The Hard Things About a Thing Called Digital Transformation | Mirum Skip to main content

The Hard Things About a Thing Called Digital Transformation

With digital transformation, some brands have come far – but others have a long way to go, says Mitch Joel.

There’s no doubt that digital transformation affects everyone in business today, and all businesses are being impacted. B2B and B2C are both dealing with how it works – both internally to move the operation forward, and externally in terms of what the consumer sees, buys and connects with. With that, we’re seeing a myriad of agencies, consultancies and independent players come forward with this service offering. Everyone seems to have a process, strategy and proprietary IP, coupled with strategic technology providers to help businesses make the leap to where they need to be. And yes, it is core to the business of Mirum as well. There have been lots of reports, articles and case studies that show how far some brands have come, as well as how much farther a lot of them need to go.

It’s time to admit that the brands that have already transformed digitally are few and far between.

A better web experience, implementing marketing automation software, or shifting your business model from a Web-based digital experience to a mobile-first strategy does not make the transformation complete. In fact, those types of deployments are, for the most part, the tactical stuff that may or may not have much to do with true digital transformation. So, where’s the rub? We know the facts: all consumers are digital-first. All consumers are (mostly) mobile-first. Most brand experiences don’t replicate the current way that consumers use and move with technology. In short, brands have a long way to go. Brands know that they must transform. Brands have digital transformation as core to their roadmap. Brands understand the need for a complete digital strategy.

Here is a partial list of the challenges that brands face when it comes to digital transformation:

The why. Famed business book author and TED Talker Simon Sinek continues to gain fame for his one simple but seemingly hard-to-implement concept of: Start With Why. If your brand doesn’t have a clearly defined “why” attached to financial business objectives, then it’s simply chasing the latest and greatest shiny objects. Business objectives are then coupled with the much-dreaded Key Performance Indicators. Know your why, know what metrics will make it successful; but most importantly, know what that delta means in terms of money this will bring into the business.

A vision for your business. Most failed business transformation attempts happen because the brand was focused on where the world was going (social, mobile, messaging, VR, AR, automation, etc.), instead of having a vision of how the business ought to function in the future. This is similar to choosing the tools before you have the strategy. It helps no one, with the brand chasing fads instead of investing in the next iteration of the business.

Talent gap. There is plenty of positive energy, budget and desire to get transformation done, but the brand lacks talent within the organization to make it happen. This talent vacuum starts at the top, and rolls down to the actual practitioners tasked to make it happen. And it’s not just not having enough talent to make the work happen, but that the talent is often trapped in organizational structures that don’t facilitate multi-disciplinary departments. They are trapped in different silos. This vacuum removes all capacity for having the power to get the work pushed through the organization. It’s often just another failed or stalled project.

Digital transformation sits with IT. When the digital transformation sits solely in IT, it’s never given the breadth it needs to transcend the tech department, and to truly integrate and unify the complete organization. If marketing, operations, sales and the c-suite are not a part of digital transformation, the entire initiative is treated with as much respect and attention as the implementation of the latest CRM update.

It's about the brand. At its core, digital transformation is a business strategy and theology that happens internally, done to ensure that the business stays a step ahead (at least) of the consumer, and that the brand is using the same technology, or better than, their consumers. Still, that’s not enough. That’s the beta phase. The true rollout of digital transformation has one major imperative: what does our consumer need, use and want, and how do we deliver against that? If digital transformation is not done with a thorough understanding of how this makes the consumer’s life better, there’s no point. Yes, digital transformation will and should deliver better efficiencies, but that’s coupled with a better brand experience for the customer. Know your audiences, both the internal and external ones.

The data vacuum. This has always been the standard struggle of brands: not enough data, or too much data, or too much data in too many different places. Or making the data work. Brands rarely understand and use their data beyond vanity metrics (as my friend Avinash Kaushik calls them) or in the rear-view mirror, looking at the data in a post-mortem scenario. For business transformation to work, brands must be able to understand, optimize and use their data for better business outcomes iteratively. Period.

The technology investment. Businesses think that buying technology is like buying a house. Technology does not appreciate over time. Technology can’t be viewed as a long-term investment anymore. Notice how quickly we moved from hosting to cloud services? The technology world is changing and moving faster than ever before (Moore’s Law is being questioned). With that, digital transformation will never happen within an organization when there’s an ideology of: “We can’t invest in technology today, when we made a $100k investment is this other technology three years ago.” This may be a tough pill for brands to swallow, but antiquated technology and legacy systems have a dramatic effect on a brand’s ability to be future-proof.

Digital transformation isn’t just a cultural attitude and imperative. It’s strategic, it’s tactical, and it creates a lot of disruption. Is your brand ready?

- Mitch Joel is President of Mirum Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @mitchjoel.

This post originally appeared on Six Pixels of Separation