Digital transformation has to be more than skin deep

Published on December 4, 2015 by Boris Kraft

Everyone’s talking about digital transformation, but sometimes people forget that digital technology is just a tool. Real transformation has to take place on a cultural level and go deep into a company’s flesh, rather than just being skin deep. 

Digital transformation can only occur when organizations understand their customers’ behavior, expectations and demands. This is where strategy wins over tactics any day. Because, let’s face it, customers think in outcomes, not in departments. The real beauty of going digital right down to the bone is being able to offer the famous seamless experience that customers want. 

They don’t want to use one site or app to book a flight, another one to book the next leg of the trip, another one to book a hotel, a ticket to a show, the insurance and so on. They don't care about your divisions, departments or internal structures. What they do care about is their dream holiday. To reflect this, your offerings need to be aligned with your customer wishes. And that’s why digital transformation needs to be cultural, because it involves every single area of your company. Before you start to think tactics, you need to consider exactly what you can change to give your company a digital head start. 


  1. Start with transforming the culture within your company. This means an end to traditional top-down management, still common in large organizations. There’s no point installing collaborative software if employees are not ready to collaborate, according to Gerry McGovern. You can only get your employees to communicate across and up levels when management has demonstrated that it’s ready to listen. By encouraging and kickstarting change in internal communications and ways of doing things, you make room for innovation and allow voices to be heard.
  2. Think digital first. Digital needs to come from the top, but that’s not always easy - senior management may not have had enough digital exposure. According to McKinsey, one solution is to change organization focus by giving digital leaders operational responsibility for the whole business rather than just for the digital areas. One regional UK bank gave its Chief Digital Officer operational oversight over the whole business, even non-digital areas. Don’t just think of how digital can improve customer experience (yes, it can!) but also of how it can transform processes in different areas of the company.
  3. Improve digital skills across the company, from the top down. Capgemini research with MIT shows that more than three out of four companies consider missing digital skills to be the key hurdle to their digital transformation. If you need the company to think digitally, then don’t just concentrate on new hires. Yes, savvy new digital natives will help move the transformation forward, but training current employees in digital technologies can have just as big an impact. L’Oreal started with that idea, and has invested heavily in training its marketing teams in digital technologies.
  4. Work on integration, rather than individual responses to digital transformation requirements. this means you need the right infrastructure and platform to build upon. Ensure you have a flexible digital business platform that will allow you to concentrate on strategy rather than technology. This goes far beyond traditional content management. Digital transformation means that you need to have a platform that is ready to integrate all the tools you need to create unified experiences for all your audiences, from employees to consumers. It needs to be powerful enough to integrate with external data and to deliver omni-channel experiences. 


To get some more tips about getting your company ready for real transformation, read my CMSWire article


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About the author Boris Kraft

Boris Kraft has been creating and selling software since the age of 16. He is the Co-founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Magnolia. Boris is a member of the European CMS Expert Group and an experienced speaker and panelist. Boris is also a prolific writer: He likes to blog about all things Magnolia and regularly publishes articles in online and print magazines as well. He is a regular contributor for CMSWire. When’s he’s not thinking about the future of content management in Magnolia’s Basel headquarters, he loves to go sailing on Lake Lucerne, skiing in the Swiss Alps or admiring art around the world.

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