Don’t leave the customer behind in your digital transformation journey

Leave behind

Research by McKinsey shows that over 70% of all transformation projects fail, which they define as “large-scale efforts to achieve substantial, sustainable changes in performance, enabled by long-term shifts in the mind-sets, behaviours, and capabilities of employees”. Their research also shows that the main reasons that transformation projects fail is that they, generally, under-invest in three crucial areas: Communication, Behaviour and Training.

That might not be a surprise to many people who have their own personal experience of going through a ‘transformation’ project.

However, what is encouraging is to see how firms are starting to change their approach and are starting to invest more in their people and their ability to deliver a better customer experience.

For example, take a look at Wiley, who despite a 209 year old history as a traditional publisher is in the process of transforming itself into a digital customer-centric learning business. They have realised that in order to better help students, researchers and corporate professionals develop the skills they need to succeed they too have to develop their own skills. Wiley’s CMO, Clay Stobaugh, comments that

“it is important for us to not only provide knowledge for our customers, but also for our own colleagues. By investing in internal training programs, we at Wiley are encouraging marketing colleagues to develop the skill sets needed to better serve our customers and, ultimately, enhance business performance.”

Now, that’s great and shows what can be achieved, even by older and more traditional firms, especially when they invest just as much in their people as they do in their processes and technology.

But, it’s not just about learning new skills. It’s also about what you do with those skills.

For example, if you go back to the McKinsey research and look at the ‘The 24 actions of transformation’ that they say, in their experience supports “the successful implementation of a transformation” there is little mention of the customer in any of these actions.

As a result, I worry that amongst all of the talk of transformation that the customer may be getting lost in the process.

This is supported by recent research by Amdocs into the communications industry, for example, which found that:

  • They shared the same concerns about skills and viewed ‘having the right skills’ as the number one factor that would most help companies digitally transform themselves;
  • That ‘business agility’ was considered as the most critical capability that organisations must develop if they are to survive and thrive in the digital age;
  • But, in large part, customers are not adopting the new digital channels that are being developed i.e. they are suffering from “low digital channel adoption rates” and that is one of the top three biggest obstacles to achieving digital transformation, either in terms of slowing down a project, or completely derailing it.

Now, the problem with these findings is that whilst these firms recognise the need for new skills and for being more agile, their “low digital channel adoption rates” suggests that they still have a lot of work to do.

No, in fact, I’d go further. It feels like a waste. A waste of time and resources. But, also begs the question……..where was the customer in the process, how involved were they, what assumptions were made and how much piloting, testing, learning and adapting took place before these channels were launched? Because, what is the point of trying to transform your business if it is not going to help you increase engagement, build better relations with your customer or to deliver a better service or a better experience?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not under-estimating the size of the task that organisations have to undertake if they are to digitally transform themselves.

But, if you want to really transform your business then make sure you take your customers and your people with you. After all, you wouldn’t want to arrive at your destination and find that you’ve left them behind.




This post was originally published in the Q2 2016 edition of Enterprise Management 360° which can be seen here and here.
Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc


4 comments On Don’t leave the customer behind in your digital transformation journey

  • Has it not always been the case that transformation projects fail, as long as I have been researching , talking to business leaders this has always been the case, for me failure starts at the Corporate vision, mission and value statements, I am loving the challenger brands specifically around the vision piece we are aligning our products and services for the greater good of all stakeholders, I do not have a problem with making a profit but you might want to look at this organisation as they are going to change the FS market for good. love the concept, check them out, seriously they are going to change the World.

  • Adrian,

    I guess all of these transformations neglect two things when it comes to employees and customers:
    1. What is in it for me?
    2. What do I stand to lose?

    Until those issues are faced into then the status quo is usually the best place to be.

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