Digital Transformation: There’s Not an App for That!

This week, I asked Russ Kliman, a colleague focused on strategic programs and innovation, to contribute a guest post. While Russ has an impressive resume (including his 15-year tenure at SEI), it’s his creativity and passion to challenge and break mental models that led me tokliman185 make this request of him. Russ strongly believes that behavior change is the critical ingredient to driving continued growth, revenue and new market opportunities. I couldn’t agree more.

Russ has spent significant time researching the impact of digital transformation, both inside and outside of the financial services industry, and has been a frequent speaker on the topic. As always, I encourage you to join the conversation and comment below.

Whether we like it or not, digital transformation is upon us. I often watch my 17-year-old son as he interacts with his phone. It’s almost never used as an actual phone, but it’s full of engaging and immersive apps. Some of those apps let him stay connected with friends around the clock, while others provide entertainment, news, and productivity capabilities.

Like any digital native, he uses his phone to deposit checks, pay his friends, and monitor his accounts. He’s never seen the inside of a bank, doesn’t know what a travel agent is, and asks why people can’t purchase a new car on Amazon and have it shipped. It’s through his eyes that I constantly challenge my mental model of how the next wave of consumers want and expect to interact digitally.

The fact is, digital transformation – and of course mobile – has forever changed the way we live, and it’s forever changed what we expect of brands that engage us. It has fractured the traditional consumer journey into hundreds of real-time, intent-driven moments. Each of these moments is a way to shape consumers’ perceptions of your brand, drive engagement, influence their purchasing behaviors, and service them.

Mobile, but much more

Digital transformation is sometimes perceived as simply being mobile. However, focusing on mobile in isolation is a recipe for disaster – digital transformation is not about taking analog activities and building an app for them. Digital transformation is a renewed focus on the entire customer journey and constantly asking the question, “What would my digital customer do?” It’s about understanding that the customer journey, from acquisition through ongoing servicing, is highly fragmented, multi-channel and expected to be 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In order to transform to support these expectations, it takes a fundamental shift in your operations, service, sales, and organizational business model – something an app simply cannot do in isolation. But more importantly, it requires a fundamental shift in our mental models of what we believe can be accomplished digitally and what digital natives like my son expect to do digitally.

Digital transformation is about mapping the entire customer journey and transforming that journey into key digital touchpoints.

Staying focused

This kind of behavioral shift is not without its challenges, and firms willing to undertake the efforts to map the entire customer journey and transform will need to relentlessly focus on the customer to ensure success. In order to do so, you must be:

Attentive – Anticipate customer needs and guide them to relevant products or offers quickly. The design of this experience should be able to sense the mood of customers (learn, evaluate, act) and serve appropriate content.

Insightful – Leverage analytics, deep learning, data mining and other technologies to understand customer preferences and needs, guiding them and maximizing the value of each customer interaction.

Connected – Provide a seamless experience across all channels and devices, so customers feel positive about their digital experience. This is also referred to as an omni-channel experience.

Relevant – Deliver a superior service to customers by developing digital applications that recognize contextual signals and engage customers within that context.

Available – Deepen the relationship with customers by giving them access to virtual relationship managers and other digital tools and services all day, every day, across all channels and devices.

Firms that have been successful in disrupting current industries have done so by maintaining a focus on these core principles and approaching their entire customer experience with a digital lens. At the same time, firms have also recognized that the transformation must extend well into the enterprise in order to be successful.

Understand the connected consumer

The challenge for many firms is knowing where to start. In Altimeter Group’s The State of Digital Transformation, 63% of those surveyed noted that changing company culture was the top challenge facing their digital transformation; 56% noted the challenge as cooperation between departments and team silos. At the root, however, I believe that those who rally around understanding the behavior and impact of the new connected consumer, led by strong executive support, will win out in truly transforming and moving digital into the core of their organization.

What do you believe is central to achieving digital transformation and how close is your organization to doing so?