It’s not easy, it’s not quick and it’s not simple. That’s the best I can do. The best I can do in response to all those who keep coaching me to come up with an easy three step process for the change I advocate. That is, the need to engineer a digital transformation and re-build your organization into one that is data-driven and customer-centric.
While many are beginning to recognize that substantive organizational change is now inevitable, too many are still hoping they’ll discover a yellow brick road leading to a man behind a curtain who has the secret to making the transformation easy, quick and simple.
No one likes hard work. No one wants to hear that it is complicated and messy and laborious. No one wants to take on something that has never been done before, that crosses all departments, is long term (in a short term world) and that will likely be filled with failures and missteps along the way.
I get that, I really do. And there may be others that have figured out a way to make it easy, quick and simple. But I remain firmly rooted in the camp that it isn’t and it can’t be. The camp that recognizes that the democratization of technology and its resulting ubiquitous anytime access is transforming how we connect, interact, engage, transact, compete and value. In other words, everything. And if everything about the way we do business is changing, how do we expect to get away with changing just a few things about how we do business?
For most of us, our businesses were built up during the 80s, 90s and 2000s when distribution, scale and iterative innovation were the primary growth strategies. When brands could be imagined and created with carefully scripted messages and company controlled content. When our measurements for success were largely based on reach and frequency and we thought we simply needed more of it to solve business growth challenges. When competition was limited, we could see it coming from a mile away and a viable competitive strategy was to artificially block access. When we could have fun playing around with digital but still rely on traditional, time honored marketing, sales and distribution strategies to deliver the revenue. When we were dealing with just a few, relatively static data sets and had all the time in the world to turn them into meaning. When top-down, slow and iterative decision-making, built largely on narrowly defined customer needs (or our perceptions of them), was enough to keep us in the game. In short, a time when companies were in control.
We aren’t in Kansas anymore. Whether you are operating in a business to business or a business to consumer model (or somewhere in between), the customer is now in control. And they want what they want when they want it and they know they can have it. Organizations built for yesterday will not keep pace with the demands of today and layering on more people, more technology and more of anything is not the answer. While there isn’t a man behind the curtain ready with an answer, there is one.
We must create new ways to plan, measure, manage and do. We must re-imagine our organizations to distribute access as well as decision-making and create all new ways to connect, interact and collaborate. And we must reshape our training and development programs so that they nurture critical thinking, unleash creativity, expand customer understanding and reduce barriers to change. And we must recreate our rules and processes to foster agility where possible but ensure rigidity where necessary. We must drive this change not just with a few people, not just in a few departments, but across the organization.
Change that recognizes the scale, scope and interdependence of the effort, yet breaks it up into consumable and manageable steps. Steps organized and ordered in six distinct practice areas:
And just as we learned in Oz, these new capabilities we all seek are far more internal than they are external. They can’t be attained from something that is purchased. Instead they must be fostered and nurtured and created within the people. The people across the organization (all of them) who are now being asked to consume overwhelming amounts of data, transform their understanding of the customer and create the systems, decisions and actions that turn potential into repeatable and growing value. It is with these people that most change efforts fail and it is here where this one must succeed. Yes, there are external resources and new technology that will be necessary and new processes, structures and best practices to follow, but there isn’t a secret to making it happen. Instead it’s an organization wide effort that takes vision, patience and the courage to start at the beginning. The courage to start with the people.
That’s it. Nothing mysterious or unattainable. Creating an organization designed for the future isn’t simple, easy or quick but it is do-able. And really, who has a choice? Go ahead and click those heels three times, but prepare to get busy.
- Transformation Not Privatization
- Dust Myself Off and Start All Over Again
- Much Like In Oz, There Aren’t Any Secret Answers To This Problem
- I’m Sorry, I Don’t Know.
- If Big Data is the Goal, How Will You Know When You Are There?
- It Isn’t Her Path To Purchase
- What’s The Secret To Data-Driven, Customer-Centric Marketing?
- Are You Caught Juggling?
- Start At The Very Beginning
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