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We’re all digital now

Emma Robertson, Managing Director, Transform explains why “we’re all digital now,” is a common misconception that can lead organisations in the wrong direction strategically, negatively impacting the journey towards digital maturity nirvana.

IN past years digital maturity was measured in the number of channels you operate or the volume of transactions you service. And by those measures most retailers are indeed digitally mature. Yet, at the same time, most retailers are struggling with the realities of operating in the new world, with challenges in supply chain, poor staff engagement and the same old legacy systems still holding them back. In a world where omnichannel is the ambition for customers, silos are still the reality internally.

Embracing digital has the potential to slice through business silos creating an opportunity for individuals and teams to work together in new ways. Ways that will enable them to understand, empathise and respect the differing functions that form the foundations of the business.There are several other misconceptions associated with digital maturity:

  • Digital strategy is dead – it’s just strategy now;
  • We have a Chief Digital Office (CDO) so we must be digitally mature;
  • Digital is our differentiator.

However it’s not as easy as developing a single strategy because you think digital is ubiquitous and therefore integral to the corporate strategy. It’s not as simple as appointing a CDO – particularly if their role isn’t fully integrated into the rest of the business. And you’d certainly be brave, or more likely foolish, to believe that digital differentiates you in the eyes of the customer.

Kodak is the poster child of digital disruption. A great bedtime story to scare investment boards with on the perils of not investing in digital hard enough, and not spotting the market shift quickly enough. From an eco-system point of view, Kodak let digital exist within the technology sphere but nowhere near the strategy or culture of the organisation. When the tipping point came, it was too late.

Digital maturity isn’t just about digital strategy or underlying technology. It’s a finely balanced eco-system that brings together these two areas with the channels you operate in, the customers you target and the culture and organisation you operate within. This is the heart of Transform’s digital eco-system, and represents the difference between delivering digital capability, and delivering business outcomes. However, it’s far from an easy or linear journey.

In fact, for Transform the eco-system did not start as an academic model, but actually found its genus in Chaos theory, recognising both the interconnectivity and the unpredictability of the new world. A butterfly flaps its wings in Nepal and someone gets rained on in Marylebone. The same principle applies in digital business – a digital butterfly has a great idea in customer experience and someone in IT has to put up an umbrella.

This eco-system affects, and is affected by, the whole business but don’t be mistaken for thinking it’s always about rain. Taking an eco-system approach generates a platform for ideas; it creates possibilities for sparks of innovation that can only come from unusual collaborations and the adoption of different organisational models. But it does require a new way of thinking and a new way of operating.

The new omnichannel rock stars

Many organisations make the mistake of associating new ways of thinking purely in terms of functional and domain expertise – whether that’s CX gurus, data scientists or technical specialists. If you’ve been trying to recruit these roles recently you will be aware of what a highly sought after commodity these individuals are, and what a premium they attract. However, the reality is that this approach perpetuates rather than breaks down the silos; establishing a culture that treats digital as separate and specialist.

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