowing them to understand the financial impact and to set goals. In addition, executives see the value in and are taking a greater interest in the customer experience feedback reported via data and analytics; they are willing to invest more to understand it on a deeper level.
  2. Customer Experience – The customer experience has not been perfected yet, but the organization continues to make adjustments and to solve issues in order to move the customer experience from a funnel to more of a dynamic interaction between the company and its customers. Leadership is exploring new ways to expand the customer experience to more channels (i.e., new social media platforms, mobile, etc.). And a long-term customer experience road map is beginning to be developed.
  3. Governance & Leadership – Change agents start to be seen as an asset and are asked to contribute when executives are discussing outcomes, value and strategies. The digital transformation work group, for example, is tasked with scaling and modifying to wider spread the net of digital transformation in the organization. Top leadership may even decide that it is time to appoint a Chief Digital Officer, or a similar position with a different title. The entire organization is recognizing that there is a need for digital transformation.
  4. People and Operations – At this stage, momentum has picked up and is palpable as digital customer experience efforts become more collaborative. There are (at least) informal pilots that span every area in the organization — from HR to manufacturing to marketing and product development. The silos that still exist are being integrated into one another to achieve a singular vision for the entire organization. There’s an overall focus that operations and people have — with more formalized plans and specified roles that contribute to making the customer experience a priority.
  5. Technology Integration – During this phase, getting a singular view of the customer is the main characteristic of technology integration. This means integrating CRM software, customer experience tools and other technology together. This type of integration clarifies the view of the customer and allows the organization to improve the customer experience at every single touch point. In addition to the basic tools being integrated, the big-picture road maps for technology and digital transformation are also combined.
  6. Digital Literacy – The organization finally begins to see how valuable digital literacy can truly be. The tech-savvy members of the workforce are recruited to train others, including executives. This training in digital literacy is not only seen as a benefit, but as necessary, and may even be mandated for any employees working on any aspect of the customer journey experience. While training continues to be taken care of from the inside, HR begins to learn how to recruit talent with digital expertise.

Stage 5 – Digital Transformation: Converged

The heart of digital transformation is NOT technology. First and foremost, it’s about the customer experience and the steps a company takes to respond to its customers along this journey. And secondly, it’s about the technology that supports an improved customer experience. Digital products are simply the vehicles that enable companies to communicate with their customers at multiple stages along the buyer’s journey. As The Altimeter Group’s Six Stages of Digital Transformation e-book so eloquently states, digital transformation is not a destination, it’s a journey.

In this same work, written by Brian Solis and Jaimy Szymanski, a six-phase pattern of digital transformation is laid out. This pattern is one that many organizations seem to progress through as they achieve digital transformation.

This fourth phase of digital transformation is aptly named “Converged”.

By Stage Four, Transformation is in a Company’s DNA

The C-suite has reacted to change agents’ request to meet customers where they are along the buyer’s journey and can now see how the changes enacted are positively affecting the company. Digital teams are created a.) to solve redundancy within current business processes and roles, and b.) to bring a newfound efficiency and consistency to the customer experience. The organization is more conscientious about the technology it uses, in that it is purposeful and seamless — both in the customer’s view and from the organization’s back-office view.

Visible Changes Emerge

In this fourth stage of digital transformation, companies see visible symptoms of change in the following areas:

  1. Data and analytics
  2. The customer experience
  3. Governance and leadership
  4. People and operations
  5. Technology integration
  6. Digital literacy

Data & Analytics

Those that have been rallying for change are beginning to see the fruits of their labor as improvements in operation are become visible, thanks to an increased focus on analytics. And the efficiency of new processes enables further improvements to be made in real-time while new insights, which can be gleaned from a greater adherence to analytics, are pushing strategy development forward.

The Customer Experience

Customer experience is at the center of the organization’s operations. All departments and channels are carrying a unified message and goal. In this phase, customer experience is further broken down into individual touch points and then mapped out to show the entire product or service experience. The data that is gathered from this new map is then able to inform all other business strategy in the organization.

