If you haven’t noticed, the world has seen some pretty drastic changes over the past several decades.
While the invention next-gen technology has, of course, had a lot to do with these changes, we can’t overlook the fact that the way in which we operate as a society has evolved, as well.
This so-called Digital Transformation has...well...transformed pretty much every aspect of modern society - and existence as a whole. The world of business, it’s safe to say, has been one of the hardest-hit areas of society.
That is to say, the way in which businesses and organizations within the business world operate have evolved in pretty much every aspect, such as:
- Internal operations
- Roles of individual employees and entire teams
- Inter-company relations and partnerships
- Customer-company relations
Again, technological advances have played a big role in digital transformation - but there’s more to it than that. The needs and expectations of the modern consumer have also changed - as have the landscapes of most top industries throughout the world.
These changes aren’t happening in isolation, either. On the contrary, they’re occurring in tandem with one another. This connection between technologies has created a cycle in which innovation and improvements in the way a company operates lead to increased customer expectations.
In turn, companies proceed to innovate, which incidentally raises the bar once more.
This is all to say that, if your organization isn’t onboard with this digital transformation, you’re going to quickly be left behind in your industry.
However, simply “coming to terms” with the digital transformation isn’t enough to keep your organization afloat. Rather, you need to embrace it wholeheartedly in order to truly evolve and maintain relevance within your industry.
In the next section, we’ll go through the stages of “digital maturity” in order to illustrate exactly what it means to fully embrace digital transformation. We’ll then move into a discussion of the main areas of your organization that will need to evolve as you begin to move forward.
Let’s get started.
The Six Stages of Digital Maturity
Now, the act of embracing digital transformation isn’t a matter of black and white.
And it’s certainly not as simple as flipping a switch and becoming “digitally mature” just like that.
Embracing digital transformation is, instead, a gradual process that involves shifting the way in which your organization operates as a whole.
Here, we’ll walk you through the stages of digital maturity, explaining what your company will look like as it begins its own digital transformation.
(Click any of the boxes below to jump to that stage)
Stage One: Business As Usual
As the name implies, companies in the initial phase of digital transformation simply haven’t even begun to evolve.
Organizations in this stage typically operate under the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy. They are profitable at the current moment, which leads their C-suite team to assume there’s no need to make any drastic changes that. From their perspective, digital transformation could end up doing more harm than good.
(But, as we know, such “digital resistance” will almost certainly cause major troubles for a company as time goes on.)
Now, companies at this stage might not be completely resistant to digital transformation - but that doesn’t mean they’re much further ahead. Perhaps they’ve begun adopting more modern technology, or have made some changes to their business plan or organizational structure...but these changes are merely superficial. In other words, the changes made by companies in this stage are done for the sake of change, rather than in the interest of evolving as an organization.
Needless to say, companies at this stage have a lot of work to do in terms of wholeheartedly embracing digital transformation.
Stage Two: Test and Learn
Companies in the second stage of digital transformation typically understand the need to evolve - but aren’t exactly sure of how to proceed.
Companies at this stage are said to be in a sort of “operational limbo,” in that they are working toward becoming digitally mature, but still maintain a strong grasp on a number of traditional methods of doing things. For example, they may understand the need to become more customer-centric, but, since their organizational structure is still reliant on silos, they aren’t able to provide a cohesive experience to their customers (and thus, cannot become customer-centric).
Companies at the Test-and-Learn stage of digital maturity also do just that: experiment with a assortment of improvements and changes, and learn as they go. However, there’s little - if any - strategy to the changes being made at this stage. Rather, these organizations throw metaphoric spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. Of course, this leads to a pretty decent slew of wasted time, money, and other resources in the long run.
(It’s worth noting that this is exactly what “Business as Usual” companies are afraid of - which is why they’re so hesitant to embrace digital transformation in the first place.)
At any degree, Stage Two companies are right on the cusp of making great strides - they just need to be a bit more strategic in how they proceed.
Stage Three: Systemize and Strategize
The next logical step, of course, is to adopt a strategic approach to digital transformation.
