Why Successful Digital Transformation Requires 3 Lenses

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The following blog post is written by Strategy Execution Chief Product Officer Treion Muller

While the term, digital transformation, has been around since the 1990s and was used in the 2000s, it has taken on new life over the past several years thanks to the Digital Revolution and all the associated innovation and technology, and as a result, is only now truly living up to its name.

We really do live in a “digital” world and it has facilitated and enabled organizations to “transform.” It is no secret that technology has transformed the way we live — it has changed how we work, how we communicate, and how we learn. But in our zeal to jump to digital, many organizations have ignored or circumvented the iterative processes and people-focus that is required to transform successfully.

We’ve all seen or been a part of the list of companies and their failed attempts to digitally transform. Much thought and research has been attributed to the cause of these failures. We suggest that to successfully navigate the complexities that accompany digital transformation, organizations must apply 3 lenses:

Lens 1: Organizations must have an adaptive strategy and mindset.

Applying a traditional strategy alone will never work in today’s disruptive ecosystem — Digital advances and innovation make this approach lead to sure failure. While pointing at a desired outcome or goal is still an essential part of transformation, it now also requires us to engage a new set of strategic muscles, including agility, adaptability, creativity, iterative ability, and sustainability, so that when faced with new information, disruptors, and technologies, we are ready to embrace and adapt to them, instead of being disrupted by them. This new adaptive mindset and practice will provide a sure footing in an ever-changing world, especially as it pertains to how we think about product, technology, operations, and marketing.

Lens 2: Organizations must be customer-centric now more than ever.

Never in the history of the world have we as individuals been able to personalize and customize our personal and professional life experiences like we do today. In the past, we packaged up scalable solutions we then sold to the masses. Now, people want selfie experiences. They want the Goldilocks principle applied to their own unique circumstance, and, oh by the way, it will likely change again tomorrow. That’s why customer experience, user interface, and intuitive simple touchpoints win the day. How we address this very real challenge will directly impact if we successful transform or not. It’s that simple.

I’ve spent a significant amount of time observing and researching how much consumer behavior is constantly changing (see my ebook, 7 Consumer Behaviors L&D Can no Longer Ignore) and am of the opinion that the days of selling the exact same experience to the masses is past. Even the iPhone, while a pretty standard product, comes in different colors, sizes, and accessories. But most of all, the iPhone comes with the Apple ecosystem including the App Store (Software), which takes the standard iPhone (Hardware) and transforms it into the ultimate customer-centric self-customizable device on the planet. This example supports what Prophet, the business transformation company, means when it says “successful Digital Transformation companies aren’t just customer-centric, but customer experience-centric.” (Prophet, Three Paths to Unlocking Growth Through Digital Transformation)

Shyam Venugopal, VP of Global Media, in a recent Think with Google article shed some light on the consumers nonlinear journey, “Today’s shoppers are more connected on mobile, have a limited attention span, and are more demanding of brands. Furthermore, people are being presented with an astronomical amount of choice and are bombarded with hundreds of messages everyday. As a result, their decision journey is no longer linear. And enabled by digital, people can now thoroughly search and review everything, including food and beverages, making their choices much more personal.”

Lens 3: Organizations must also be people-centric.

This may be the most overlooked lens when it comes to successful digital transformation, but probably the most important one — being people-centric as it pertains to their people, employees and internal human resources. After all, it is the people, the real human beings on the front lines, who are the catalysts in getting the right work done, or alternatively, the obstacles that stall the process. So, who you have working on the digital transformation, and how engaged and motivated those individuals are, will have a direct correlation on the success or failure of a transformation project. It still surprises me at how little attention is paid to this lens in general, and yet how pivotal people are to any great change. John Kotter, best-selling business author, in his HBR article, Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail supports this assertion by stating that “empowering others to act on the vision is key to the success of transformation efforts.”

In Cisco’s definitions of digital transformation they highlight the importance of this people-centric lens: “the connection of people, process, data and things to provide intelligence and actionable insights enabling business outcomes.” Korn Ferry, said it best in their commentary on this definition, “it is people who make sense of all these elements, asking the right questions, using technology, data and information in the right way. Consequently, people are the biggest lever in the equation and they must be enabled the right way.” (Korn Ferry, Solve the Digital Equation: Enable People to Drive Change, 2017)

We have had enough time to learn from digital transformation failures and successes to be able to identify the lenses, that when applied correctly will ensure success. So, while no one transformation effort is the same, when organizations approach the project with an adaptive strategy and mindset, a customer-centric view, and a people-centric focus, they will overcome most of the pitfalls and challenges that tend to accompany such initiatives.


Treion Muller

Treion Muller

Chief Product Officer at Strategy Execution
Treion is responsible for global product development and management at Strategy Execution. He brings over 14 years of experience as a Digital Strategist, Product Manager, Development Manager, Industry Expert, Speaker, and internationally published author to the company.
Treion Muller

1 comment

  1. Nicole Merrill

    Love this article Treion. Love your first point about being iterative. We have to be problem focused and not obsessed with our own solutions.

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