Digital transformation is a term that has passed the lips of many agencies and marketers over the past few years.

When you hear somebody say 'digital transformation', that's more than just a new website.

It's about the adoption of new technologies that will have a transformative effect on your business. It's like landscaping your digital environment to streamline your business.

Digital transformation success

There's an overarching model for implementing a successful digital transformation project.

According to Daniel Newman and Olivier Blanchard, authors of "Futureproof: 7 key pillars for digital transformation success", the 7 pillars for success are:

  1. Experiences
  2. People
  3. Change
  4. Innovation
  5. Leadership
  6. Technology
  7. Culture

In this article we explore each of these 7 pillars. By the end, hopefully you'll be able to see how they can help you and your organisation transform your digital environment.

1. Experiences

Understanding your customers is vital for every business. What do they like? How do they behave on your website?

What influences their buying decisions? What type of experiences will fulfil your customers' expectations and drive sales?

Harnessing technologies like Content Management Systems (CMS) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems can help meet and exceed customer expectations. But it's not all about technology, technology only provides a set of tools.

For example, a powerful CMS would enable your business to personalised content etc., while a great CMR system would capture leads, opportunities, customers and combinations and permutations that would solidify your marketing objectives and activities.

But all of this comes at a cost, with a focus on ROI.

Because budgets vary for every business, not everything has to be or can be done at once. It’s important to deliver an experience that aligns with customer expectations and your budget.

However, it's not only about your external customers buying your products and services. Internal relations with your employees matter too.

If your external experience platforms fulfil customer expectations and deliver positive experiences, then your internal infrastructure like a CRM system and/or an intranet etc. should do the same.

Can your employees do their jobs efficiently with the technological tools you provide?

It doesn’t matter if you run a small website selling cakes, or a full-blown, global enterprise set-up supplying fibre optics. Having the right tech in place for internal and external operations is essential to creating experiences that reflect your brand and fulfil your public’s needs.

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2. People

Where would a business be without the right (happy) people in the right roles, using the right tools for the job?

An empowered and happy workforce can increase productivity by up to 15%.

It's not only the people within your organisation that matter. It's also those in external agencies that have been procured to deliver your dream. These are the front line! An outside agency with a dedicated and experienced team can be the difference between success and failure.

In the current digital landscape there’s a lot of focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and marketing automation. We could be forgiven for fooling ourselves into the notion that people will become a luxury rather than a necessity.

But without the human touch, the experiences delivered will not be human at all. They'd be a synthesised version of what makes us human.

That's why it's important to utilise technologies to create meaningful experiences while maintaining the human to human aspect.

3. Change

Are you really ready for change? Talking about it is easy. Because at some point change is as inevitable as the seasons.

Change isn't easy. It can't be forcibly applied. It needs buy-in from everybody. Business leaders would need convincing that spending money is required to halt stagnation and to future-proof the business.

But you also need employees pulling in the right direction, too. You'll need to set expectations and produce a structured, committed and methodical business strategy that encourages change while dealing with resistance.

Gaining employee confidence can also be achieved. Providing the right tools like collaborative software, and the right surroundings, like a positive workspace, goes a long way towards their embracing and delivering change.

At Codehouse, we’ve helped many businesses harness change, even in the most challenging times like we’re in now.

4. Innovation

Innovation plays a vital role in digital transformation initiatives.

Innovation should be a constant. For example, a small or 'local' innovation within your business can prove invaluable.

Equally, start-ups and big tech companies that disrupt with technologies like human augmentation, hyper automation and Autonomous Things (AuT) can prompt swathes of change.

Harnessing innovation trends to streamline your business could place it in the forefront of change.

For example, Intelligent Composable Business, the concept of structuring your business around interchangeable building blocks, is considered by Gartner as the future of business.

“Composable business is a natural acceleration of the digital business that you live every day. It allows us to deliver the resilience and agility that these interesting times demand. Daryl Plummer, Gartner VP Analyst

Innovation needs to be nurtured. During these challenging times innovation management is taking an holistic approach. Businesses are adopting a 360-degree ideation view with the aim of increasing flexibility, driving growth, and becoming agile.

Communication, collaboration, agility, problem solving and the freedom to innovate, are essential to transforming the fortunes of your business.

5. Leadership

Where would businesses be without motivating and inspiring leadership?

The role of a leader in a digital transformation project is to ensure that all the working parts are well-oiled. From business processes to the people delivering the project, great leadership comes from the top and filters down.

For example, if a CEO isn't focused and committed to the project, there's a high likelihood it will fall flat on its face. That's why stakeholder buy-in and commitment from everyone involved is vital to sustaining a project all through its lifecycle.

However, the importance of setting expectations can’t be understated. Short-term and long-term goals need to be set and targeted in the appropriate stages of the project. You can’t target your long-term goals too early. Projects can easily derail because of this.

For example, in 2011 General Electric poured billions into its transformation project, GE Digital. The company soon got bogged down focusing on short-term goals and earnings rather than long-term goals and returns. Because of this the project failed and the CEO was forced out.

Efficient and methodical planning. Creative thinking. Inspiration, motivation, focus and the belief in one’s convictions. These are what drive people to follow, produce, and deliver.

6. Technology

We live in a world with an abundance of technologies. One could argue that we always have because technology is relative to its time. A spoon, 6,000 years ago was a new technology, as was the steam engine 200 years ago.

But the past 40 years have seen a dramatic spike in innovation and technological advancements.

From the launch of the Sinclair ZX81 with 1k memory (yes 1k), to advancements in AI, search engines, digital marketing, and quantum technology, the one certainty is that it won't stop anytime soon.

The question is: Which (right) technologies, within your budget, can transform your business?

It may be harnessing an enterprise grade CMS like Sitecore. It could be integrating your CRM like Salesforce with your CMS, or upgrading your intranet. It could even be harnessing marketing automation software or adding a simple online payment gateway to your modest website.

Whichever path you choose, utilising the relevant technologies so your business can achieve its goals is important. So too if 'big' data is used to make informed decisions about your transformation project.

For example, if data shows that the introduction of a new technology could increase your bottom line by x%, then, if you have the budget, resources, and commitment, the change should happen.

The important thing is to use data-driven insights to identify the right tech for streamlining your business.

7. Culture

Cultural change in organisations is one of the hardest things to implement. If values and attitudes erode over time, it's extremely challenging to re-align them with existing values - or anchor the new ones.

Everyone involved in an organisation, from employees to customers, need to buy in to the culture by embracing its values. This cements a positive experience, as opposed to a toxic one.

A digital transformation project with people pulling in different directions is doomed to fail.

That's why organisational culture can be considered one of the most important pillars.

Embedding an 'open' culture promotes collaboration and puts people first. Openness encourages people to innovate and communicate to inspiring leaders. This will drive the project forward.

Equally, customers that embrace the brand's values and have a positive experience are more likely to be loyal and advocate the brand.

A digital transformation project means different things to different people. Ultimately, it's unique to your business. As long as you have the right tools, the right technologies and committed people in place, you're a step closer to fulfilling your objectives. 

At Codehouse we’ve worked with many businesses on a variety of digital transformation projects, with successful results.

If you want to find out how to take your idea to the next stage, then contact our team of experts.