While companies in Stage Three may still experience some resistance from long-time employees who are used to the traditional way of doing things, these instances become fewer and further between. Essentially, digital resistors have become the exception within Stage Three companies, as most team members have completely embraced the transformation.
That said, Stage Three companies typically begin mandating that employees embrace the change, providing workshops and other training sessions to help them along their journey. Again, most employees are prepared to make the necessary changes, so they tend to approach these training sessions not as something they “have to do,” but as opportunities to learn and grow.
One of the main shifts that occur in Stage Three is that companies begin to truly focus on yielding a high-quality overall experience to its customers. In fact, it’s this shift toward customer-centricity that allows organizations at this stage to make informed decisions regarding how to continue moving forward as a digitally-mature company.
By putting the customer at the center of every business decision being made, these companies stand a much better chance of making changes that work out in the long run.
Stage Four: Adapt or Die
The fourth stage of digital maturity sounds a bit ominous - and with good reason.
At this point, those who cling to the “old way” of doing things have become obsolete. In no uncertain terms, these individuals are at risk of losing their position within the company if they don’t get onboard with digital transformation.
Regarding the company as a whole, organizations at this stage no longer view digital transformation as an “extra,” and have completely adopted it as their overall philosophy. “Dynamic” and “agile” are key terms that describe the way in which these companies operate.
Stage four companies are prepared to make “on the fly” changes and improvements based on new data and information immediately as it becomes available.
CX - more specifically, digital CX - continues to become the main focus for companies at this stage. More and more, the decisions being made internally are based on the current and future needs and expectations of the customer. And, because these companies have begun collecting data from a variety of sources, the decisions being made will almost certainly lead to greater things - both for the company and its customers.
Stage Five: Transformed and Transforming
Stage 5 is essentially a continuation of “Adapt or Die.” More accurately, it’s “Adapt or Die” on steroids.
At this point, all things related to the organization - its processes, its people, its customers, and more - become one. As silos begin to be phased out completely, individuals and teams forge deeper relationships with each other, as well as with the customer. Communication and collaboration are key aspects, here; in order to continue evolving, all team members must remain on the same page at all times.
Additionally, as silos break down, team members are no longer simply responsible for their “traditional” tasks. Instead, everyone begins to work toward the common goal of providing top-notch service to the customer, doing whatever’s necessary at the current moment to make this happen.
Perhaps most importantly, Stage 5 companies have mapped the customer journey in a way that allows personnel to anticipate touch points and wage the necessary services and support for each step the customer takes along their path to purchase - and beyond.
Of course, this is not to say the customer journey map is set in stone; rather, because Stage 5 companies have collected so much data on their customers, they are able to predict with near certainty what their customers will do next - and what they’ll need from the company when doing so.
Stage Six: Innovate or Die
Companies at this stage are constantly focused on growth, and they understand that each and every experience and data point provides a lesson to be learned. On that same token, every process or initiative undertaken by these companies is done for a specific purpose, and due to specific information. In other words, there’s absolutely no “change for the sake of change.”
Companies in Stage 6 never rest on their laurels and are never content to the point of complacency. That said, these companies do celebrate individual accomplishments in an intrinsic way. That is to say that, the accomplishments of today enable the company to tackle the problems of tomorrow.
Essentially, companies in Stage 6 run like finely-tuned machines focused on realizing and accomplishing their mission - and continuing to evolve this mission each and every day. As we discussed earlier, this relentless pursuit of innovation and greatness creates a virtuous cycle in which each accomplishment subsequently leads to an even greater accomplishment ad infinitum.
Making Digital Transformation Possible
So, now that we have a clear understanding of what it looks like when a company has fully embraced digital transformation, let’s discuss what all goes into making the shift happen.
Revolutionizing the Customer Experience
As we’ve discussed throughout this article, a heavy focus on improving the customer experience is paramount to being considered digitally mature.
And, again as we’ve noted, the modern consumer’s expectations continue to evolve day in and day out. In addition to expecting top-quality products or services from a specific company, today’s customers also expect:
- Educational and informational services, support, and content to help them achieve their goals more efficiently
- Omnichannel touch points - and omnipresent support
- Individual, tailored service, and support that focuses on specific needs depending on the situation at hand
Understanding this, companies need to be prepared to cater to the evolving needs of their customers at all times. To do so requires them to take advantage of current-gen technology - and to be prepared to adopt even more advanced technology in the near future.