Governance & Leadership

The digital transformation team, that has been put into place by top executives, is continuing to help throughout various departments by supporting and influencing with new strategies. The organization’s technology strategy begins to influence the digital culture and vision of the organization, and change agents are the leaders of this new influence. Overall, the organization has a more unified vision under the digital transformation team, which is continually identifying new opportunities and potential.

People & Operations

Walls between departments have started to dissipate. Common frameworks are being used and collaboration is no longer seen as optional. The IT and customer experience teams partner to produce better results, which in turn also influence the digital culture and vision. Although the customer experience is at the heart of digital transformation, it begins to bleed into employee engagement, product development and more. To implement new strategies, build up programs and supplement data strategies, analysts and other talent is brought on board.

Technology Integration

Many of the digital tools that were used by individual departments are cast aside. In the Converged phased, organizations begin to implement tools that help to more closely align them with the customer experience, such as Experience Cloud software. The benefits of this type of software are three-fold. The first benefit is that this type of tool tends to be tailored by industry so that organizations get exactly what they need, nothing more and nothing less. The second benefit is that this tool gathers and stores all of the data in one place. The third benefit is that the tool uses unique customer records to provide relevant solutions.

Digital Literacy

Training becomes part of the organization’s second nature during this phase. There are even new programs developed to find gaps in expertise and skills, as well as training programs introduced to further develop the workforce. It is expected that the entire workforce, including executives, understand the digital customer experience. In addition, human resources and leadership understand the importance of investing in and hiring personnel who have the ability to deliver around the digital customer experience and other digital needs of the organization.

Stage 6 – Digital Transformation: Innovative & Adaptive

Is innovation part of your company’s DNA? In Six Stages of Digital Transformation, a report put together by Altimeter, a Prophet Company, the sixth stage, “Innovate and Adaptive” is when a culture of innovation becomes top priority.

In Stage 6, “Digital is no longer a state; instead, it is part of how a business competes, with work in transformation continuing as technology and markets evolve. Innovation becomes part of the company DNA with the establishment of formal teams and efforts to track customer and technology trends. These activities feed into a variety of programs that range from test-and-learn pilots to the introduction of new roles / expertise to partnerships with and investments in startups.”

By the time the sixth stage of digital transformation is reached, a company has formal teams and efforts underway to track customer and technological trends. These synergistic activities feed into a variety of the-customer-journey-at-heart-of-digital-transformation.jpgstage-six-digital-transformation.jpgprograms to advance integral processes — and include hiring new talent that will help the company carry out goals as they relate to their digital evolution, new processes, and new technology.

Business transformation is driven by a focus on digital customer experience and how companies work, and it also drives innovation in product and service development.

Let’s unpack these phrases and see what a company actually looks like in this last stage, where innovation is indeed part of the company’s DNA. Companies demonstrate their transformation in three areas. In each area, innovation is the main priority:

  1. Data & Analytics — A closer eye on data and analytics by all aspects of the organization is the catalyst for entering new markets and developing new models, based on customer need. Business innovation becomes the highest priority as analytics allow for a single view of the customer across the entire organization.
  2. Customer Experience (CX) — CX unification and optimization integrates every level of an organization, from executives to front-line employees, throughout every department. Companies connect better with their customers through newly adopted engagement channels, such as mobile commerce, that go well beyond current social media platforms. This detailed, personalized and productive engagement with customers promotes ongoing planned and effective innovation.
  3. Governance & Leadership — Digital transformation is now a part of a company’s DNA. Its “new models, roles and investments shift toward innovation.” Workgroups dedicated to transformation take on new roles and the company evidences a flatter management and decision-making model with a laser focus on CX.
  4. People & Operations — Transformation is company wide and global in this stage, “….companies proactively study disruptive technologies that may catalyze change.” The overarching goals, now that the the CX has been identified and closely studied, is a.) innovation to serve all customers, regardless of digital behaviors, and b.) to identify missing digital expertise in house by performing an ongoing talent analysis regularly where HR is looped in to train and recruit accordingly.
  5. Technology Integration — New tools and implementation techniques are continuously integrated. A designated CX technology team member serves as liaison between departments in need of data for strategy and program deployment. And an innovation group receives support from advanced IT team partners to test new technologies as they gain market traction.
  6. Digital Literacy — At this stage, digital literacy is at its height. All team members — organization wide — have the skills needed to iterate and innovate. And ongoing education and training fosters continuous innovation. The creative process of generating, developing and communicating new ideas is both required and rewarded at the individual, team, departmental and corporate levels.

