Digital Transformation: Design-led, Consulting-led, Technology-led … How about Client-led? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

As part of Everest Group’s digital services research, we come across all types of digital transformation providers, including design agencies, consulting firms, technology companies, and IT service providers. The key focus is around initiating client conversations in whatever way possible, and the typical approach is “led” by something.

Design-led digital is the most talked about and hyped. Given the massive opportunity, digital service providers want to keep every piece of a client’s budget pie by getting into a sole-source model. Thus, many have invested in design studios to dazzle clients with next generation technologies in an Apple showroom-like experience. The assumption is that clients will come to the studio and fall in love with the digital service provider. Indeed, some providers have become obsessed with their digital studios, thinking they are the end, rather than the means.

Consulting firms and even systems integrators have acquired design companies, assuming that will enable them to deploy “design in technology” concepts. With these new capabilities, they see everything from a design perspective, regardless of what the client is asking for.

And almost all of them are significantly investing in digital talent to drive technology-led conversations with clients, e.g., how enterprises can use mobility, analytics, or social media to impact their business. Strategy consulting firms are taking the lead here, and rapidly improving their technology capabilities. They realize that strategy-led conversations may have limited value for some clients, and that they risk losing business to peers with better technology capabilities.

Each of these digital providers wants to have a one-on-one conversation with prospects, and influence their decisions. And to that end, they are bringing in a plethora of digital services to build credibility, drive prototypes, and develop digital solutions.

But what’s missing in all of these “led” approaches is the client’s input, desires, struggles, and end goals. Digital providers imply that clients do not really understand digital transformation, and that they need a service partner’s assistance to even think about digital disruption, making digital transformation something that is “done to” clients’ business, rather than “with” them.

For digital service providers, everything has become a hammer and every client a nail. But in their quest to be everything to everyone, their fixation on design, consulting, or technology is not valuable for them or for their clients. Their focus should be on hearing their clients and solving their problems, rather than imposing their predisposition around the “correct” way of digital. Digital providers that fail to understand this, and continue to have a “spear” in the market, will not succeed in the long run.

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