For one thing, companies absolutely need to maintain a database of their customers - typically via CRM. This allows everyone within an organization to collect and store any information they may need regarding their customers’ needs and experiences with the company.
In turn, whenever a team member engages with a specific customer, they can immediately be brought up to speed - and can then focus on providing individualized service to the customer in question.
Another necessity by today’s standards is a social media presence. Of course, it’s worth noting that simply being “present” on the expected channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) isn’t enough; companies must be active on these channels for their efforts to make a difference.
Whether providing informational content to their entire audience or individual support to a customer who reached out, all companies at this time should be using social media to deepen the connection with their consumer base.
Another technological area that continues to evolve is that of chat bots and artificial intelligence. These tools essentially allow you to provide individualized service to your customers even if an actual representative of your company isn’t currently available. Additionally, chat bots and AI allow you to collect information on your customers to be stored in the aforementioned CRM - again without needing to tie up your employees when doing so.
As we’ve said throughout this article, companies adopting these and other tools should never do so for the sake of doing so. That said, when adopting new technology, companies aiming to become digitally mature need to remember that it all comes down to being able to serve their customers as efficiently as possible.
Evolving Operational Processes
Along with revolutionizing the way in which companies provide service to their customers, organizations also must begin to shift the way in which they operate internally, as well.
With regard to technology, automation is definitely one of the keys to a seamless shifting of operational processes. Essentially, automation should be used to accomplish simple tasks, such as data entry, scheduling, and support ticket registration.
By automating these processes, companies free their employees up so that they’re able to focus on more intensive, hands-on tasks. Taking this a step further, companies that take advantage of automation can allocate additional resources toward making even greater strides toward innovation.
Another thing we’ve discussed throughout this article is the idea of restructuring teams and processes in a way that allows for increased communication, collaboration, and efficiency across the board. For one thing, removing the silos of your company’s various departments creates a sense of shared buy-in, in which everyone within the company is responsible for each other’s - and your customers’ - success.
One other thing to consider is flexibility with regard to when, where, and how your employees work. For example, by allowing your employees to work remotely and to create their own hours, you essentially improve the chances of them working to maximum capacity whenever they sit down to get some work done.
Lastly, you’ll want to foster a sense of continuous improvement throughout your organization. As we touched on earlier, this means ensuring that your employees see every single experience as an opportunity to learn something - whether about themselves as professionals, your industry as a whole, or your target customers. In turn, this will enable your employees to always be “on,” and always prepared to make improvements whenever they see an opportunity to do so.
While making the shift from a traditional way of doing things to more dynamic processes may be difficult at first, doing so will ultimately allow everyone within your organization to operate at their highest capacity - in turn enabling them to provide your customers with the best service possible.
Shifting Your Overall Business Model
As should be pretty clear by now, becoming digitally mature essentially requires you to make some major changes to your company’s entire business model.
However, this doesn’t mean that everything within your company needs to be completely overhauled. In fact, doing so would almost certainly lead to failure in one way or another.
That is to say, you don’t exactly want to do away with the “old way” of doing things so much as you want to amend the “old way” to fit the evolving needs of today’s consumers. Simply put: your goal should be to keep what works, and fix what doesn’t.
As we said earlier, when implementing a certain change, you want to have a clear idea of why you’re doing it, and what successful implementation will look like. Again, your focus here should always be on the customer: how will doing X, Y, and Z enhance their overall experience with your company?
That, right there, is the essence of digital transformation: evolving your company to not simply improve your customers’ experiences - but to enhance them.
Think of it like this:
Perhaps the main thing to take away from all of this is that you should begin to see your company not just as the provider of a specific product or service, but as a provider of value via the products or services you offer.
In making this fundamental shift to the way you approach your business, you’ll inherently enable your organization to continue to evolve with the ever-changing needs of today’s - and tomorrow’s - consumer.