Group of People Digital Transformation
Adrian Newby Posted by Adrian Newby October 02, 2017

Why People Outweigh Technology When It Comes to Achieving Digital Transformation

There has been a huge shift in the world of delivery channels, and companies are facing varying levels of difficulty when it comes to redirecting their resources and attention to them. I know this because as CTO at Crownpeak, I am lucky enough to work with the heads of IT and digital marketing in a variety of industries, ranging from media and entertainment, consumer packaged goods, and healthcare to almost every possible flavor of financial services.

As a result, I’ve been able to move out of the abstract and into the realm of real challenges, identifiable opportunities, and practical solutions. My experience has put me in a unique position to understand the challenges of digital transformation from another angle.

Travel agents, car salespeople, in-store retail staff, insurance consultants and many other categories of sales enablers have been either wiped out, or significantly reduced in favor of more self-directed, online transactional experiences, where consumers self-educate, research and make purchase decisions all in the comfort of their own private surroundings and largely without the advice or influence of those traditional sources.

In their place, word-of-mouth recommendations, referrals and endorsements from friends, and online independent review communities have assumed vastly more important roles. It’s really changed the dynamic for marketers, who are still learning a whole new set of concepts, adapting to new business models, and developing new skills such as customer journey mapping, to pursue their customers into new channels and defend their position against a whole new class of disruptive competition.

While this is a phenomenon that’s impacting every industry to some degree across the globe, every company is experiencing it in a different way, depending on the level of digital maturity in the local region, the regulatory environment, the size of the organization, the go-to-market model, and so on.

My first recollection of anything remotely related to digital customer experience was the philosophy that direct marketing gurus Don Peppers and Martha Rogers were promoting in the nineties regarding the potential value of delivering a more tailored, personalized experience in B2C contexts, especially financial services.

Back then they called it 1:1 marketing and it hinged on exploiting the company’s trove of transactional data about their customers so that business processes could become systematically more tailored and marketing activities could be more finely targeted. It was considered nothing short of revolutionary at the time, and the perceived degree of difficulty and level of effort involved made it a very ambitious program for any company.

Now, we live in a world where we talk about that level of personalization in terms of “table stakes” – the bare minimum consumers expect – and we dismiss companies that fail to measure up to that ideal as laggards. Yet I can tell you firsthand there are some enterprise companies who although they have the technology to do it, are still trying to determine how to use personalization to gain a business advantage, rather than using it just because they can. So, although this concept has been around for close to twenty years, and the delivery mechanism has now almost been perfected, it’s really still nascent. I see this applying to the broader topic of digital transformation as well.

Management consultants the world over will tell you that it’s always about people, process and technology. They’re right, but I can tell you, from my own experience, people are by far the most important of the three. Most enterprises have the technology to deliver digital experiences at scale, across the globe, and target audiences with personalized marketing messages. However, the reason companies are still struggling to do any of this effectively has more to do with the leadership in an organization. Good people, with a clear understanding of purpose, goal and mission will always get there in the end, and will mostly stay on course along the way. By contrast, no amount of money thrown at business process re-engineering, new technologies, or systems upgrades will make up for lack of clarity.