What does real transformation look like? An automobile manufacturer overhauling their digital sales operations. A multinational IT company changing how they use data. A major fintech provider undergoing a solutions transformation and starting to think more holistically about how to bundle services that customers need.
But when I saw a company call a website redesign a “digital transformation” — well, I knew things were getting a bit diluted. You can use the word however you want. But achieving meaningful change takes more than some new headers on your homepage.
Enterprise transformation requires a lot of thought and work. So you need a methodical approach.
This is why you must start with a stated set of objectives — what is needed to improve the business. Once you have figured out why you need to do better and what you are aiming for, the right transformation strategy becomes more obvious.
I suggest choosing from the following: digital, data, and solutions. For example, the strategic focus could be on new technologies, using data to inform decision-making, or retooling the way you bundle or sell products to customers.
I have also suggested in previous posts that product managers are frequently the ones doing this strategic thinking and driving the related efforts. If we focus for a minute on transformations centered around improving customer experiences, the product manager’s work involves setting the vision for how customers should be served and the product goals that must be realized to get there.
But vision is simply the starting gate. True transformation is a company-wide initiative and requires new ways of thinking and working.
Business as usual is no longer an option. Your organization may be in the midst of a transformation or just taking the first steps forward. Either way, you are likely looking for guidance on how to be most effective.
Here are the six areas of change that we have seen product teams embrace to realize successful enterprise transformations:
Old perception: The company knows what customers want. We have a proven approach that works and are going to stick with it.
New reality: Customer needs and expectations are always evolving. This means working tirelessly to understand changes in customer desires and behaviors. And it means staying open and agile when it comes to new technologies and tactics.
Make a change: Consistently spend time with customers. Set up a formal structure for sharing customer insights and ideas across the organization.
Old perception: Customer needs are relatively stable. The best policy is to keep teammates doing what they have always done and add new skills only when necessary.
New reality: Dynamic markets mean companies must continually evaluate and update the collective skill set. Teams must be willing to learn and change work habits on an ongoing basis. And yes, sometimes it requires new people.
Make a change: There are different ways to build resources — education and training programs, redeploying existing skills across teams, and hiring for needed expertise.
Old perception: Product development requires a predictable workflow. Methodologies should be fixed to accelerate the delivery of value and reduce risk. And it is smart to keep groups focused and limit cross-team dependencies.
New reality: Customers today expect more value faster. This means product development must be responsive, collaborative, and iterative. It must be strong on vision and team-alignment and weak on hierarchy.
Make a change: People need lightweight frameworks to do their best work. From an engineering perspective, agile and lean methods help companies deliver value to customers faster. But you still need to think deeply about what you are planning to build and, more importantly, why. Clear goals and initiatives should be widely understood so that you can work top-down and bottom-up simultaneously.
Old perception: If it works, do not fix it. (At least, that is the old cliche.) And people are resistant to what is new. So, do not introduce new technologies unless they are absolutely needed. Simply keep patching problems with the current setup and implement updates only as needed.
New reality: You need whatever technology is necessary to deliver a complete product experience and earn customer love.
Make a change: Remember that the goal of an enterprise transformation is to provide better experiences for customers and more efficient ways of working. It is not to avoid risk or the opposite — new technology for the sake of something new. Adopt only the platforms and technology that will enable you to reach the desired customer and business outcomes.
Old perception: You have enterprise marketing and enterprise sales. There are teams, agencies, and infrastructure in place. Keep doing what is known.
New reality: One question guides all decisions: Is this how customers want to try and buy the product? If your company plans to make radical enhancements to customer experiences, you have to consider every part of your business and ask what needs to be done differently. It is almost guaranteed that you will need to rethink how you bring your products to market and sell them.
Make a change: Question what you do. Map the customer journey. Spend time with customers as they discover, learn, and start to use your solution. Bring the different teams together and work collaboratively to redefine how prospects want to move through that journey to customer and what you need to do to streamline it.
Old perception: Keeping track of the same KPIs over time gives you an apples-to-apples comparison. And you have regular quarterly and annual meetings where certain data is expected. Changing metrics just clouds the picture.
New reality: If you change the product and how you bring it to market, you need new metrics to track your progress. This does not necessarily mean you need more data and more KPIs — you just need the right ones from the right sources so you can make the right decisions.
Make a change: Identify and collect metrics across marketing, business operations, sales, support, and development. This will give you the insights you need to track incremental progress and gauge success of transformational efforts. Look for new KPIs to measure as customers and the market change. Stop tracking ones that no longer provide value.
Focus first on a thorough understanding of customers, the market, and internal operations. Then take a tactical approach to implement true change.
If you follow the six steps above, you will be on your way. Each one is difficult and, collectively, the list is a massive undertaking — even for the most healthy organizations. So start small with the confidence that putting customers first will lead the way.
There is no shortcut to meaningful change. But real transformation is possible. And as we know, it is happening right now.
Where is your company fundamentally changing?
Read more about enterprise transformation.