In this sixth stage of digital transformation, although it is the last in the series, does not mean that a company stops evolving. It means that a company has reached a point where it’s developed solid ground to continue to evolve into the next stages of a closer integration with its unique customer journey. It means that it’s poised to get team members involved on a deeper level with meaningful processes and systems that have a direct impact on the people that they’re meant to serve, and more meaningful connections with its current customer base.

Step on the Path to Digital Transformation: Take the O.P.P.O.S.I.T.E. Approach

Thank you for following our blog post series of the six stages of digital transformation, originally presented by researchers Brian Solis and Jaimy Szymanski of the Altimeter Group, a Prophet Company. At this point, you likely realize that digital transformation goes far beyond the digital by taking a deep dive into your company’s unique buyer’s journey. And as you pursue these changes, it’s less about stages and more about vision, purpose and resolve — a new paradigm for business leadership, relevance and prosperity. If you are determined to become a change agent in your company, to help lead the journey of digital transformation, your next question must be, “How do I step on the path to digital transformation?” The simple answer: Take the O.P.P.O.S.I.T.E. approach.

The O.P.P.O.S.I.T.E. Approach

In studying companies’ success in digital transformation, Altimeter not only determined the six stages of digital transformation, they also observed the best practices that companies used to move along the continuum of digital transformation and developed a framework that other companies can follow to avoid missteps along the way. Altimeter outlined these best practices in the acronym O.P.P.O.S.I.T.E., defined as:

Orientation: Establish a new perspective, based on seeing customers and employees differently, to drive meaningful change.

People: Understand customers’ values, expectations and behaviors to discover new opportunities to gain relevance.

Processes: Assess operational infrastructure and update (or revamp) technologies, processes and policies to support change. This means writing and rewriting new business models, organizational charts and supporting processes to enable digital transformation.

Objectives: Define digital transformation’s purpose, aligning stakeholders and shareholders around the new vision and road map. This will define what success looks like in both the short- and long-term, plus define customer happiness and desired experience.

Structure: Form a dedicated digital customer experience team with roles, responsibilities, objectives and accountability clearly defined. This DCX team will unite key stakeholders from across the company around a universal customer understanding.

Insights & Intent: Gather data and apply insights toward a strategy to guide digital evolution to embrace the customer expectation and ensure the company stays relevant.

Technology: Re-evaluate front- and back-end systems for a seamless, integrated and native customer (and ultimately employee) experience. Invest in technology infrastructure that enables each pillar of the O.P.P.O.S.I.T.E. approach to optimize customer and employee journeys and experience.

Execution: Implement, learn and adapt to steer ongoing digital transformation and customer experience work. The road map must have stakeholders who are accountable for execution and evolution with outcomes and metrics tied to everything.

It’s a Journey, Not a Destination

Keep in mind that digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. Even when these eight best practices are adopted by your company, you will find that different divisions move at varying paces throughout the six stages, known as: Business as Usual, Present and Active, Formalized, Strategic, Converged, and Innovative and Adaptive.

As a change agent, you may be asked to reach across corporate borders, break down established silos, coach and cajole stakeholders and shareholders, convince the C-Suite — and even be willing to adapt yourself. You recognize the need for change within your company. You see yourself leading that change. You’ve gained an understanding of the six stages of digital transformation and the eight best practices of the O.P.P.O.S.I.T.E. approach.

We encourage you to go into this endeavor boldly, with purpose, but you don’t need to go into it alone. Search Strategy Marketing brings expertise in digital transformation and will work with you to target other change agents within your company, to educate executives and shareholders in the vital need for digital transformation and to help move your company from Stage 1, Stage 2 or wherever you believe it stands at this moment.


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