Digital transformation is a complex matter for most of organizations that don’t exactly know where to start. Hesitating between focusing on management or technology, internal or external facing initiatives, a light window dressing or a true transformation, they struggle to find their way, the right mix.
Lessons from digital transformation
What did we learn these last years.
â€¢ Don’t fool ourselves. Digital transformation is nothing but the new name of enterprise 2.0, social business or whatever. That’s only the understanding that technology alone makes no sense without the transformation of the enterprise structure and how work is getting done.
â€¢ Customer facing initiatives are taking precedence over employee facing ones. And it’s easy to understand why. If customers are the purpose of a business, such initiatives are closer to the impact zone. More, it’s about activities that are often measured, which value is understood so where investment is easy to justify. Then the pressure put by the social customer in the full light day for everybody forced organizations to react, whether they liked it or not. Another point worth being noticed : the external digital transformation was often about exploring virgin territories while internal one happened in a congested environment made of lots existing technologies and processes, not mentioning internal politics. To end, just have a look at the budgets allocated to marketing departments and those allocated to teams in charge of internal change, the digital workplace etc. and it’s easy to understand why if everybody wants not everybody can.
â€¢ The external digital transformation is pulling the internal one. People working in the front of the customer have new needs and need to break internal silos to mobilize the right people and use the right information. The necessary symmetry of attentions forces organizations to give employees what they expect them to give to customers (no employee can reproduce with customers a behavior his company do not have towards him).
â€¢ On the other side, the internal digital transformation, far away from the customer, struggle to happen. Mostly because the further people are from the zone of impact the less their contribution to the customer experience and to tangible, visible and measurable results is visible. The sentiment of urgency raised by the customer – the customer activated enterprises as said in this IBM report – gets weaker as people are far from customer facing activities.
â€¢ The brand-customer relationship on the web is entering a new era. After the conversation one (2005), the networking one (2009), it’s now the era of brand experience. Richer, more qualitative, complex, multichannel and necessarily unique and differentiating.
Digital transformation starts with brand experience
One thing is sure : digital transformation is neither external nor internal but both at the same time. On the other sense its easier to make sense of it, to make it meaningful when the alignment between both is clear, when employees see how their impact what’s happening with customers.
Then it’s nothing but logic. If we consider that the brand experience is the embodiment of the mission of the enterprise, the way the company want to make it happen, of its identity and, knowing that, as Drucker used to say, the purpose of a business is to create customers, that’s where things should start. Provided leaders keep in mind that if this part makes sense, drives revenue and builds engagement and customer loyalty, it will lead to nowhere without its internal counterpart.
So let’s talk about internal initiatives. They’ve made necessary by internal ones that make sense of it. We can often see how, in businesses that managed they external transformation, this change drives new internal practices and behaviors. But this evolution is seldom global and often limited to those who are close to the customer zone. But it’s better than nothing.
Engagement is often mentioned as the lever of internal transformation. What in fact means two things : engagement towards the company and engagement towards the transformation program.
As for engagement towards the project, it relies on two cornerstones. Sense and alignment. Sense will come from the individual an collective impact on the brand experience, alignment from the coherence of internal practices and what’s needed to serve the customer well.
As for engagement towards the enterprise, I’ll repeat why I said earlier this year : a major factor of disengagement is the gap employee see between the promise made (and kept) to the customer and what they live everyday in the office. What leads to the concept of symmetry.
– symmetry of attention, excellently developed by the “Academie des services” in France for example.
Let me add :
– symmetry of equipments
– symmetry of practices,uses and behaviors
Leveraging employee experience to drive drive the digital transformation ?
Acknowledging this, its logical to wonder if, in the digital transformation, building an employee experience mirroring the customer one is a key success factor, a major driver of engagement and of sustainability in change.
What leads to a last question I’ll deal with in a future post : what about “employee service” ? What would it mean, how to implement it ?
As a matter of fact if many agree that seeing customers as revenue drivers and employees as costs is a heresy (even if few things really change), Vineet Nayar and HCL show that no real customer value is created if businesses don’t think about their employees first.
To be continued….