In this unpredictable world of 2020, it’s critical that retailers drive customer engagement and focus on customer satisfaction. COVID-19 has turned our lives — personal and professional — upside down. The good news is that the craziness of this year has taught us that we're all capable of change, even rapid change. Yet the road can be rocky.
Bret Piontek, agile program manager, Levi Strauss & Company, knows better than anyone how important it is to embrace change and shift quickly with a volatile market. “COVID-19 has forced us to look at things differently. Sometimes we pivot daily. What worked yesterday may not work today. Now we know our business is able to shift and maintain its momentum while preparing for what comes next, such as reopening our retail stores,” Piontek says.
It’s clear that the spike in e-commerce is likely here to stay, even post-pandemic. A recent PYMNTS study shows that consumer behaviors — not just purchase preferences — are changing. Conducted over a 12-week period, the study found that of the 48.2 percent of consumers who have shifted more of their shopping online, 85.7 percent of them, overall, say they’ll stick with those experiences, with 63.3 percent planning to maintain some of those digital behaviors. With the world suddenly changing into a much bigger digital-only crowd, we can expect consumers to demand more from their digital experience.
I recently sat down with Piontek and Gene Kim, author, researcher, and founder of IT Revolution, to discuss how retailers can approach digital transformation, the term used to describe the move to new, fast and frequently changing digital technology to solve problems to survive in a new world. Digital transformation is a journey. Trying to drive change and transformation within a long-existing brand can feel like a constant uphill battle for any developer. How do those people who hold the true vision of the successful future get out of the trenches and make progress towards driving change, more customer value, and impactful business results while also giving developers the freedom to innovate?
From that conversation with these two experts, I give you our 10 tips for managing digital transformation. Now, more than ever, what you provide your customers in terms of experience — and how quickly you can get there — is everything. Here's what you need to keep in mind as you build your digital experience:
- Align around value. Establish a customer-centric, value-driven process to create a new digital environment. Everyone needs to be aligned around common, strategic goals. This approach is a great way to break down silos and get everyone focused on what matters.
- Give people a seat at the table. Bring people within your organization into the digital transformation process early. Give them context and visibility into why the company needs to accomplish the goals set forth. In return, they're more likely to be receptive to change, more engaged, and more likely to bring great ideas to the table. Giving your teams power ensures that they can do meaningful work, make decisions, and solve problems all along the way.
- Push decision making down and out to the edges. Once everyone has a strategic view of the business objective, decision making can spread throughout the organization. Empowering teams at all levels to contribute to what a digital experience for your brand looks and feels like leads to faster and better decisions, which has an immediate and positive impact on the business.
- Take a person-by-person, team-by-team, program-by-program by approach. In the real world, digital transformation of your customer experience isn't something you create and roll out in one grand gesture. To be successful, you need to show people how to see things from a customer perspective rather than a product release or defects perspective.
- One methodology doesn't fit all. Stop trying to select the “right” methodology to apply to your entire digital transformation initiative. The reality is you’re going to need more than one. And you need to be able to pivot to different approaches depending on the situation, goal, team skill level, existing environment, etc. Treat methodologies like tools and be willing to apply the right one for the job at hand.
- Create an environment of trust. Lack of trust between individuals, teams and levels within the organization is one of the biggest challenges to overcome in a digital transformation. Building trust and creating an environment where people at all levels feel safe speaking openly and honestly is critical.
- Be a catalyst for communication and collaboration. During your digital transformation journey, you'll run numerous workshops, present in an untold number of meetings, and meet people in your organization you never knew existed. Use this time as an opportunity to seek out teams and individuals hungry for learning and change. Bring them together with other motivated teams and individuals, and give them the means to form relationships — no matter where they sit in the organization. Help start conversations in many parts of your organization by finding ways to bring people together.
- Stop being a control freak. What worked in one situation won’t necessarily work in the next. Be willing to adapt and learn. Have conversations. Get input before you start prescribing new processes, approaches, tools, etc. And check yourself frequently to see if what you're putting out there is resonating.
- Let go of perfection. In any people-first endeavor, perfection is purely aspirational. As people, we're imperfect by nature, and digital transformation is no exception. Focus on understanding people’s needs and aspirations, and then meet them where they are.
- Agile is not just for IT and development. One of the biggest roadblocks in the digital transformation journey is the gap between IT and Business. The alignment of operational and business value streams is a core concept for successful digital transformation.
No matter what it is your organization is selling, a proper digital experience will no doubt be the key to success. Using these tips while you build the next step in your company’s digital journey will keep you and everyone involved on the right path. “It starts with people, hearts and minds, and getting people inspired to look at things differently,” Piontek reminds us.
Eric Robertson leads product marketing management at Digital.ai (formerly CollabNet VersionOne - XebiaLabs - Arxan), an intelligent value stream management platform, with responsibility for overall product road map, vision and GTM strategy.
Eric Robertson is an early innovator in robotic process automation. Currently, Eric leads Product Marketing Management at Digital.ai (formerly CollabNet VersionOne - XebiaLabs - Arxan), an intelligent value stream management platform, with responsibility for overall product roadmap, vision and GTM strategy. Eric's technical background includes academic research in domain-specific languages, and explainable AI (XAI) for Microsoft and feature-oriented software product lines. Eric is a published author, highly sought after speaker and recognized expert in the area of Value Stream Management. In his spare time, he is avid strategy board game player, collector and history buff.