Blog / 28th February 2019

6 lessons from the Digital Leadership Forum (DLF) focus group – “What success businesses had with the transformation of their customer experience and what lessons they’ve learned.”

Posted by Alex Klose

Last month, the Digital Leadership Forum (DLF) brought together over 200 senior executives to discuss key challenges around digital transformation. As IMImobile is a new member of the DLF community, which includes leading businesses like PWC, Lloyds Banking Group, HSBC, Unilever, GSK, Pfizer, Shell, LV, AXA, National Express, and Barclays, we were keen to engage with fellow members to better understand their digital transformation strategies in 2019.

After Matt Hooper, SVP Global Marketing & Alliances, presented: ‘The changing role of messaging and AI in customer experience’, I hosted a Focus Group with leading senior executives from across the financial service and insurance sector with the topic: “What success businesses had with the transformation of their customer experience and what lessons they’ve learned.

Executives from nearly every background joined the Focus Group. There were senior marketers looking to accelerate data-enabled marketing automation, business solution architects wanting to escape the confines of legacy and simplify development, and customer service executives seeking to understand how best to use digital to help them deliver brand-differentiating support.

Over the next 45 minutes, we talked through what digital transformation meant to their position. Delving into the challenges they face, the progress they had made, and what they need to succeed within the business. From their experience, we identified 6 lessons that if followed, would help businesses to successfully drive digital transformation:

1) Digital transformation must be embraced by the senior leadership team

In times of change and upheaval, people look to their leaders for guidance. With the process of digital transformation, it’s no different.

Senior leadership teams and board members need to recognise that digital transformation is not just an exercise or changing a single user journey – it’s a complete cultural shift that affects every role, department and function. Both the senior team and stakeholders must take the lead on embracing the uncertainty that comes with change and championing digitisation within the business.

A crucial part of this is destigmatising failure. Employees need to be given permission to fail, allowing them to test new ways to digitise the business, draw insights, and then refine their strategy moving forward. This fundamental shift in attitude will help to foster a culture that waterfalls down throughout the business – enabling every team and employee to take a more proactive approach to enabling digital transformation.

If a business doesn’t change its approach to being a digital-first company, they risk significantly holding back progress. A study by IDC, confirmed that resistance to cultural change was the biggest barrier to digital transformation – this finding is further supported by the results of the ‘Digital Transformation Readiness Survey’, where 34% of European Senior Executives named resistance to change as a core barrier holding back progress.

2) A clear but agile vision

To help create this company culture, there is a requirement for senior management to provide a clear definition of what they are trying to change and why. A vision for the future must be determined and then sold across the entire organisation for long-term success.

A clear, aligned vision shared across all departments is fundamental and will lead to focus in reaching the digital transformation ‘finish-line’. However, it’s important that businesses recognise that this vision will change with time as they discover new ways to add customer value and improve customer experiences.

3) Listen to what the customer tells you

A clear need for all of those at the table for driving digital transformation was finding new ways to measure customer feedback and draw actionable insights. Traditional methods, such as NPS, while still valuable, take too long to get results and don’t enable businesses to understand in real-time, the impact of the experience they are delivering to customers.

To draw more in-depth insights from customers, one executive from a leading UK bank shared how they have been experimenting with customer focus groups. Frequently bringing together customers who have recently used a specific service or are part of a specific demographic, they try to create an open discussion that cultivates insights that will help them to determine how their customers want to be engaged and served.

By improving the way real-time customer feedback is measured, businesses can refine and confirm that their digital transformation strategies are moving in the right direction, delivering clear customer benefits and value.

4) Increasing collaboration across all teams

The need for sustainable collaboration isn’t new, but it’s one that’s never been so important with competition at its highest point.

Many of those who had joined us shared that they struggle with creating result-driven collaboration despite their business making a conscious effort to invest in different tools like Slack. They found that while some of these tools helped to increase communication amongst different team members, use these tools to align collbaroation was almost overwhelming – ideas would be shared and then lost amongst all the messages, and keeping up with project progress required a lot of scrolling and reading. While this messaging-based approach to collaboration and project management does help in the short-term, it creates an overwhelming amount of information that employees have to keep up with. This leads to disorganisation and a lack of alignment around big-picture initiatives to enable company-wide transformation.

To counter these challenges, some executives shared that they have had success by taking a Scrum approach to project management. This approach provides a lightweight process framework that embraces iterative and incremental practices, helping organisations deliver working POCs more frequently. The main activity in Scrum project management is the sprint, a time-boxed iteration that usually lasts between 1-4 weeks. An irresistible rugby analogy – just like the sport where different positions come together to form a ‘micro’ team to push forward. Scrum teams are the pulling together of different members from across the organisation to prioritise tasks and deliver projects that produce business value.

There is no ‘golden ticket’ to improving collaboration to a point where it helps to spur digital transformation. But there seems to be a gap for new roles that focus on developing business-wide collaboration by bringing in tools that break down digital transformation projects into sprints to increase agility, but also provide a central hub where teams can take a light-touch approach to sharing their latest progress, accessing knowledge shared by other teams.

5) Explore the use of new innovative tools

With the digital transformation journey ahead, businesses must take the time to assess their current technology stack. Senior management needs to survey and talk to their employees about the day-to-day challenges they face and what would help them to do their job better. This will help businesses to invest in tools that will be successfully adopted by their team and help to drive progress.

A priority for those attending our focus group was increasing the speed at which they could test and launch new customer journeys and services. There’s a clear case for removing the reliance a business has on its IT and development teams for implementing new customer journeys, communications, etc. Teams like marketing, operations or customer service, would benefit from being given access to low-code development tools with drag-and-drop flow builders to quickly design, create and test new customer journeys – rather than having to rely on extremely busy IT and development teams.

While there’s a wide range of new tools to explore, businesses’ need to prioritise those that will help them to increase the speed to market of new digital transformation initiatives. This will allow them to quickly fail; draw the insights they need and then refine their strategy going forward.  The quicker a team can repeat this cycle, the more significant progress they will make.

Ultimately, it’s about equipping certain teams with the ability to act quickly on customer insight drawn from a new wave of digital data – bypassing the development team – to create real-time communications and two-way journeys that drive engagement, increase customer value and improve CX.

6) Celebrate the small wins BIG

Overall, it’s important to keep in the back of the mind that digital transformation is a constant evolutionary process that may not end. Therefore, you have to celebrate and share the small wins – they are a sign of progress and contribute to building momentum while also helping to reaffirm the cultural change that’s being cultivated throughout the business.

Share your digital transformation lessons

I would love to hear your opinion on the 6 lessons, to share your comments and what you would add to the list, add your comments to this LinkedIn post.

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