In this article

1. The specific value your organization wants to unlock

Before you start, you need to determine your organization's shared definition of value that you want to provide to customers through the transformation. In fact, ideally you should work with the most senior leaders and influencers across marketing, data, digital and technology to get to a single unified definition of your unique value, through interviews and alignment workshops. 

This entails many important elements, including:

  • Understanding the current and future needs of users, customers, employees, and any other stakeholders who will ultimately be impacted by these changes.
  • Aligning different interests, goals and digital maturity across the organization.
  • Recognizing if your technical foundation needs to evolve to keep pace with competition (spoiler alert: it does).
  • Identifying how to stay a step ahead of where your industry is heading, what trends to address and how to prioritize your roadmap effectively.

At the end of the day, the person with the ultimate responsibility in determining your organization's value and setting the organization vision for the future is the CEO, based on input from the top leaders and influencers who help determine where transformative value exists and lead the charge to unlock it.

2. The overall customer experience you want to create

In the past two years, consumer expectations have accelerated a decade ahead of where we were, with the pandemic fueling a predicted digital transformation spend of $6.8 trillion globally by 2023. 

Customers want service to be quick, intuitive, automated, self-service and on-demand. An experience that works seamlessly across the location and device barrier is critical. Anything less can entice a customer to switch where they bank, which travel partner they use, which clinic or university they want to attend and more. And it is easier than ever to just walk away, to a better option down the proverbial street, which of course is digital, global and easily accessible. 

An inside out, floor to ceiling, virtual to physical, frictionless experience is now table stakes.

People don't compartmentalize their experiences throughout the day, so implicitly they feel that if they can order their dinner with a text, they should also be able to check on medical results or make financial transactions. But these expectations are dashed by poor mobile or web experiences, inadequate networks, clunky kiosk devices or analog mechanisms that should be seamlessly digitized. 

Most consumers expect the internet of things to work in perfect harmony from firmware to software. Anything less can easily sway a fickle customer to another brand. 

Transformational changes like the brilliant "Play Next" capability developed by Netflix seem small but are game-changing. Of course, the amount of thought that goes into creating that type of experience can be overwhelming, especially for organizations that are not digitally native. It involves developing an understanding of your customer personas' needs and desires often before they even know them. In fact, digital transformation hinges on connecting data and people and deriving insights from that, then leveraging those insights to invent new, better and hopefully ingenious ways to provide value.  

It then requires building hypotheses and testing them to find the best architecture to make it happen. Understanding the digital-physical landscape helps provide a clearer path to which operational, technological and procedural gaps need to be stitched together. At the heart of it, multi-screen, omnichannel, front-end experience is just window dressing without a modern architecture built for seamless integration of system and data. It's the orchestration and integration platforms (whether built or bought) that become the most critical component to stitching this otherwise patchwork quilt together to form a unified experience.

At this point, not many organizations are adept at connecting the front end thought process around desired interactions and experience with the required backend systems design. In fact, many organizations who can master their brand strategy for future experience are best served to engage with a partner to design and build for them, or better yet work with a partner who can help them throughout the process and address the problem set from both ends. 

3. How to make transformation work for employees, too 

Customers are not the only ones whose expectations have radically changed; the workforce has also evolved at a dramatically enhanced pace recently. Employees are like any consumers these days – constantly conditioned to expect seamless experiences. Organizations need to assess the workforce experience they provide through a very different lens than they may have in the past. Slow and unwieldy processes that lead to difficulty doing business are no longer just irritations, but can be non-starters and game-enders for employees, who have new and better options emerging every day.  

Fortunately, what you're creating for your customer in terms of your interactions can be easily translated to not only better outcomes for customers, but also to employee and partner experience. If a simple, effective new mobile app could make life better for your client, imagine what it would mean for your workforce? A recent Harvard Business Review study showed that companies were more likely to have successful transformations if those efforts were also focused on their own people in addition to customers and external stakeholders.

The bottom line is that digital transformation has patterns that you can identify and apply to both customer and employee experience. If you are able to recognize how transformation that needs to happen for your customers also needs to happen internally, you are far more likely to lead successful transformations that create competitive advantage.

4. What success looks like – for everyone 

Before you begin your journey, be sure to identify and gain agreement on what you are trying to achieve and how you will measure it, derived from your original strategy, and perhaps even developed along with the strategy itself. When leadership across the board is not aligned on success metrics, they may encourage greater disparities, harden functional silos, and contribute to a lack of trust that together will slow down progress and can thwart success. Competing priorities can give competitors just enough time to gain competitive advantage. Keeping leadership on the same page minimizes noise and friction, and ensures that the integrity of concept to execution is delivered in the most efficient and effective way, and that where you end up is exactly where you envisioned at the start.

Determining success factors and KPIs as you build strategy is one way of ensuring strategy and execution are intrinsically interwoven throughout the process, and that you create outcomes directly aligned with your strategy. A shared, prioritized roadmap with business-aligned milestones, established success criteria and clear measurements is a recipe for success.

For complicated transformations, you may want to aim small at first, so you can miss small if necessary and gain momentum with early, incremental, successes. Keep in mind that transformation is not a "thing;" it's a way of being, requiring ongoing technology, process and mindset adjustments throughout the organization. After all, it's easier to change processes and systems than people. 

5. That everyone's working toward a shared vision

The alignment of business and technology leaders around a unified view of value is key to business transformation. The larger the organization, the wider the disparity between functions can be, with isolated silos operating with their own priorities in play. You can achieve better outcomes more quickly when these relationships are in sync.

Maintaining alignment throughout the transformation will take concerted effort, active listening and empathy for each other's needs and concerns, as well as a continued commitment to achieving a shared vision.

A third audience — your audience —  is also crucial to success. From consumers to employees and executives, the interests, goals and friction points of these groups provide a well-rounded picture and must be taken into account to drive transformations that increase revenues, improve brand experience and create growth.