Digital transformation will be the topic on everyone’s minds next year. Some of you are starting to plan for it now.

There are a number of ways to go about your own digital transformation, but after doing tons of research on the topic, I brought together the biggest steps you’ll need to take to achieve true digital transformation:

1. Assess the current market and set a benchmark.

The first step is assessing the current market, and not just the obvious reason of knowing what your potential customers are looking for, but also to give you and your team some perspective on exactly what you have to gain and to lose.

If you’re in a large, corporate organization, this could mean leaning on your Research and Development department for extremely valuable intel on current customers. Do the proper research – focus groups, surveys, product tests, etc. – to learn the most about your customers, but also do the research on customer expectations.

This part is key.

All of the research in the world doesn’t matter if customer expectations are not met.

If you’re in a small or medium-sized business, this research might either be outsourced to a firm that can do this type of work, or you’ll go about doing it yourself! Set up a SurveyMonkey.com account and create a survey campaign to get your customers to give your organization some valuable feedback.

Focus on the digital questions – what’s their behavior like regarding digital and products or services like yours? What devices do they use? How often do they think about your industry? The list of questions could go on forever, but chances are there’s specific questions you need answered.

There’s also the option of simply researching the research itself! Tons of organizations conduct their own studies and research and can offer it all to you either for a price or for free.

You can use this to get an idea of where the market’s headed for your specific industry or service / product type. Either way, you need to be informed.

2. Use competitive information – but sparingly.

Several articles about digital transformation will tell you to do a competitive analysis of your more digitally-savvy competition. While I think this is a great idea, keep in mind that competitive analysis shouldn’t be a benchmark.

I repeat – it shouldn’t be a benchmark, or even a target.

Why?

Chasing after what your competitors have already done digitally is like trying to chase a bird on ground. It’s a moving target. You’ll never catch up. They’re already ahead.

Instead, think of the competitive analysis as a way to still be informed, but also figure out how to either do it better, or more closely aligned with where the market is moving. The only thing you should chase is your target market, and even then, if you’re really good at communicating the values and goals of your brand, they’ll actually come to you.

 

Simon Sinek actually tells a great story about MySpace and Facebook in this YouTube video (skip to 21:31). Do you think MySpace was worried about Facebook? No. MySpace was too worried about Friendster.

When Microsoft released the Zune, it was in direct response to Apple’s iPod success – and even though many claimed it was a fundamentally better product, it didn’t matter – they weren’t first. They couldn’t catch up with the competition.

Instead, Microsoft could have tried to study the market and predict its movement and create the music player that is also a phone – but while Microsoft was stuck on building the Zune, Apple was already dreaming up the iPhone.

Point is – don’t chase the competition. Use a competitive analysis to understand where they are, but really use it to project where you want to be instead. And remember – go where your people go.

3. Map the Customer Journey.

Speaking of going where your people go – mapping the customer journey is still one of the top tactics organizations use to streamline their own internal processes, find ways to enter new markets, maximize current market opportunities, and innovate for their customers.

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If you are in B2B, customer journey analysis will be extremely important to you since the decision-making process if often in collaboration with other decision-makers and rarely ever just one singular person.

And then, of course, in e-commerce, studying the customer journey proved time and time again to be both highly effective and not that difficult:

econsultancyredeye-value-difficulty-conversion-rate-optimization-methods-nov2015

But why map your customer journey at all?

A customer journey comes in all shapes and sizes. There are some that track sentiment or specific conversations like the one below.

kerrybodine-com-intuit-journey-map

There others that focus on the specific stages of buying, the technologies, and more.

