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Talking about the "maturity" of an emerging and evolving movement is a bit paradoxical, but when it comes to digital experience there are actions that organizations can take to create enterprise-wide digital maturity.

At one point in my career, I oversaw Digital Publishing at Houghton Mifflin, one of the oldest publishing companies in the US. I worked on the implementation / IT side, which involved analyzing and revamping all of the processes to turn them into digital ones, supported by the integration of a variety of systems. 

I share this because I have lived the journey toward digital experience maturity in a very real way. As a result, here are what I believe are the most important takeaways.

To begin, if the organization has a solid vision of where it needs to be in terms of digital competitiveness, great. If not, it is important to implement short wins, for example, invest in one very innovative digital experience for one of the brands or divisions.

A vision of the ideal state helps the organization understand how far it is from that goal and aids in putting together a roadmap. This roadmap is defined in the following seven steps.

The Seven Steps of Digital Enterprise Transformation

1. Awareness

First, there must be a vision of what is possible through digital experience. Likewise, there must be a knowledge of the assets, options and opportunities within or at hand for the organization. 

Top management needs to lead this step — achieving digital maturity is too deep of an organizational challenge to be delivered without the full support of the CEO.

2. Internal Champions

The most sustainable change occurs from the inside out. Internal champions who buy into the process can support the change management process, reduce resistance and demonstrate commitment as an example to others. 

To find the best candidates for internal champions, look for the most influential people in the current processes. Typical stakeholders for digital transformation projects are the CIO and the CMO, which is why digital maturity implies the implementation of a fruitful partnership between them.

3. Moment of Decision

Having a pervasive customer-centric focus — with systems dedicated to support that focus — leads successful transformations. Workflows will need to shift. Be willing to redesign processes and make sure they are understood by all stakeholders, whether directly impacted or not.

4. Commitment

Once that decision has been made, the digital transformation leaders must determine the path it will take for the organization. That includes finalizing a budget for at least the first phase to initialize proactive transformation and choosing any needed providers. Selecting software provider(s) that provide the greatest amount of digital agility is key here, as it allows for continuous development in quick iteration, as well as the ability to scale functionally.

5. Implementation

You will need a strategic action plan in place in order to gain momentum toward the desired outcome. All the various parts of the organization must integrate a new mindset and take action toward transformation. Naturally, there must be a launch to roll out the actual transformation process throughout the organization.

The integration between systems is the most important success factor in digital transformation. Forrester’s Digital Experience Delivery Survey, 2014 (paywall) listed this as the number one project pain point in digital experience delivery. 

When selecting a digital experience platform, focus on its ability to provide the tools and technology to connect to slow-moving back-office systems (what Gartner calls “systems of records,” owned by the CIO), faster-moving marketing systems (systems of innovation, owned by the CMO) and to existing proprietary applications (aka systems of differentiations, as per Gartner's terminology, which are fundamental to the organization’s competitive edge). 

These platform capabilities foster the crucial collaboration between the CIO and CMO, without which no sustainable digital maturity can be delivered.

6. Engagement

All in-house personnel, management and possibly even customers must understand the vision and participate in the transformation process. People need to know how transformation will affect their particular contributions, routinely address their concerns. This phases relies on superb communication and development of awareness of the benefits of the new digital transformation.

7. Momentum

Once the digital experience transformation is underway, it is important to analyze the data gathered to guide the refinement of systems, enhance communication and resolve any tangential issues (or possibly distractions) that surface throughout the process. 

By having upgrade touchpoints, the organization can course-correct to align with the guiding vision of the optimal digital experience for all customers and users. This phase is the time to consider leveraging new tools and augmenting their impact on organizational performance, for example, understanding customer or prospects in a much more sophisticated way, which can lead to the delivery of more pertinent products or services.

Setting the Foundation for Your Future Brand

Today, every organization, large and small, that wishes to prosper (or even survive) in the “uber-ized” economy needs to assess its digital maturity very thoroughly. Whether the gap between adequate digital maturity and the current state is large or small, aligning the organization with the proper strategy and methods for growth will yield success.

In today’s dynamic and innovative business environment, technology IS the economy. So choose a digital experience software that brings the agility you will need to control the entire customer journey of your customers seamlessly at all enterprise touchpoints, and that promotes continuous development and flexible integration with current systems for IT and marketing to truly work together (which is key to ripening the benefits of digital).

Organizations seeking digital maturity depend on the partnership between their CMOs and CIOs. CMOs have mastered the art and science of data-driven, demand-generation marketing. But post-acquisition, it is the CIOs’ mandate to unify the digital experience by combining customer interactions with all the organization’s assets, proprietary solutions and processes that come together in seamless integrations for omnichannel access, personalized content, relevant content. 

This gives the added benefit of "future-proofing" your investment.

The one thing you MUST remember is this: your organization’s digital maturity today is setting the foundation for your brand experience tomorrow. Step up or get left behind … this is the choice facing organizations now.

Title image by Lindsay Henwood