Digital transformations of one form or another have been taking place for a long time, but the scale at which they’re happening these days is much bigger and more pervasive. IDC's 2016 Futurescape report predicted "massive upshifts" in commitments to digital transformation initiatives. For many companies, the primary motivator stems from an urgent need to improve the digital experience for customers.

CX, Speed and Personalization

Customers are more influential than ever before and they expect speed and personalization. Since they have lots of options, they aren’t willing to put up with slow, inconsistent and disconnected digital experiences. If a company or its products become too hard to work with, the customer will simply move on. That means the need to become a digital business and improve the customer experience isn’t limited to retailing — it impacts every business in every industry around the world. 

The basic premise behind digital transformation seems alluringly simple: Give customers a consistent experience across every channel, screen throughout every step of their journey with the company from prospect to loyal brand advocate.

DX Transformations Mean Big Changes 

Yet, according to research by the Economist Intelligence Unit, only 18 percent of organizations today have fully integrated their customer-facing processes with their back office systems, and only 10 percent report their businesses are fully digital.

The reality is that digital transformation is anything but simple. Embarking on a digital transformation program requires an enormous amount of change to the organization in order to bring in a truly new approach. This is a complicated effort that involves people, processes and technology, all of which are equally important to a successful outcome. 

MarTech Options Are Exploding 

MarTech supergraphic evolution

Taken broadly, digital transformation involves dozens of systems along with mountains of content and enormous data silos that all need to play nicely together. Complicating matters in most companies – often as the result of mergers or acquisitions — are a hodge-podge of legacy systems and applications that need to be modernized, retired or integrated.  

Adding further to the complexity is the incredible explosion in digital marketing technologies, all of which must be evaluated and integrated at some level. As shown in the graphic below, the number of marketing technology vendors identified by Scott Brinker of nearly doubled from 947 in January 2014 to 1,876 companies across 43 categories in January 2015. This chart represents a staggering number of options in a technology segment that barely existed a few years ago.

5 Steps to Digital Agility 

Clearly there are many challenges to becoming a customer-focused digital business but these challenges are not insurmountable. Here are five steps that can help your company break through the barriers and begin to achieve dramatic improvement in its digital readiness and agility:


Like any transformation exercise, your digital transformation goals need to align with your business vision, company strategy, implementation roadmap and a series of connected initiatives to achieve your digital marketing mission. 

Digital transformation requires leadership buy-in and collaboration with a range of key stakeholders. One of the most common pitfalls we see is a digital transformation project with no executive management commitment. Another problem is deployment of point solutions without integrating them into a supporting roadmap of connected initiatives.

Stay Focused 

Assessing existing digital capabilities is just the first stage. Next you need a plan to get your organization from where it is now to where it needs to be. Since this is likely to be a large transformation program, it is vitally important that the project team stays aligned to its original assessment and plan. This will keep the team grounded throughout and remind them that any temporary growing pains are just part of helping your business advance in a world that will only become increasingly mobile and digital.

Think Integration

Any digital transformation you undertake should leverage any current IT investments and systems that that you will continue to use in the future. 

Remember that if your organization focuses only on digitizing front-end technologies without adequately considering how to enable and modernize existing systems, your company won’t leverage the full potential and benefits of its digital transformation effort. The upside is that staying true to your stated requirements will foster a best-of-breed approach for new technologies because these systems tend to be designed for ease of integration.

Engage Everyone

Conducting a fundamental review of all your company’s business processes and capabilities is a great way to optimize them by tapping digital technologies. Digital is pervasive and more than ever it deserves a cross-functional team, not one led by IT or marketing or even an independent business department.

What’s more, companies need to ensure that digital transformation efforts do not create new silos or internal competition so adopting a multidisciplinary approach becomes a prerequisite for any digital transformation initiative that aims to be successful. 

Centralize Content

Digital technologies have made everyone a content creator so no longer is marketing the sole owner of content. New content comes from all directions and departments and that means it can be diverse, scattered and inconsistent. But even worse, it may not be getting to customers when and where it’s needed in the right format. 

Start Small and Get Buy-In 

As companies move from developing a vision and roadmap, many will tend to start small with pilot projects and proof-of-concepts. However, if any digital transformation project — no matter what size or scope — lacks management and stakeholder buy-in or fails to consider the current IT landscape, then alarm bells should start ringing.

Ideally, the starting projects should be integration-oriented, helping to align people, processes and content without forcing massive change where it’s not needed. By taking a pragmatic, one-step-at-a-time approach, companies can gradually transform their digital capabilities and more effectively engage their most demanding customers.