Article summary: Business leaders have been using the phrase “digital transformation” for years—and it has gained even more importance as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But what does the term actually mean? And more importantly, how can companies make sure their digital efforts and investments gain traction and generate real business impact?
In a new series, we talk to three digital experts from leading agencies and brands and get their insight on how to take a strategic approach to digital transformation. This article features insights from Margaret Wise, Chief Revenue Officer at Arke.
Addressing digital transformation confusion
If you google “digital transformation”, you’ll see headlines from big vendors, consultancies, and publications—like Salesforce, Harvard Business Reivew, CIO, McKinsey. But contradictory definitions abound. The featured snippet from Salesforce states:
"Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies to create new — or modify existing — business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements."
But if you scroll a little further, a headline from Harvard Business Review claims “Digital Transformation Is Not About Technology” and a headline from CIO dubs it a “necessary disruption”.
The concept of digital transformation is expansive and, because of this, it is inherently murky. Difficult to make tangible. Tough to break apart into actionable steps. But there is enormous pressure on companies to “go digital” and to embark on a digital transformation. This often leads to a lot of lip service, but not a lot of impact.
With more companies than ever focused on digital, evaluating technologies to power digital experiences, hiring digital talent… a natural question surfaces: Is that digital transformation strategic?
At FullStory, we’ve seen firsthand what happens when companies invest in technology without a plan in place to ensure it 1) solves the right problem, 2) meets the needs of their employees, and 3) is adopted and widely used. Technology becomes shelfware, money is wasted, employees fall back into the status quo. And technology is just one piece of the transformation puzzle!
So, we decided to check in with digital experts—leaders and practitioners from digital agencies as well as digital experts from successful brands—and get their practical insight on how companies can achieve legitimate digital transformation success.
First up, Margaret Wise, Chief Revenue Officer at Arke. Arke is a consultancy providing data insights, digital strategy, experience design, and marketing technology services that deliver results.
The consultancy perspective: Margaret Wise, Chief Revenue Officer at Arke on strategic digital transformation
Q: What does the term “digital transformation” mean to you?
Margaret: I think of digital transformation as the effort to de-silo digital, moving from digital as a separate channel to digital as embedded across an organization.
I do think there is confusion around the term for the general population. Is it about creating digital tools internally and automating processes? That's one perspective. Our clients are often thinking about “digital transformation” the same way as we do. They are trying to figure out how to go digital as part of a multi-faceted prospecting and customer experience.
Q: What are the most important things a company should keep in mind when embarking on a digital transformation journey?
Margaret: It’s critical to develop your digital strategy in line with your organization’s strategic goals. Digital transformation is enormous and you can’t bite everything off at once; you’ll always have to prioritize limited resources. You need to prioritize based on your organization’s unique goals.
The data supports this point. According to FullStory's State of Digital Experience 2020 report:
The ability to disseminate shared organizational goals is a characteristic of more successful digital experience organizations. Our data shows that more mature digital organizations are 93% more likely to agree or strongly agree that “everyone working on digital experience understands the organization’s goals and how to achieve them.”
It’s also really important that—from day one—there is an understanding that this isn’t “set it and forget it”. Plan for continuous optimization.
Q: How does Arke help companies define their digital priorities?
Margaret: We have our own methodologies, of course. These involve conducting workshops, defining the organization’s goals, identifying the tools they currently have in place and the additional capabilities they’re looking for. The result is a prescriptive roadmap that details the dependencies, the logic, and the teams that are involved at each step.
If a company already has a clear digital transformation strategy in place, we’ll do a digital experience analysis to find opportunities to improve the digital experience from a performance and customer frustration perspective.
Our goal is to help our clients operationalize digital. It’s not about making a single set of changes but building infrastructure to enable continuous testing, measuring, and improving—and demonstrating the impact over time as it relates to those strategic goals.
"It’s not about making a single set of changes but building infrastructure to enable continuous testing, measuring, and improving—and demonstrating the impact over time as it relates to those strategic goals."
Q: What are the most common stumbling blocks you see organizations face when it comes to digital transformation?
Margaret: One of the biggest stumbling blocks is around ownership; companies often struggle to determine who should own digital transformation. While the “who” varies from company to company, ownership has to be at the top. It has to be a C-level driven initiative. To succeed, digital transformation needs an owner who is bought-in and can help the organization prepare for some of the inevitable disruption to the business.
Digital transformation requires dedicated human resources. When these resources are fractional in an organization, it prevents operationalization. There is also a data and analytics component. Like people, when the data is fractional and siloed, it’s difficult to measure and show impact. The key is to enable your people and your data to work in concert.
Again, data from FullStory's State of DX report supports this idea:
Organizations that report having an executive owner who is responsible for the digital experience are much more likely to agree that everyone in the organization is aligned around shared digital goals. Meanwhile, organizations that struggle to deliver an ideal digital experience are 33% more likely to report that they struggle to create consensus among leaders about top digital experience priorities.
To Margaret’s final point about de-siloing data, our findings showed that organizations in higher phases of digital experience maturity were 190% more likely to report that team members can access the data they need directly versus those in lower phases of digital experience maturity.
In the next post in our series, we’ll hear the innovator’s perspective. We sat down with Michael Moore, CIO / CTO at Moosejaw, a leading U.S. retailer of outdoor goods and apparel that has seen its share of digital transformation. Michael has been in senior-level roles in ecommerce and IT for the past 20 years, and has spent the last nine years overseeing all things technology at Moosejaw. Stay tuned!
Want to learn more about Arke and the work they do for their clients? Visit www.arke.com.
Curious about how FullStory's digital experience analytics platform powers digital transformation? Read Patrick's story for a first-hand account from a product management lead who is building an ideal technology stack to power digital transformation.