The evolving transformation discussion

Mark Henley discusses the hot topic of transformation, and how to end up like Uber, not Kodak.

Mark-Henley-Director-of-Transformation-and-Digital-Strategy-Asia-Pacific...Does anyone remember web 2.0? It wasn’t all that long ago, but already seems like a distant memory – and one that has elements of naivety. The web was going mobile and HTML5 was going to be the answer to – well, almost everything.

What were we thinking?

Today, ‘transformation’ is the topic being discussed by the technologists, marketers and strategists of almost any sizeable organisation. If I had a dollar for every conversation that included the words; ‘transformation’, ‘Uber’ and ‘Kodak’ I’d be doing pretty well.

These conversations are happening for a good reason. There is a palpable sense that the promises of a personalised, anytime, anywhere digital world is just ahead – and Uber and Kodak mark the high and low watermarks respectively. There is optimism and fear in equal measure. ‘How can we be disruptive?’ and ‘How do we avoid being disrupted?’

Perhaps I can offer some insights. I’ve been having the transformation conversation with businesses around APAC for the last three years. Here are some things I’ve observed.

Related: When focussing on customer experience, it’s important to look beyond what your competitors are doing, writes Paul Taylor »

First, you aren’t alone. The problems and solutions for transformation are not unique to your organisation. Let’s be clear – you still need to retain the things that make your brand and services better than the competition, but the frameworks that enable transformation will be fairly standardised – there are good emerging models for how to digitise your business.

Second, the transformation discussion is already changing shape. Only a year ago, most conversations focused on the ‘why’ of change, rather than the ‘how’ and the ‘what’. In other words, the understanding that significant shifts in business tooling and practice for digital are underway has become normalised. As a consequence, it’s time to act, rather than plan.

Third, transformation is often considered a distraction. Why? Because transformation, by definition, is about a shift from one thing to the next. Unless you are clear about the goal, then transformation is all effort for no reward. Think of transformation as a bridge to the goal. In my view, the goal is an enhanced customer experience.

However you define your customer (internal, B2B or B2C), these are the people that drive your business. Customer expectation, especially in the digital arena, is moving at an unprecedented rate. With tech giants and social media driving hardware and software innovations at a frantic pace, your customer is being fire-hosed with new features. Customers don’t change their expectations of digital as they move from site to site or app to app, so if you can’t provide what they want or need on the right device at the right time, they will very quickly look elsewhere.

Customer experience isn’t limited to just the UI or the UX. The brand story has never been more important. Engaging customers means gaining mindshare – grabbing a few brain cycles to get your message through. Personalisation and joined experiences help customers feel as though organisations ‘remember’ who they are.

Also, they are not just measuring their experience by the competitors in your own sector. They’re benchmarking against the most engaging, interesting, beautiful-to-use experiences in every sector. Whether you’re a bank, a media company, a retail business or a hotel, this is the moment to be learning from the best in every sector and applying new ideas and concepts to the traditional way of doing things in your own industry.

Cross-channel personalisation is perhaps the most tangible part of customer experience. Providing service offerings that fit, or better yet, pre-empt the customer is the game changer – the difference between good and goosebumps.

Personalisation also embodies the challenges of digital. It requires a set of campaign tools including content, mobile experiences, web analytics and audience segmentation and management. For all of those to be singing from the same hymn sheet, there has to be integration at the data level.

The need for greatly increased amounts of content is another byproduct of personalisation. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. Research by Adobe suggests that there will be a need for as much as 10 times more content than is currently being produced. Questions then arise about how you create, manage and deliver that efficiently. We are calling this ‘content velocity’ – more content created more quickly, and in a more distributed fashion, using more devices and delivered as quickly as possible.

The last piece of the puzzle, and in some ways the most common challenge in transformation is people. Great technology is absolutely a pre-requisite and the functional foundation on which brand experiences are created. However where web 2.0 was fundamentally a technical discussion, real transformation happens at the intersection of people and technology.

The changes that are sweeping through your business will be unsettling, but also full of opportunity. Yes, it’s a cliché: ‘it’s an opportunity not a challenge,’ but if technology is anything, it’s an embodiment of optimism and the gateway to the future. That future is arriving faster and across more aspects of our lives than ever before. It’s therefore critical for organisations to have clear and communicated values that support a culture of autonomy, positivity and decentralised innovation and that those values inform the strategy.

Those who have gone through the process agree, transformation involves incremental, small steps, well-executed but with a sense of urgency and mission. It should focus on customers, requires best in class technology as well as great people, teams and culture.

If you want be to more like Uber than Kodak, the real advice is this: Start now, don’t get distracted, and put the customer at the centre of all you do.

Mark Henley is director of transformation and digital strategy at Adobe


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