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Panic to progress: Digital transformation gets serious

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(Image credit: Shutterstock / aorpixza)

When the starter goes off at a road race, a small group of runners will usually fire onto the course, pushing to get to the head of the pack as quickly as possible. Behind them, the more level-paced runners roll out their race strategy phase by phase, recognizing the need to speed or slow down to stay in contention. The race to digital transformation is somewhat similar.

Amid worldwide disruption in 2020, many businesses scrambled to move to an online model, the urgency of the moment driving the pace. Quite literally, a matter of survival for some, the shift to digital was imperative. Now, many have reached a plateau, with time to reflect on what is working, what isn’t, and how to plan for the long game. 

Pandemic-fuelled mayhem aside, true transformation is a goal reached through planning, building and learning, with a healthy reliance on strategy and collaboration. To get it right, companies need to go back to basics, evaluating their adherence to the four main pillars of digital transformation.

People

Any discussion about the importance of digital capabilities needs to start with the most non-digital element in the mix, people. When technology is evolving at lightning speed, it’s critical that a company’s workforce is brought along with it in an intentional and feedback-driven way. 

What’s more, gone are the days where business leaders could make wholesale changes in a business without input from the C-suite and day-to-day employees. Leaders must employ transparency and share the foundations of change and what those shifts mean for teams within the organization. By listening to your employees first, organizations can learn how to best support a workforce and navigate unfamiliar territory in their roles and responsibilities, or in their work-life scenario.

And then you must invest in training and education to bring individuals up to speed on new technology and processes, empowering them to be an active part of the evolution. The numbers alone are staggering, as many organizations in the UK (91 percent) struggled to find workers with the right skills over the past 12 months, costing them a staggering £6.3 billion.

To foster an energized, collaborative team behind any transformation, companies also need to take a critical look inward to make sure all the voices within that team are being heard. By foregoing the traditional top-down communications model, we were able to open new internal channels to encourage regular collaboration and feedback across teams at all levels.

Businesses today are being called on by both consumers and employees to stretch their motivations beyond commerce and make an impact on society as a whole. Diversity and inclusion are key elements in creating an intentional plan to engage in social initiatives impactfully. By providing a psychologically safe environment, one in which employees feel safe to offer divergent opinions without threat of retribution, companies can empower both their internal culture and external efforts. 

Data

Digital transformation involves converting unstructured data to structured data wherever possible and using that data efficiently and effectively. While consumer and business digital adoption was expedited at an unprecedented rate last year, the methods behind capturing, analyzing and maximizing the data around that sprint didn’t always keep pace. 

With privacy now at the forefront of most data conversations, businesses need to bring their data analysis systems up to speed and develop new ways to utilize first-hand data more effectively. No longer is it acceptable to use buyer insights to follow consumers around the internet. Today, businesses need to study the intention and behavior patterns behind first-hand data to more impactfully reach individuals at key points along the purchase journey. In refining these analyses, companies can also discover ways to define new, high-value customer segments. 

Technology

New technology is only as successful as the framework supporting it. By first analyzing current capabilities for strengths, vulnerabilities and capacity, especially following any rushed modifications in 2020, businesses can gauge their infrastructure against the demands to be put on it going forward. Once the framework is adapted for new platforms, every step in the process and every function of the infrastructure can open up new opportunities. Conversely, failure to take advantage of new connectivity represents an opportunity cost. Starting with the basics by fortifying the framework, updating platform usage and refining measurement practices are all critical to maximizing opportunity and identifying inefficiencies. 

Auditing existing technology also reveals areas where automation can play a more efficient role. Retailers, for example, can employ technology-driven stock management systems or digitally maintain sales and inventory records. By eliminating a significant portion of the physical activities inherent in retail, employees are freed up to take on more customer-facing tasks that are essential for small business success. 

Creativity

A company whose digital marketing efforts are supercharged by leading-edge data analytics and the layers of consumer insights they offer is surrounded by potential. Then comes the time to make it count in an omnichannel landscape. 

Now more than ever, consumers are engaging with brands through multiple channels, which means creativity needs to be adaptable across channels. Agility brings about multiple opportunities to inform, delight and entice potential customers, not to mention gather more data insights along the way. To maximize every digital interaction, quality content is critical. By investing creative energy in product descriptions, category descriptions and helpful consumer-centric information, businesses can go a long way in building strong customer relationships in a digital world. 

The race to digital transformation may have been running at a full sprint last year. But by eyeing the course, adjusting pace and keeping forward momentum, brands can use this time to catch their breath, ready to drive their digital transformation with confidence into the long game.

Sharon Harris, CMO, Jellyfish

Sharon Harris is the Chief Marketing Officer at Jellyfish, a digital partner to some of the world’s leading brands including Uber, eBay, Disney, Spotify, Nestlé, Ford, Aviva and ASOS.