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5 Myths of Digital Transformation Debunked

Jeffrey Blecher Chief Strategy & Digital Officer, Agero
Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

The last few years have driven rapid change in digital needs across the spectrum of consumer-facing technologies, remote-work support, and more. To meet these evolving expectations, companies have been rethinking their digital strategies. In a PwC survey in January, 60% of executives reported that investing in digital-transformation initiatives was very important to their respective firms' ability to grow in 2022. But activating a digital-transformation strategy can be easier said than done; many business leaders find themselves wrestling with how to start and how to keep up the momentum.

Understanding the core problems that "going digital" will help organizations address is critical when developing a workable strategy. Yet after spending considerable time with counterparts across industries, I've found that there are very different perspectives on what it means to lead a successful transformation. While CIOs are investing heavily in this process, how can they be sure they're not simply throwing money at a perceivedrather than a realneed in hope of a solution?

In my experience, digital transformation often means different things to different people, different professions, and different businesses. Here are a few of the more common myths, debunked.

Myth 1: Customer App = Digital Strategy

An app alone is not a digital-transformation strategy. Are apps a powerful channel for intake, holding the potential to deliver branded experiences to customers and partners? Absolutely. But they are only one piece of the larger puzzle. It is not the app itself, but the robust digital ecosystem behind the app, that determines impact and success.

For example, it might make more sense to instead focus effort on an API that can be used to connect your products and services into the applications of your B2B customers or partners. An API strategy can provide a holistic, seamless data link between your systems and theirsas opposed to two loosely coupled or wholly independent apps. Moreover, APIs open up the integration of services into other customer touchpointsincluding websites, voice assistants, text messages, and other emergent channels. Organizations should take the extra step to consider how any given application (whether the organization's own app, or a customer or partner's app) fits within a larger ecosystem that enhances the customer experience—while giving end users a high-value reason to not only download the app, use it, and keep it up to date.

As you contemplate creating and implementing a mobile application (or API for that matter), consider these questions: What does it unlock for your organization? How does it unleash a larger, holistic digital and human process that better serves customer needs?

An app can and should be part of the digital experience, but alone it is not enough to drive your transformation.

Myth 2: A Native Digital Workflow Is Sufficient

Relatedly, transformation cannot happen without going beyond your own systems. Your native digital workflow is a starting point, but a full suite of integrations is needed to ensure flexibility, expansion, and scalability for customer experience. Can you surprise and delight customers outside of their customary interactions with your brand? Do you have partners or providers outside your organization that can benefit from a customized experience?

Today's world is more interconnected than ever beforewhich is why global businesses need robust, real-time connections. Customers need support anytime and anywhere; companies must connect disparate technologies so that they can deliver customer-support solutions efficiently and effectively. Building an end-to-end connection for the customer journey within the "four walls" of your internal systems is critical. But have you thought about following and supporting customers wherever they go on their digital journey?

Direct integration with customers and partners' systems can create an opportunity to streamline workflows through increased automation. This reduces the likelihood of human errors or incomplete data. The result is greater overall efficiency, saving the company on costs while reducing delivery and implementation cycle times. What's more, external users can still work within their ownfamiliarsystems.

Myth 3: Location Tracking Is Only About Visibility

Customers have been trained by the likes of Lyft and Amazon to expect transparency; tracking insight improves the overall customer experience. In the roadside-assistance industry, for example, drivers have come to expect live tow-truck tracking when they're in need of roadside help. However, this data is also incredibly powerful when used to power other business processes. Any transformation should leverage this data and information to improve process flownot just process visibility.

Customer-shipment or service visibility is only one part of the larger picture. Location data can and should inform partners, suppliers, etc. as part of your process chain. For example, does an imminent order/request fulfillment provide an opportunity to check on satisfaction? If you've got a location-aware app, can you share that information with suppliers or partners to create another opportunity to delight a customer?

The more you focus on offering in-the-moment value (for example, asking questions such as "Are you okay?" or "Did this service meet your expectations?"), the more likely customers are to appreciate the added service. Think of this as more akin to a brand affinity-building exercise than to a revenue generator.

Myth 4: Digital Transformation = Customer Experience

While digital transformation certainly should impact customer experience, it should also enable a seamless, transparent connection across all stakeholdersinternal and external alike. As such, a digital-transformation initiative demands the design of a robust digital platform that can (1) enable the capture of both quantitative and qualitative data and (2) use this data to optimize the experience for all stakeholders. Tracking insights, status updates, imagery/photos, and follow-up surveys should be automatic for nearly every transaction. For example, regardless of how products and services are delivered (white-label, channel, partner sales, marketplace, etc.), how each interaction impacts consumer brand perception and loyalty represents a critical relationship metricmaking a tight feedback loop important.

Moreover, while the metadata attached to an event/sale/interaction certainly tells part of the story, the most powerful tool available is direct feedback. Providing capabilities like automatic follow-up surveys creates an environment of trust that strengthens relationships between a business and everyone it touchesincluding partners, vendors, suppliers, customers, etc.

Myth 5: Existing Systems Are Robust Enough

Each customer interaction generates a tremendous amount of data. And each touchpoint can help build trust and confidence in your brand. But increasing data volume, system changes, and unexpected events can disrupt your business and your customers if you are not prepared. The investment required to build and support a robust information architecture is substantial. The benefits of this investment, however, go far beyond the operational improvements, product improvements, and insights that can be generated.

The more digital your business becomes, the more it needs to lean into elements such as resilience, failover, and redundancy to maintain consistency and uptime. As your business looks to evolve, these investments will help ensure a seamless digital experience today and in the future.

In our company's case, we had to make technology and human-capital investments to help mitigate logistical challenges that weather events or unexpected circumstances could pose on our employees and customers. This included enabling more than 3,500 employees to work remotely at the same time across all geographies. These investments paid dividends when the pandemic hit, allowing us to rapidly build off our technology infrastructure by enabling system access, supervision, and security for everyonefrom our contact-center agents to corporate associations.

Where to Start

Digital transformation is less about digital and more about transformation; the digital is merely a means to an end. You'll need to understand the core problems that you want to solve if you want to understand where digital technologies can help your overall business strategy and goals. When it comes to any business, it is the combination of technology and people that deliver exceptional solutionsand you need to start with your people.

When looking to transform your business with technology, start by looking to all your stakeholderscustomers, providers, partners, supply chain, etc. Use solutions that can connect and streamline workflows with automation, information, and transparency. Remember that the data needs, information needs, scale, and expectations will only continue to growso look for flexible solutions. The transformation is never finished.

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