Brand Building

5 Ways to Unlock Digital Transformation Success

1). Shift Perspective: There was a famous experiment on perspective in the 1950s that used inversion goggles to turn the world upside down for participants. Within a week people were able to adjust to this upside-down perspective. A fun video on the experiment:

Digital transformation suffers from a perspective problem and a definition issue. When the topic of digital transformation comes up, people apply a very personal definition. The definition varies greatly across organizations and frequently includes digital as a channel strategy versus the more significant reality. Digital transformation is really about irreversible experience transformation, operational transformation, and ultimately business transformation. It is a new way of engaging and operating that provides sustainable competitive advantage.

Organizational digital transformation requires a shared lexicon and a group shift in perspective to be successful. Digital transformation requires organizations to move away from internal silos, and demands a more significant appreciation and immersion into the human dynamics of their teams and their customers.

2). Create New Roles: The complexities of digital transformation require organizations to revisit and invent new roles. Today’s roles are often channel, audience, or single discipline focused. The skills and responsibilities in digitally transforming and transformed organizations begin to look very different. There is an increasing need for broader perspectives that span across a customer journey and for critical skills that help to make the connections between ideas and systems.

One of the benefits of starting organizations from the ground up is that it allows you to design roles that fit today’s and tomorrow’s business, without legacy job titles and structures. As you transform your organization it is important to consider how your current roles and the skills of your teams should evolve to drive the transformation of the business. These roles may not be formalized initially, but their accountabilities need to be considered as part of transformation efforts.

The skills required for these new roles depend heavily on analytical thinking, a system mindset, a puzzle-solving approach, and a balanced appreciation of human science and technology innovation. System designers, orchestrators, human scientists, and show runners begin to emerge. The system designer acts as an architect for the new models. The orchestrator manages a more complex integrated system. The human scientist champions behavior, change management, and experience. The show runner sets and maintains a transformational vision and has the authority to make decisions in the interest of the vision.

3). Establish a New Currency: Transformative models are fueled by a new currency. Time, data, service, and value are the drivers of the new models. Success will be determined on how you can make things faster, smarter, easier, and better. The inspirational digital by design product, tech, and service companies that get frequently name-checked were designed and built on one or more of these currencies.

The first two “faster and smarter” are driven by the real-time data rich environment of today. The demand for immediacy and relevance hasn’t been higher. Teams must embrace and quantify time. The time it takes to serve, build, respond, satisfy, engage, or even load an experience all has a significant financial impact. “I want it now, and I want it my way” thinking drives the demand for a smarter business model with a layer of intelligence and personalization.

The second pair “easier and better” tap into a market environment that demands efficiency and elevated value both to customers and the business. Fluid seamless experiences that transcend device and channel start to separate and competitively differentiate the good from the great. This begins to force an internal discipline around simplification and reducing the steps, parts, and pieces within transformative systems.

4). Transform Your Environment: Many companies have a Sunday evening/Monday morning phenomenon. Sunday evening employees are using their iPad, playing Xbox with the kids, and talking to Alexa. On Monday morning they enter a workplace filled with multiple sign-ons, disconnected systems, desktop heavy presentation, and unfriendly interfaces. This contradiction contributes to slowing down internal transformation efforts.

Organizations who successfully transform their external experience almost always have been as diligent with transforming their internal experience. Transformation is a reflection of your best self. Organizations need a proactive plan to transform how you engage, operate, onboard, and communicate internally. It’s less about navel-gazing as it is collectively embracing the currencies above to drive how the business operates.

Start by identifying those workplace pain points that feel incongruous with your external transformation vision. Operational areas like onboarding a new employee, planning a new program, or troubleshooting a service request open up interesting transformative opportunities. Create internal opportunities for customer immersion, technology innovation, and service elevation to transform how you operate.

5). Experiment Toward a Vision: Digital transformation requires thinking at scale. It becomes real when you ask bigger business questions and establish a more visionary destination. For example, “How do we meaningfully connect with every customer who starts using our product?”, and “How do we cure condition x?” These larger world changing questions help to maintain a north star for a transformation journey.

Successful and enduring digital transformation is built through serial experimentation and disciplined planning. Organizations cannot get caught up in a cycle of novelty pilots. With the vision in mind, it is important to have a disciplined approach to agile experiments that are designed to make continual progress toward that goal. Transformation is a continuous cycle of learning and applying at a much faster rate than ever before.

Overall there has to be a bit of a willingness to burn the bridges behind you and not retreat to comfortable ways of operating and to stop investing human and financial resources into significant elements of the current business model.

In summary, if you approach the business inside and out with a freshly informed perspective, a willingness to undo, and an obsession with the currency that drives today’s digital world, you will create sustainable advantage.


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Will Reese
As Co-President & Chief Innovation Officer at Cadient, William Reese leads the innovation team to identify strategic opportunities within the healthcare space to drive deeper relationships with professionals, consumers, and payers. Will brings more than 10 years of healthcare industry experience providing marketing strategy, program management, information architecture, and technical consulting for major pharmaceutical clients including Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson. He has developed award-winning campaigns for numerous category-leading brands, and he has extensive product launch and professional marketing knowledge.

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