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Digital Transformation Needs to Happen Now
The clock is ticking for companies that have been unwilling to embrace change
For the rest of the October 2017 issue of CRM magazine please click here

The need to connect data across the organization is driven by consumers’ shift to omnichannel engagement, Renner says. Consumers no longer follow linear engagement patterns and are instead taking journeys via countless online and offline channels at all times, he notes.

For this reason, Renner says, companies need technology to “make better decisions at the cadence your customer wants to interact with you,” adding that they need to build a complete customer view, what he calls a “golden record” that links all of the information tied to the same customer to help companies deliver contextually relevant and highly personalized engagement at all touch points.

“Digital transformation allows brands to provide customers with a frictionless, end-to-end experience across all channels and improves customer relationships by allowing brands to engage with customers ubiquitously in a way that reflects their needs, preferences, and expectations at any moment across the customer life cycle,” Renner states.

Experts also suggest that linking data to improve the customer experience has other benefits. Digital transformation, Raj says, is about making organizations capable of unleashing the potential of data to “alter customer interactions, operate with agile efficiency, and innovate with new business models, services, and offerings.”

And Brian Kracik, director of cloud services and product marketing at Oracle, says that while connecting data to improve customer engagement has the benefit of “providing customers with the information they want, on the device of their choice, and with the context that matters,” changing the customer experience can also “cause projects to run wide and deep,” leading to adjustments in the business process and even transforming companies’ business models.

Despite the importance of technology, successful digital transformation requires the human element at least as much as it does any solution or capability, experts say. Patrick Sullivan, managing director and global Oracle technology lead at Accenture, maintains that while technology is necessary to achieve business success and stay competitive, people “have the power to dictate how and when to employ technology to fit their business needs” and “align business strategy to the technology.”

Experts note that people’s inherent resistance to change is a primary obstacle to digital transformation. “The real challenge [of digital transformation] is building a culture that can change,” Newman says.

For this reason, he believes that “the people component of digital transformation is exponentially more important than the technology [component],” even though many tech companies “tend to downplay” it.

Afshar adds that everyone in the organization “needs to feel empowered to examine what they’re doing so they can make decisions that push the digital agenda forward.”

Afshar goes on to say that companies should cultivate a culture of transparency, collaboration, and trust between employees. “When people work side by side on cross-functional teams, they better understand each other’s challenges and capabilities, which improves collaboration,” he states.

And agreement among leadership is also essential. “Different leaders within an organization will have differing opinions and options for a successful transformation,” Aponte cautions. “It is vital to align the competing perspectives and priorities to ensure that the teams involved in the transformation are addressing the same overall objectives.”

But above all, everyone in the company must buy in. “The number-one challenge of digital transformation is commitment to the process of fundamental change. There is inherent difficulty in introducing any type of change into an organization. People don’t like change, but digital transformation requires change across the board,” says Des Cahill, vice president and head customer experience evangelist at Oracle. “Savvy senior leadership recognizes that if you don’t transform, your competitors surely will, and you could end up like Polaroid, Blockbuster, or Kodak—a diminished or nonexistent brand.”

HOW TO APPROACH DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

Although the process of digital transformation is unique to each organization, experts propose a number of tenets for companies to consider. According to Aponte, these include establishing the objectives of the transformation; identifying the areas of impact, including people and technologies; and laying out a transformation timeline and a plan for change management.

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