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Digital Transformation: What it means

Many life events can justifiably be called a transformation, and their effect is pervasive. Moving to another country, for example, may require a full-scale overhaul not just of your daily routines but also of your entire world view about what is acceptable in society.

Having a first child is another transformation. You don’t just buy a car seat and a crib, and start saving for college. Fundamental changes have taken place, and your life will never be the same. Even getting a dog is a transformation of sorts: scheduling your life around dog walks, reducing your travel or finding pet-friendly accommodations, and contending with shedding, barking at all hours, or allergies.

The same is true for a digital transformation. You can’t just install an online shopping cart, get a Twitter handle, and cry victory. Your world is different, must be different. You have to rethink your entire business, top to bottom. Digital transformation is deeply strategic, not just tactical. And if you fail to transform, your business is doomed to failure, because your customers now expect the experience that only a real transformation can provide.

So your company really doesn’t have a choice—it has to transform. But it’s a really difficult adjustment, both mentally and organizationally, especially if you are relying solely on internal resources to gain a broad vision of what a transformation should look like, and to think through all the operational details.

Behind any successful transformation is a clear understanding of your strategic business goals. Ideally it will address one or more of these core functions:

  • Customer service. Find ways to integrate web, social, phone, and brick-and-mortar to create a seamless experience across the buying lifecycle. Don’t slap together some new “channels” like augmented reality or chatbot, but focus on providing a unified experience in which the customer can select from array of several high-functioning channels.
  • Knowledge management. Use a semi-automated secure infrastructure that collects and connects regardless of platform, location, and even language. Optimize search and storage, auto-classify your content, centralize both data and governance, and anticipate your workers’ needs. Convert your office and employee spaces into something half-real and half-virtual, with cameras, interactive boards, speech recognition, and IoT products.
  • Sales. Stores, sites, apps, and devices need to be so well choreographed that their boundaries are fluid. Design and establish 360-degree views of not just customers but also your offerings, building ontologies that support personalization and automated content management. Strengthen and streamline operations by looping in vendors and partners.

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