Digital Transformation is Digital Marketing. And You are Stupid. | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

In these times of “everything digital” mass hysteria, if we believe the first portion of the above headline, the second is almost certainly true. While I discussed businesses’ obsession with digital marketing and customer facing processes and their digital disruption in an earlier post, I am not surprised that the hysteria about marketing being everything in digital transformation has not abated. And unfortunately, it may not in the considerable future.

Multiple discussions with new and old age businesses such as ecommerce, banks, manufacturing, and retail reemphasize that digital transformation is a big boon for the marketers. With multiple channels and technologies enhancing the customer experience, digital transformation certainly hold great promise for CMOs. Given that it’s easier to get funding for “customer-centric” initiatives, organizations are defaulting to this choice. But they are over-focused on launching newer products/services and extending the reach of their organization. By believing the power of digital transformation resides just in marketing, we are doing it a great injustice.

To effectively adopt digital transformation, organizations need to rethink their business model. Many processes that dearly need digital disruption are internal to the organization, rather than external customer facing. What digital transformation should do is keep the end-user (the user who consumes the service, irrespective whether it’s a customer or not) at the forefront and re-imagine these processes. A clear role of digital initiatives needs to be defined across service center, support functions, legal and risk, HR processes, supply chain, and IT operations. Leveraging collaborative platforms, mobility, analytics, and cloud services should help all these functions to add value to the business rather than remain docile cost centers.

Moreover, various businesses are missing out on significant cost savings potentials that digital transformation can provide. In their single-minded obsession to drive customer engagement, and therefore over-emphasis on the top line, they are unable to fully realize the value of these initiatives to streamline and simplify internal processes and operations to save costs. If a business provides a wonderful mechanism to serve customers without really understanding how this should change its view regarding how it conducts the business, it won’t ever leverage digital transformation meaningfully.

Digital transformation is not only about spending a fortune in leveraging cool technologies to make marketing “next generation.” It’s something way beyond. It encompasses how much the business understands, values, appreciates, and respects people, processes, technology, and all the relevant stakeholders with which it directly or indirectly engages. It should not be viewed as just one more strategy for earning money from customers. Digital transformation should instead be seen as something that empowers stakeholders and the business. Something more than pure technology that helps in meeting and shaping people’s aspirations.

Excessive focus on sales and marketing may provide near term returns and easier funding. But it will not be sufficient to sustain digital initiatives. Digital transformation is a philosophy of conducting and doing business with simplicity, operational efficiency, and customer centricity. It is not just technology-enabled cool marketing. It’s fine to make engaging customer interaction platforms, perform all the analytics on customer behavior, and leverage virtual reality. But businesses that deploy digital strategies to fundamentally understand their role in serving all stakeholders, in turn impacting the related processes, will be truly leveraging the power of digital transformation. It’s a tremendous opportunity, and it will be pity if we do not exploit its full potential.

What has been your experience?

Photo credit: Andre Musta

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