Businesses are using ‘digital transformation’ purely for marketing purposes, says Co-Op CDO Mike Bracken

Businesses are using ‘digital transformation’ purely for marketing purposes, says Co-Op CDO Mike Bracken

And the experiences that customers are having online are increasingly not with the organization that ‘makes’ the product or service but with the one that organizes the information and connections around the product.

The Web was supposed to get rid of intermediaries. However, companies like hotels.com, Uber and Airbnb are showing dramatic rises in value because they are managing customer relationships.

Search and other data analytics are a start but data is cold. Every day, organizations should be observing customers as they try to complete top tasks. All employees should be mandated to spend at least four hours a month watching these customers. The videos of these customers should run continuously behind the reception desk. A five-minute summary should be presented before every management and board meeting. Bring the customer in. Flood the organization with the experience of the customer. That’s how true digital transformation occurs.

One of the areas I focus on with clients is around the power of words. The language that’s used internally in the organization—around products, around the customer, around opportunity—and how you translate that externally to your customers or clients can have a very powerful impact on how you conduct your business and the outcomes you can deliver.

For example, at a financial-services company, the kind of language that’s used internally to talk about the customer experience is often peppered with three-letter acronyms that are just “management speak.” I think there’s an opportunity to completely change the game and to think differently by focusing the language around what you’re actually delivering for your customers and then rethinking the way the business operates along those lines. It can be a very powerful shift in culture and in the way people think about what they do.

In my experience of digital transformation, senior management has nearly always been an obstacle. It is either not interested or engaged. It sees digital transformation as an IT project; just buy the right technology. Or when it does get involved, it is more interested in the brand, the images, the colors, the messages it wants to communicate.

Digital transformation is first and foremost cultural and organizational. It is inherently network-based and distributed. The old organizational hierarchies and silos are blockages to true digital transformation.