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OgilvyOne Business recently invited key marketers to discuss what digital transformation means to them, and how they measure success, as head of strategic services James Myers explains.

Digital transformation is so of the moment and there is some great thinking being published about what it means. But even after reading around the topic you probably still have a few questions, such as… Do we all mean the same thing when we use the expression? How big does a project have to be to qualify as a transformation? Why are some organisatons watching while others transform? How can you maximise your chances of success? And, perhaps most importantly, how do I start?

Here is what we discovered and, for the most part, agreed on: Everyone is talking about digital transformation, but there is a lack of doing. Nevertheless, there is no doubt digital technology is increasingly used by enterprises to cut costs, increase revenue and deliver improved customer experiences. The reality seems to be that most (successful) projects are smaller and discrete. Digital transformation does not have to equate to business transformation. Digital transformation does not demand you integrate the supply chain with your CRM system. Nor does it mean you transform your marketing operation, although that may well be the net effect.

Apologies for referencing Amazon, but it helps make a point. Increasing conversion rates and basket size by introducing one-click would qualify as a transformation. This is a big point. A transformation is better categorised by its impact than the amount of work you have to put in. Not a bad rule for life.

The unfortunate thing is that the word transformation muddies the water and intimidates. If we talked about a commitment to digital transformations or “digital re-engineering”, an expression Matt Holt at Ogilvy coined, it might encourage more organisations to embark on change.

Vincent Rousselet of Amdocs and Brid Vaughan of SITA outlined the catalysts for transformational projects. It comes down to one or more fundamental, but simple, business objectives which should always be focused on improving customer experience – for example, increase revenues, reduce costs, faster time to market and staying ahead of the competition.

And this led on to a debate around what sort of organisations are more likely to invest in digital transformation. Our suspicion had been that the key difference would be between B2B and B2C. As ever, it isn’t quite so simple. Caitlin Blewett, head of digital at Deloitte, suggested the real distinction is between industries where sales own the customer and where the customer can be sold to digitally. And that is borne out by the evidence – retail and financial services are two sectors quick to adapt.

Jo Phillips, EMEA head of digital for BlackRock, shared a recent case study. BlackRock managed to transform the online experience for IFAs in a matter of weeks (a sector where projects take months and years in the face of compliance as well as IT challenges).

How did they do it?

Establish a customer-centric vision; identify a champion; start small; make a commitment to deliver; establish a multi-disciplined agency-client team; build a dedicated collaborative work space; ignore the barriers as well as those manning the barriers; prepare to fail fast; and of course obsess about customer centricity at every stage.

The result was a website designed and built around the needs of the customer, featuring a small selection of the company’s most popular funds. The customer can log in and access relevant advice, insights and information. Market commentaries, once hundreds of pages long, are condensed and humanised, and the site can track visitors throughout the buying cycle. The research phase took eight weeks, design and build six – an astonishing rate of progress.

Best of all it was designed in collaboration with customers (IFAs) for customers. General agreement was that this represented a pretty good blueprint for any transformation project.

So what’s the take out?

Digital transformation doesn’t have to be the big project it is made out to be. At its simplest, digital transformation for marketers is customer-centric experiences delivered through digital technologies.

Start small. Focus on where you can demonstrate success quickly. People in business are motivated by success. Failing fast is part of the process.

When it doesn’t go to plan, despite your fears, the business doesn’t stop. That’s good to remember.

Service will, for many organisations, be the differentiator, so ignoring the impact digital technologies can have on customer experience is one way to ensure you lag behind. But as Ross Chapman from Aptitude Software pointed out, being a challenger brand helps focus the collective minds on the need to stay ahead.
The biggest impact of any project is not so much the immediate return, however measured, but the change in culture and attitudes. One project demonstrates what is possible and small digital improvements will add up to a cultural and attitudinal change within the business. And the value of that is immeasurable. In time the business will just recognise digital as a technology, an enabler.

And finally, one other thought given the confusion over what digital transformation actually means. Don’t call it digital transformation until you have actually completed the project.

It doesn’t matter where you start. Just start.

 

Attendees:

Vincent Rousselet, vice-president of market insight and strategy, Amdocs

Jo Phillips, EMEA head of digital, BlackRock

Brid Vaughan, director of corporate image, SITA

Ross Chapman, head of marketing, Aptitude Software

Caitlin Blewett, head of digital, Deloitte UK

Melissa Farrington, marketing and events executive, Investors in People

James Myers, head of strategic services, OgilvyOne Business

Drew Nicholson, chief exec, OgilvyOne Business
This article was first published in The Drum‘s 4 May issue.

All images photographed by James Austin.