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5 Surprising Truths about Digital Transformation

min read

Clare Kirlin - Channel Marketing Manager
Clare Kirlin

Last night, members of our local tech community gathered over tacos and tequila for a little digital transformation party.

Leaders from meltmedia and our co-hosts at Point B shared their 5-step digital transformation roadmap. (Get your digital transformation overview here.)

Digital Transformation

In addition to sharing best practices, they surfaced some unexpected truths. Even as a veteran marketer dealing in digital transformation on a daily basis, I realized that the digital transformation journey is anything but linear—and that it's full of surprises.

Below are my key takeaways.

Don't bite off more than you can chew

“Going fast is dangerous… when you’re bad at something.”

-Bob Brackney, Senior Associate, Point B

The very term “digital” implies speed and agility. That’s an imperative for any organization that doesn’t want to be left behind.

But if you’ve ever observed a toddler trying to run, you know that any imbalance in the speed/skill equation can land you flat on your rear.

Take an honest accounting of your target market, customers, present and future disruptors, and current environment. Identify capabilities, but also gaps and risks, so you can move forward confidently—at full speed.

Make friends

“You’ll need friends. You’ll definitely need friends.”

-Ashley Fagerlie, Digital Associate, Point B

Digital transformation depends directly on successful collaboration.

We’ve all heard about the urgency of IT/marketing partnerships, the emergence of the CIO, the digitization of the buyer’s journey.

But failing to recognize other stakeholders (think sales, customer services, human resources, internal communications, and more) will cost you time and money down the line. They will be heavily impacted by your digital transformation, and must be involved at every step.

A cross-functional steering committee is a good start, and can keep you in check as your initiatives unfold.

Lead through failure

“Failure is inevitable. Lead through it.”

-Jennifer Crouse, Digital Associate, Point B

The difference between a plan and an outcome can boil down to leadership.

As you build your digital transformation leaderboard, select individuals who blend a sense of adventure with activism and come at the planning process with a deliberate and well disciplined approach. They should embrace bold changes, and possess the chops to motivate teams to execute on those changes.

Create a shortlist of leaders in your organization who are known to fail fast and rebuild quickly, without being reckless.

Learn and iterate

“You actually have to do this thing.”

-Robin Fossen, Director of Project Management, meltmedia

When you spend a lot of time thinking and talking about digital transformation, it can be easy to underestimate the scope of execution required to deliver on the goals you’ve set.

By adopting a holistic approach, you can apply learnings and best practices at the programmatic level, rather than the individual project level, for greater overall effect.

The key here is process. As you implement standardization, documentation, and governance, don’t assume a set-it-and-forget-it-model. While repeatable process is valuable and in fact necessary to scale your efforts, it’s just as important to acknowledge what isn’t working, and adjust along the way.

KPIs don't work here

“KPIs can’t tell you anything.”*

-Justin Grossman, CEO, meltmedia

*That is, they can’t tell you anything on their own.

We’re all fascinated by creating a dashboard and lighting it up with our big wins. Sure, KPIs make sense for measuring a goal or target, but they’re a flawed way to look at transformative change.

They are, after all, key performance indicators: signals of some larger, more actionable truth.

Story-based analytics are the answer. Ask yourself: What questions need to be answered? How do I build a narrative around them? (Use actual paragraphs.) Now you can slot in those KPIs, and internal stakeholders will have the context they need to understand and participate in your digital transformation.

Who's with me?

"This sounds really hard."

-Anyone still reading this post

I know.

By its nature, digital transformation is unpredictable. In order to navigate successfully, each of us will have to think differently and get comfortable embracing change.

True digital maturity requires radical shifts in your business structure and operations to enable rapid adaptability as markets shift. Don’t be surprised by surprises along the way.