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Think big, start small, move fast

That’s the secret of digital transformation. Not to forget better core IT efficiency and innovative services

Stories of digital transformations are all around us. We hear about companies that are disrupting existing business models, such as Uber, Airbnb and Zillow, or those that are innovating with the changing times, such as Nike, Starbucks and Netflix. We also hear about traditional leaders such as BMW and Marriott Hotels actively striving to improve customer experience.

What we do not hear often are the stories of unsuccessful attempts made by companies. And I must emphasise that for every success story that we hear, there are dozens of failures that we don’t. Digital transformation takes real work and real expertise.

Hugely complex

Let me share three critical aspects of digital transformations that companies overlook when embarking on this journey.

First is underestimating the complexity of digital transformation — especially the need for deep domain and technology expertise.

Digital experiences — web, social and mobile — that empower and delight customers require a thorough understanding of the business context and the right set of technologies to make them work. Enterprises often misunderstand digital to mean a monolithic block expecting it to deliver the same results across domains. That is not the case. Digital transformation approaches differ in each industry; it needs to be a lot more thought through than merely putting out a smart mobile app. Banks should strive to engage their customers continuously rather than just during a transaction. Retailers need to understand how their customers are combining the instore and online shopping experience. The hospitality industry must look at the needs of a connected traveller, and technology companies will need to look at how wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT) will change a consumer’s day-to-day life.

These changes need deep understanding of changing customer expectations. The experiences also need to be understood in the context of the channel the company is leveraging and not force fit the experience of one channel on to the other.