Smart CMOs And CDOs Take The 'Opposite' Approach To Digital Transformation

March 2016


The digital customer represents a new breed of consumer. While traditional customers are also alive and well, digital customers are elusive, discerning, distracted and proudly narcissistic. To reach and engage these connected customers requires a relevant and informed approach that meets them on their terms, in their communities, in the right ways at the right time. This takes a significant investment in new strategy, technology, expertise and business models shaped and informed by data, insights and empathy.

One of the most interesting trends in the evolution of business is digital transformation.

Today, CMOs are rivaling CIOs in technology investments as digital customers demand modernized, personalized and efficient experiences. As marketing technology (martech) advances to meet the demands of mobile, social and real-time, marketers and technologists are scrambling to adapt while paving new roads to customer engagement.

But, don’t let the name digital transformation fool you. Technology alone isn’t the answer.

So what is digital transformation then if it isn’t just about technology?

After several years of researching the topic, I define it as the realignment of, or new investment in technology, business models, and processes to create new value for customers and employees and more effectively compete in an ever- changing digital economy. And, a solid place to start change begins with what I call the new Ps of business, People, Purpose, Promise and Partnerships.

Meet Generation C, A Generation Of Connected Customers Bound Not By Age But By Active Digital Lifestyles

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

Every day, customers are becoming more and more connected. As they do, they also become more informed, empowered and demanding. This results in notable shifts in behavior, preferences and standards. How they discover brands, how they make decisions, how they influence one another, and what it is they value are also evolving.

It’s been said that connected customers aka Generation-C don’t want products, they want experiences. And those experiences must be meaningful so that they can in turn become shareable.

As Marcie Merriman, executive director of growth strategy and retail innovation at Ernst & Young, shared her thoughts on the important relationship between experiences and connected consumers with Business of Fashion, “Experiences define them much more than the products that they buy. Their entire life, if it’s not shareable, it didn’t happen.”

Now, everything about a brand must now be updated or re-imagined to deliver relevant experiences in not just products but in all facets of the customer journey. But, a significant gap is spreading between how customer preferences, aspirations and values are playing out and how executives forecast performance against shareholder/stakeholder expectations.

Part of the problem is that executives do not live the brand the way customers do and as a result, they make decisions about new investments based on they see the world not how they world is.

In physics, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In business physics though we see something less balanced. For example, with the rise of Generation C on one side, there is a less than equal and opposite reaction by leadership teams. How executives recognize (or not) this impact and what they do differently sets the stage for what I call Digital Darwinism, the evolution of business and markets as society and technology advance.

Companies either adapt or they don’t. And to what extent the C-Suite marshals change determines their competitiveness and position for longer-term relevance and success. You either compete at new levels and standards or you compete based on legacy methodologies. It’s time for executives, whether CMOs, CDOs, CIOs or a combination thereof to accelerate digital transformation efforts. Executives should try a little empathy. And, there’s no better place to start than by looking at customers and how they’re evolving to guide your transformation efforts.

As part my ongoing research in digital transformation, I’ve assembled a series of best practices as informed by those leading transformation in companies such as Discover, GM, Harvard, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nestlé, Sephora, Starbucks, among many others. The result is a new framework and report, “Eight Success Factors of Digital Transformation: How businesses are taking an O.P.P.O.S.I.T.E. approach to business as usual.

The framework offers insights and new understanding of technology, data and the digital customer. By learning from these companies and following the OPPOSITE approach, digital transformation becomes identifiable, approachable and attainable for organizations.

OPPOSITE is an acronym that offers companies a step-by-step approach to digital transformation. It stands for: Orientation, People, Processes, Objectives, Structure, Insights & Intent, Technology, Execution. Here’s an overview of the 8 best practices of emergent leaders and the work they’re doing to evolve businesses in a digital economy:

1. Orientation: Establish a new perspective to drive meaningful change.

2. People: Understand customer values, expectations and behaviors.

3. Processes: Assess operational infrastructure and update (or revamp) technologies, processes and policies to support change.

4. Objectives: Define the purpose of digital transformation, aligning stakeholders (and shareholders) around the new vision and roadmap.

5. Structure: Form a dedicated digital experience team with roles/responsibilities/objectives/accountability clearly defined.

6. Insights & Intent: Gather data and apply insights toward strategy to guide digital evolution.

7. Technology: Re-evaluate front and back-end systems for a seamless, integrated and native customer (and ultimately employee) experience.

8. Execution: Implement, learn and adapt to steer ongoing digital transformation and customer experience work.

The truth is that there is a disruption event on the horizon of every business. And there’s a lot to learn by understanding how people are changing. It was true for Kodak, Blockbuster, Borders, taxis, the music industry, etc. Its what executives do about it today, to what extent, how quickly and how these efforts ripple across the organization that determines their fate. Disruption is a choice. It either happens to you or because of you.


This article was written by Brian Solis from Forbes. 

This reprint is supplied by BNY Mellon under license from NewsCred, Inc.  

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