In last month’s post, we reviewed a number of examples of legacy firms who’ve made successful — and inspiring — digital transformations. Walmart, Pitney Bowes, JPMorgan Chase and the city of Cary, North Carolina. Despite their vast differences, we can learn from the common elements that brought them success. So today, I’ll dig a little deeper into these success factors and deliver some specific recommendations.
Takeaways from top transformations
• Drive transformation from a C-Suite that understands the stakes. The key to making this happen is to illustrate the landscape that makes change a necessity and a priority. A supportive CEO can make critical funding available but also signal to the entire enterprise that transformation is a strategic priority. Nothing is more effective at driving change in an organization than making it clear the CEO wants it to happen and is rating people on its progress. All of our examples had this advantage.
• Prioritize investments in transformation over quarterly revenue. Each of the transformations we’ve discusses includes a move toward a more risk-tolerant environment. Leaders must demonstrate full support for the transformation — even acknowledging that it may have a short term detrimental effect on quarterly results as new tech is on-boarded and people learn new ways of working. Employees have permission to spend the time necessary to learn new tools and processes that will ultimately make the firm more customer-friendly. People should also feel comfortable experimenting with new ideas without fear of failure. This breeds innovation.
• Move Infrastructure to the cloud. In short, get flexible. Many established companies feel hobbled by their own heterogeneous data centers where intertwined and complex applications have built up over time. The ability to quickly change, scale and adapt their stack of marketing software is a key component of the successes we’ve discussed.
• Bring development in-house. Leverage lean and agile methodology. There are very few business assets more powerful than an innovative and passionate internal development team. Working in ‘Agile sprints’, these dedicated company employees see the value of what they do more clearly than most, since they’re in the business of continuous improvement and can celebrate positive customer results or correct negative ones on a monthly or shorter cadence. In their capable hands a firm’s critical digital infrastructure performs at its peak and can turn on a dime.
Be inspired. Gather your team and start with these steps today
Regardless of your company’s size, age or industry, you now know for sure that transformation is possible. And you have a strong set of key actions to get you started. Don’t wait. That will only make the changes more difficult. Move boldly! Here are your first steps:
• Get your CEO with the program. If you are the CEO, then rally your executives. Explain the promise of leveraging digital insights and technology to deliver world- class customer experiences. Convey the urgency and the consequences of inaction or delay.
• Educate your employees about digital. Start with communications about the value of digital and why your company needs to transform. Launch an initiative to plan and create educational activities to build employees’ capabilities. Begin with online presentations and quizzes then move on to in-class curricula. Do this for both Marketing and IT teams.
• Get your business into the cloud to gain flexibility. If your company runs its business from a legacy data center it may be filled with interlinked disparate software applications that have been built up and ‘customized’ to work together co-dependently over time. This makes upgrades and new solutions difficult. If this sounds like your situation, it’s time to move to a cloud-based, modular software stack. Roadmap the transition. While you’re at it, hold a “hackathon” to solve your biggest challenges and recruit the creators of the best solutions to start or augment your internal development team.
• Look for technology savvy companies to partner with or acquire. It’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel yourself. There may be companies out there who have already solved the issues you’re facing. Some are vendors who sell these services and can become valuable partners. Others may be competitors in your industry who are ripe for acquisition or merger. Don’t underestimate the value of finding an easy route to an excellent customer experience.
• Brainstorm new business models. Question old assumptions about your business. Pull a team together to analyze your company’s differentiators, then hold facilitated discovery sessions to map new business models that take advantage of these strengths. Look for new uses for your products, services and expertise, new markets that would be interested in them and new supply chains to help build on your existing solutions and create innovations.