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No matter how you organize the customer journey, if you want it to influence your digital transformation in a positive way, it must cover these things:

  1. Defined Buyer Stages – the names of the stages your customer
  2. The Moments – descriptions of specific interactions with your brand. Often includes sentiments, feelings, thinking patterns, etc.
  3. The People – who from the organization the customer engages with for each Moment / Buyer Stage. Examples include a salesperson, a social media manager, a marketer, a customer support representative, a chat support agent, an in-store employee, and more.
  4. The Process – description of the internal process that occurs as a prospect passes through each stage and becomes a customer. For example, the customer might only enter the journey when they have a problem and they talk to support agent first. That agent must pull up account information and can either solve it or not; from there, it might escalate to a different customer service agent – that agent receives the case file through a support ticketing systems with the previous agent’s notes, and so on.
  5. The Tools / Technology – in addition to the Process, we highly recommend thinking about the technologies and tools that support all of these functions.
  6. The Data – this is so important because not many customer journeys think about the data being collected at each Moment and Buyer Stage.

As long as your customer journey covers these key points, you’ll be able to make real decisions about where you currently are and where the opportunities are for improvement.

4. Build your strategy for digital transformation.

There’s tons of ways to go about building your strategic plan for digital transformation. But if you’ve followed the steps up until now, chances are you have a much clearer vision for where you need to be, where you’d like to go, and where you’re at currently.

It sounds simple, and in reality it probably is, but one of the best exercises to do with you and your team is a SWOT – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It’s one of our favorites to do when there’s not enough time to do a full strategic engagement like the Marketing Technology Alignment we offer.

Strategy also comes with deep analysis of your current state and understanding most if not all the moving parts. In an enterprise organization, this might feel insurmountable almost pointless considering the vast size is impossible to completely wrangle.

For those who feel that way, don’t try to boil the ocean. Phase out your approach to digital transformation over years if you have to. 

For those who are more nimble, your transformation strategy will need to cover as many bases as it can and still fulfill the needs of prioritized approach.

But most importantly, it needs to have a goal that all parties involved can agree to.

One of the top questions asked this year at Sitecore Symposium, for example, was “how do you get upper management and leadership to agree to digital transformation?”

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Well, the short answer is – you have to build the vision together. That vision must have some outcome or goal that you can all work towards. Even if you all disagree on how it gets done, the buy-in starts with getting everyone to nod their heads that this accomplishes something for your business.

Finally, the strategy should also come with an understanding of the technologies you’ll either add, replace, or sunset entirely.

5. Assign a budget to the entire process – and expect it to change.

It’s probably one of our least favorite conversations to have because this first question is typically “well how much is this going to cost?”

Budget is so important. Marketing’s budgets are constantly under every microscope and lens on how much spent and how much was gained because of that spend.

But we cannot know how much it will cost in the long-run to digitally transform until you have your strategy, your vision, and your technology needs in place – and most importantly, executive and leadership buy-in.

Later in this post, I talk about the need to have the most bad-ass requirements document in the world. It will help you all rally around the specifics of your digital transformation while also having a much clearer expectation of budget needs.

When having this conversation with clients, we also highly recommend prioritizing the technology needs to allow for better planning and future execution.

6. Create a change management plan.

Who moved my cheese?

Just kidding.

If you’re in an enterprise organization, the need for a change management plan will become more and more apparent in order to successfully digitally transform.

Multiple groups of people will be affected by decisions made by the digital transformation plan, and the transformation will need to happen in a way that makes everyone feel both prepared and comfortable with the future.

The only way to mitigate this is to create a change management plan.

Smaller organizations might not necessarily need a change management plan, but even a formalized, staged approach to how the organization will change is still helpful. It might seem like overkill, but we’ve seen major dysfunction first-hand even for smaller organizations.

7. Determine a (reasonable) timeline.

Many digital transformation articles don’t really talk about time.

It can take actual years for your organization to transform, and that’s okay. Our biggest piece of advice for both enterprise and SMBs looking to digitally transform is that it will absolutely take time.

