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Digital Transformation: Moving Beyond the Buzzword

Appian Contributor
October 28, 2016

Digital transformation is getting plenty of press lately, with industry pundits emphasizing that rebuilding business processes around digital technologies empowers organizations to keep up with competitors in an increasingly digital world. While this is accurate, it also focuses on the results of digital transformation, not the work that needs to be done to get to a good end point. Because of this, the idea of converting operations around digital may seem overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. In many ways, going digital is a similar process to what businesses were doing a few years ago when the idea of the enterprise social software was a similarly popular concept.

From social to digital - Transforming the enterprise

Just a few years ago, the conversation in many enterprise sectors was emphasizing the idea that it isn't enough for businesses to simply implement social media tools to support operations, they needed to become social in how they operate. The idea here is subtle, but essential simply using social media tools in a piecemeal way can be useful, but thinking about how social media changes the way people work and adjusting accordingly as a business brings greater gains. In the same way, digital transformation hinges on going beyond using digital BPM tools here and there and thinking about how modern technologies can change the workplace for the better.

Transforming around digital technologies may sound like a big commitment, but companies can't afford to ignore the trend.

"Digital transformation is increasingly built around the customer experience."

The importance of digital

The Altimeter Group recently surveyed strategists and executives on digital transformation and found that 55 percent said their efforts are being driven by changing customer expectations. Approximately 41 percent of those polled said they've already seen an increased market share caused by digital transformation. Another 37 percent said going digital has improved employee morale.

Digital transformation is built around the customer experience, but just 54 percent of those polled by Altimeter said they have completely mapped customer journeys, or will do so soon.

Businesses that want to rebuild their processes around digital tools must carefully assess how their customers interact with them and take strides to refine and optimize internal operations around those experiences.

Customers driving change

An ICMI study found that, just a few years ago, most customers expected responses to emails within 24 hours. Today, they expect a response within just a few hours. Essentially, the definition of a prompt response has changed, and businesses are facing pressure to handle customer interactions as clients are reaching out. This research focused on the contact center industry, but it highlights a growing trend facing all organizations. Customers expect greater responsiveness from businesses because consumers using digital tools have such easy access to information and communication capabilities that they expect the companies they work with to keep up.

"Digital transformation takes the idea of the social enterprise to another level."

The core idea that isolated social media is useful, but ultimately too limited to drive meaningful improvements ties in here. Imagine if a customer writes a negative tweet or review about your business and asks for help. How long does it take for customer service to pick up on that message, dig up information on the client, communicate with relevant stakeholders and respond? Being a truly social enterprise means your employees can hop on text chats, quickly communicate and resolve a problem, but that assumes everybody has access to the data they need on whichever device they are using.

Digital transformation takes the idea of the social enterprise to another level. Giving users access to online tools and data in line with everyday business processes empowers them to interact with colleagues and customers in intuitive, natural ways, helping them keep pace with shifting expectations.