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A conversation with Brian Solis about how to succeed with digital transformation

WhoBrian Solis has tremendous passion for digital transformation and chances are you’ve come across him in this context a number of times. Either through his writing, as a keynote speaker at big events or as a principal analyst at the company Altimeter Group. His latest bok is X: The Experience Where Business Meets Design.
What: Among other things, Brian Solis 5 best tips for companies in transformation.
Content provider: DigJourney, interview made by Joakim Jansson.

Try to imagine how you would act … if you were a startup.

– Brian Solis

Let’s start from the top. How do you define digital transformation?

“We know that digital transformation means different things to different people and organizations, but in general it is about adapting to be relevant to customers and to be a leader in the digital economy. What we (Altimeter) has boiled it down to is the following: The realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.*

What do companies that succeed in digital transformation have in common?

“There are several things.

First, they have a transformative vision that clearly explains what the digital transformation will lead to and why it is important to the company, the customers and the employees. The company’s overall vision is rarely clear enough. It is also essential to get the management to support and actively lead the transformation with a vision that creates a sense of urgency.

Second, it’s important to understand the digital customer experience and to map the customer journey. This is done through research, not by guessing. Insight about customer expectations and behavior throughout the whole customer journey is crucial. Customer journey mapping usually also leads to better collaboration across department borders and facilitates product and service innovation.

Thirdly, a digital transformation team is needed. It should consist of individuals from different departments and with different roles within the organization. IT and marketing should be part of the team. The role of the team is to facilitate the transformation, monitor and measure progress and keep management informed and supportive of the process.”

If you do not manage to get the CEO or other key people in line, what should you then do?

“This is the million dollar question. Basically, there are two answers. Number one, be sure to do everything possible to create a sense of urgency and thus getting key people aboard. However, if it does not work, they must be replaced.”

You’re talking about the importance of having a digital transformation team, for how long shall such a team be in place?

“They should be in place as long as they are needed to drive the transformation forward. When the existing organization itself handles the transformation the team can be phased out or changed into an innovation team.”

You also stress to start early on with customer journey mapping, why is that?

“It gives insight about the customer and how different the customer now behaves compared to before. A behavior very different from the beliefs a lot of people carry. The insight helps to create sense of urgency and a lot of well needed energy in the company.

It is important to understand that there are two types of customer journey mapping. One that addresses customers’ journey through digital and physical touch points. This is sometimes based on research, sometimes not. The second goes deeper and has a more anthropological approach to where the customer journey mapping is based on the digital customer behavior and the prevailing trends. The two different approaches work best in combination.”

Are there any capabilities or traits that are particularly important for boards and management when the company is in the midst of a digital transformation?

“Empathy and humility. Digital transformation is so much about people and it is important to listen to and understand the people who go through the transformation. Digital transformation is also very complex so being humble when things do not always go as hoped is a must.”

What would you like to pass on to companies about to launch its digital transformation initiative?

Number one. Dare to challenge existing solutions, ask the question why you do what you do! Number two. Build a culture that rewards those who dare to try new things. Number three. Identify the higher purpose. An idea or a corporation can and should always have a higher purpose. Be sure to find it. Number four. If you were to start today without your history and heritage what would you then do? Try to imagine how you would act and approach the market if you were a startup. Number five. Keep in mind that innovation can be learned. It will not always come natural and that’s ok.”

Foto: och bub.blicio.usCC BY 2.0 

*After this interview was made Solis and Altimeter have altered the definition to “the investment in and development of new technologies, mindsets, and business and operational models to improve work and competitiveness, and deliver new, relevant value for customers and employees in an ever-evolving digital economy”.


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