3 Best Practices for Digital Transformation
August 12, 2019

Brendan Bank
MessageBird

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Advancements in technology innovation are happening so quickly, the decision of where and when to transform can be a moving target for businesses. When done well, digital transformation improves the customer experience while optimizing operational efficiency. To get there, enterprises must encourage experimentation to overcome organizational obstacles. In other words:

1. Break Through Organizational Barriers

Successful digital transformation is best achieved by breaking down the silos that often exist between technical teams and business operations departments. Both sides have to be willing to reexamine their existing business models and agile enough to realign their organizational structures as the needs of the customer change.

To build cross-functional teams and processes, it's crucial for leaders to align on a clearly-defined, customer-centric vision that gets everyone moving forward in the same direction. As a leader, ask yourself what you want your customer to experience, then provide your teams with a jumping-off point, and give them the space and autonomy they need to determine what it will take to get there.

2. Give Up an "All-or-Nothing" Mindset

One way of getting more comfortable with challenging the status quo is to give up an "all-or-nothing" mindset. Digital transformation is not a goal in-and-of-itself. It's a means to an end. That "end" is an enhanced customer experience that creates happy and loyal customers.

Digital transformation can, at times, seem daunting because leaders don't know what they don't know. The pace of innovation today is far quicker than the release cycles of past technologies. When a company is locked into legacy hardware and processes, status quo can seem appealing. But, the status quo can't keep pace with the expectations today's customers have when interacting with a business. And it can't keep up with disruptors across many industries who were (and are) being born in the digital era.

Along the path to digital transformation, it's common to start with a small implementation to test it out before proceeding to a phased rollout. A full rip-and-replace isn't common or even advisable. Let's take cloud communications as an example. Many companies have legacy hardware that they've spent a fortune on, but that hardware isn't keeping pace with how customers want to interact with businesses today. What we find is that businesses start by adding one or two channels to their communications mix. Over time, as they get familiar with working in the cloud, they learn how easily they can implement additional communications channels. For the provider of such services (in our case, cloud communications), it's crucial that the change management of implementing such channels be easy and non-disruptive.

3. Iterate and Experiment

Enterprises can sometimes view digital transformation as a "do-it-all" or "do nothing" proposition. But, with technology broadly available via self-service portals at our fingertips, it's easier than ever for enterprises to explore disruptive technologies and pilot programs at little cost, with little risk, at a pace that suits your business strategy. You start with the customer need, and then you can play in the sandbox, so to speak, to see what works. If you find that something works for your business, you can move it over in pieces, instead of worrying about a rigid, large-scale migration plan.

Pilot and project failures aren't just acceptable, they're necessary. If you're not experimenting, you're falling behind. Finding out what isn't working for your customers puts you on a faster course of learning to find out what will work. Encourage failure. Fail fast, fail cheap, reiterate, and fail again until you hone in on the right solution. With each "failure" (or, as I like to say, each "learning") analyze the available data at your disposal to optimize your development cycle. Keeping the customer as your focal point during the transformation will ensure you come out on the right side.

Brendan Bank is CTO of MessageBird
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