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Digital transformation: Three hard truths about change

(Image credit: Image Credit: Chombosan / Shutterstock)

Business and marketing requirements are changing due to Covid-19. Companies are reassessing their digital transformation models and redefining their digital transformation goals.

According to Twilo’s Covid-19 Digital Engagement Report, which includes a survey of 2,500 enterprise decision-makers, Covid-19 accelerated companies’ digital communications strategy by an average of six years. Surprisingly, 97 percent of enterprises decision-makers believe the pandemic sped up their company’s digital transformation.

The following are three hard truths for any digital transformation project that takes into account the lessons learned by Covid-19.

Truth 1: Data and analytics are the foundation of every digital transformation

Before defining your objectives to drive your digital transformation, you need to establish goals driven by leveraging analytics for data-driven insights. As the management consultant Geoffrey Moore states, “Without big data analytics, companies are blind and deaf, wandering out onto the web like deer on a freeway.”

Digital transformation efforts need to be based on the groundwork of data transformation. This foundation includes analyzing data for decision making, operations, and digital transformation strategies.

It’s helpful to understand where your business is in the Data Maturity Curve, which measures how advanced an organization’s data analysis capability is. Establishing where your company is on the curve can help maximize the value of data while minimizing risk.

In the article “Why Data and Analytics Are Key to Digital Transformation,” Douglas Laney, a VP Analyst at Gartner, points out that beyond using data analytics as reporting and decision-making support tools, “Data and analytics need to become the centerpiece of enterprise strategy, focus, and investment.”

Truth 2: You must challenge the status quo for agile

Operations, Processes, and Integrations

Digital transformation, like all change, is hard, but it is critical for growth. It requires buy-in from your leaders and commitment from all involved. There are bound to be disrupters since one of the most challenging parts of digital transformation is your going against the status quo. The monolithic legacy systems that have brought accolades to individuals in the past need to be replaced by more modern agile systems that can handle new integrations and omnichannel delivery.

As the Covid-19 pandemic has shown, CIOs need to manage processes and integrations to pivot and be resilient. Adopting tools to be more efficient makes changes more effortless in the future. 

Technology stacks are challenging the legacy world of suites, such as AEM, Drupal, and Sitecore. Modular stack architectures, such as JAMstack and MACH, are taking over since they are much more flexible than traditional monolithic systems. A JAMstack architecture is based on client-side JavaScript, APIs, and prebuilt Markup.

MACH stands for Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless. By design a MACH architecture lets businesses iterate and innovate faster. MACH is quickly becoming the architecture of choice for digital transformation. Here is a breakdown of the MACH stack.

Microservices: Small, stand-alone applications let you start small and grow without over investing. Microservices enable flexible development and shorter release cycles.

API-first: Application programming interfaces enable you to integrate with best-of-breed tools and future proof your content for omnichannel delivery.

Cloud-native: Moving to the cloud brings the elasticity to scale as needed. The cloud lets you expand across channels or geographies, decreases operational costs, and supports automation.

Headless: Unlike monolithic systems, a headless architecture works as a content hub. It decouples content from the presentation layer, freeing your front-end content managers to work independently from the back-end developers.

A critical part of any digital transformation is security. Cybersecurity needs to be considered for every process and integration from the beginning of a digital transformation project. Security teams have to be on board and willing to learn new skills to work with new, more adaptable technologies.

Truth 3: It’s the customer, stupid!: Customer-first experience is essential

James Carville, President Clinton’s 1992 political strategist, pasted the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid” on the campaign’s office walls. For the new age of customer-first experience, the phrase for the CIO should be “It’s the customer, stupid!”

Besides operational processes and business models, your digital transformation needs to include customer experience. According to the Twilio report mentioned earlier, 95 percent of all companies are seeking new ways of engaging customers as a result of Covid-19. Marc Benioff, Chairman and Co-CEO of Salesforce tweets that “Every digital transformation is going to begin and end with the customer, and I can see that in the minds of every CEO I talk to.” 

Great customer experiences demand seamless omnichannel communication. It helps create a 360-degree view of users by mapping their journey, identifying their touchpoints, and bridging gaps in communication. You can then build on that data to include their preferences in every step of the customer’s journey to create a seamless and fully integrated experience. Businesses that invest in omnichannel engagement strategies have an average customer retention rate of 89 percent and see an average of 9.5 percent YoY revenue growth.

Too often, companies focus on ROI, but the bigger picture goes beyond ROI with Return on Experience (ROX). The way businesses deliver customer experiences separates the winners from the losers when it comes to the war over customer attention and retention. Customers expect brand experiences that are compelling, consistent, personalized, and accessible across a range of digital touchpoints throughout their journey.

Summary

Having a digital transformation strategy based on data insights, getting buy-in while adopting a more modern, agile architecture, and focusing on customers are the hard truths that apply to a successful digital transformation. Each of these areas lets you start with small projects and grow your transformation. While there is a great deal more complexity in making a digital transformation, these are the starting points, and that’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Nishant Patel, Founder & CTO, Contentstack