The best way to hedge your bet on how long digital transformation will take has to do with a) what kinds of technologies you’ll employ / sunset, b) what needs to change in your organization, and c) who’s actually doing all of this. 

timeline

If you use a partner to help you through your digital transformation (like Arke), the third party vendor means an extra set of hands. The partner might also be able to give you valuable feedback and more realistic timelines depending on what you’re trying to technically accomplish.

If you don’t use a partner, you’ll need to also assess who you need to hire or train to help you accomplish your scope.

And then of course, there’s budget. All of these things impact timeline. To get a better idea of budget, work closely either with your partner or your team to determine the must-haves and the nice-to-haves. That dividing line will make or break the entire scope, timeline, and budget.

Bottomline: if you have an epic requirements document, you’ll be able to have a better timeline and budget prediction.

8. Build a Digital Transformation Team.

Strongly consider building a core team or committee centered around digital transformation. These are people who can both help with the internal technologies but also have an undying passion for helping customers and keeping their best interests at heart.

We call this “customer centricity” – and it doesn’t matter what kind of business you’re in or the industry – if you aren’t customer-centric, you will be overshadowed by a competitor who is.

The Digital Transformation Team is built on the basis of one idea, and one idea only: transform the business through technology for the greater good of both you and your customers.

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Beyond that, you’ll probably need to recruit people with the technical chops and the strategic mindset to help you accomplish all of this.

Depending on what your transformation roadmap looks like, you might need to hire some people who can handle either the new technologies that are coming in, or you’ll need to train them. Either way, be sure to actually invest the time it takes to get your team comfortable with change (remember the change management point?) and also consider hiring the talent you’ll need to make it successful and stable.

Final tidbit with building your digital transformation team: also make sure to hire the talents and skills of people who can make the most of your future transformation. These people will be able to both teach others and permit you to get the most value.

9. Benchmark and measure every step of the way.

Why are before and after pictures so important during the weight loss journey?

Because they show progress! And photos are the simplest of benchmarks, but they still work.

Before embarking on your digital transformation journey, take a snapshot of where you are today. Dig deep into how much time it takes to run reports or pull data or publish changes to your website.

Perhaps there are customer-specific metrics you’d like to positively affect and the only way is through digital transformation.

By now, you should have an idea of what your plan is, who’s going to help you do it, how it’s going to get done, and what the future should (hopefully) look like. Next, set very specific metrics / KPIs / quantifiable goals you expect to be able to hit. 

Benchmarks and other quantifiable goals typically fall into one of three categories:

  1. Revenue Earned
  2. Dollars Saved
  3. Time Saved

Even when analyzing common frustrations like “we need to be able to consolidate all of these content management systems into one, single CMS and have it be the system of record” – it still boils down to saving time (managing and supporting several different CMSes can certainly be a time-suck) and possibly even dollars (especially if the CMSes are all paid).

End of day, there’s some benchmark that you’ll be able to quantify and show improvement on in the long-run.

Otherwise – what was this whole digital transformation for?

Quick Digital Transformation Summary

In summary, the steps for digital transformation:

  1. Assess the current market and set a benchmark.
  2. Use competitive information – but sparingly.
  3. Map the Customer Journey.
  4. Build your strategy for digital transformation.
  5. Assign a budget to the entire process – and expect it to change.
  6. Create a change management plan.
  7. Determine a (reasonable) timeline.
  8. Build a Digital Transformation Team.
  9. Benchmark and measure every step of the way.

 

Asia Matos was the Director of Marketing at ARKE Systems where she oversaw all of the marketing channels and operations for the organization. In her role, Asia managed lead generation-focused content strategy, traffic acquisition, campaign execution, and event planning. She worked daily with content management systems like Sitecore and Wordpress, the analytics platforms of Google Analytics and the Sitecore Experience Platform, and contributed her extensive experience with email service providers like Silverpop and ClickDimensions. Asia was the editor and writer of ARKE’s blog MarketingTechnologyInsights.com. Asia is now the #FlipMyFunnel Demand Generation Manager for Terminus.