The IT enterprise is still in the early stages of transitioning to the digital enterprise, figuring out how to adapt data, platforms and applications to Internet-driven business relationships. We need to go from where we are today, what I call random acts of digitization, to a better-defined stage with quantifiable steps and measurable results. The process has no shortcuts, but here are some ideas for doing a better job of knowing your customer and your data, letting go of the old and embracing the new, and finding the courage to face, head on, what amounts to revolutionary change in the ways IT organizations deliver.
The journey map
The digital enterprise starts with understanding that every customer touch point is a moment of truth. Develop a journey map to document each touch and what you learn from it. Each transaction will further define what the customer wants and what you need to provide. Amazon does a great job of seeing each transaction as one milestone in the customer relationship, including records of past orders, preferences and product returns that drive the next transaction. Not all companies do so well: When was the last time an airline website showed you a sidebar of trips you’ve made and what’s going on in those locations as a way to entice you to go back?
IT has to treat customers the same way as, for instance, Amazon does: as consumers whose every action is a signal of how pleased they are and what they may need next. Start by tracking those signals.
Data-driven performance improvement metrics
If you understand your applications and platforms, you understand your data. Do you have the right data management technology in place? Are you using the metrics you need? Once you go digital, you will no longer have the benefit of, “Customer seemed pleased” or “Customer was unhappy”; data is the only way to measure your ongoing journey with your customer. Legacy systems were not envisioned to support digitization, so you will probably need an evolutionary transformation initiative of your transactional and management systems.
Remember that when you ask management and support teams what data they want and they say, “All you’ve got,” that is code for saying they don’t really know what data they need. And without knowing this, they won’t be able to deliver meaningful metrics to achieve organizational buy-in, so you’ll fail at a very early stage. You need the mechanisms in place to analyze end-user needs and measure performance as your digital systems evolve.
Identify the barriers to digital implementation you could encounter as you go. Understand your role in your customers’ ecosystems. What do the barriers to digital implementation look like? What step in the end-to-end continuum of engagement with customers could remain as a barrier when digitized? What are their expectations? Collaboration is always a risk factor in the digital enterprise because so much of it will happen online without the touch and feel of traditional interaction. You need to understand these risks deeply and translate them into your strategies to manage change.
The look-in-the-mirror conversation
When you think about letting go of the old (pre-digital enterprise) and embracing the new, you need to ask simple questions. Where are we now? Where do we need to be? How are we going to get there? What initiatives are needed? How will we manage transformation? How will we review and optimize as we move along? What is required for organizational buy-in? If you don’t have the courage to ask and answer these questions up front, the old saying will apply: “If you don’t have a destination any path will do.” You need to zero in on the destination, pave that path, then follow that path. Having a framework provides guardrails and support – you can depend on the process to guide you.
Digital transformation isn’t a single-approach strategy (web, chat, human guided assistance, social, machine learning,). It’s all of those and managing it is an unending cycle, what a colleague of mine refers to as Mobius, the math property of being non-orientable. The omnichannel digital experience has no beginning, no end and it transforms freely, almost at will. That is the core of what is changing; we’re so used to business concepts centered on Business Process Management, workflow and transactions – now it’s all about channels of experience. If we are ready to drop old assumptions about our systems and ways of operating, and accept that the process has no beginning, middle and end, we will be agile enough and have the right data and understandings to keep moving toward our goal.
The biggest hurdle for IT people, computer scientists who are precise by nature, is to accept that we may not know exactly what this transformation looks like. No one knows exactly what it looks like in the future, but we still need a plan to move forward, and the courage to move ahead, knowing we may be forced to pivot from the plan again and again. An exact path for your transformation to the digital enterprise is unknowable, but definitely not random.
Let me know what it’s like for you on your path to the digital enterprise.