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The term "digital transformation" gets thrown around a lot these days — as in “we’re transforming our go-to-market strategy to digital" or “we’re a ‘digital-first’ company now.”  

“Transformation” suggests that the business wants to evolve in a major way. But what lies at the heart of such an evolution?

I would suggest that content — and the strategic management of it — is at the heart of a “digital transformation.” Let me explain:

The Experience Mandate

Creating and optimizing the customer experience is, arguably, the single most dominant agenda item for the C-suite today. And at its core, this is what the digital opportunity offers. 

So while digital also offers a more efficient way of doing business, less expensive methods of conducting a transaction and more effective ways to manage business operations — these capabilities are available to everyone. 

The differentiating opportunity is much more complex: how to use digital to create better customer experiences than the competition.

According to an Accenture-sponsored Forrester study released late last year, “improving customer experience and differentiation are top strategic priorities.” When the researchers asked about business priorities in the coming year, “improving differentiation in the market” was the number one choice.

With differentiating experiences as the biggest business priority, it follows that the experience mandate is what lies at the heart of a business that’s undergoing a digital transformation. This speaks to the need for marketing and communications teams to become much more agile and flexible in creating value for customers across all points of their journey with the brand.

Content - The Fuel for the Experience

As we look at what enables every department to touch the customer journey in an optimized way, we see that the strategic management of content fuels this engine.

Founding partner of analyst firm Digital Clarity Group, Cathy McKnight wrote

“The new drive for Customer Experience has driven content beyond just a 'nice way to market across a digital channel' and into perhaps the only differentiator that remains. This dependency on content, and WCM as the primary system of engagement, has propelled the power of WCM as king, widening the gap between it and its courtesans.”

So, what does all this mean? Do we really need to care that web content management (or even just digital content more broadly) is at the heart of the digital transformation? Yes, we do. 

The reason why is that it places a new priority on ensuring that businesses don’t default to the “most popular” or “slickest” or “best marketed” WCM solution in town. It means that, if WCM truly lies at the heart of a digital transformation, the selection of a solution that enables such a transformation may be the most important purchase and implementation a company will make.

The Need For Speed, Agility and Stability

Those who succeed in the digital transformation use a different approach when choosing their WCM tools. 

Instead of looking for a tool that make it easy for contributors to push content around the enterprise, these companies look for systems that anchor the entire company’s ability to create, manage and optimize digital customer experiences. These companies:

  1. Test drive products and use that test drive to design new ways of operating in marketing and communications. Actually experiencing the product, in either a proof of concept or another kind of deployment, demonstrates how agile the product is. This informs the team as to how they might optimize and transform their processes in order to take advantage of that agility.
  2. Look to move to a continuous content development cycle. These companies are moving beyond the standard “release” of content in publishing batches, rather moving to a continuous deployment and delivery cycle to optimize the experiences in real or near-real time.
  3. Connecting digital experiences. Rather than looking to deploy one marketing suite to rule them all, these companies are rather using best-of-breed tools to connect experiences into a central method of managing the content for them.

With experiences at the heart of the digital transformation, and content at the heart of experiences, businesses need the ability to plug in, deploy, integrate and optimize multiple solutions into an ecosystem of ever-changing platforms.

The Digital Transformation Will Be Managed

Ultimately, businesses that succeed at navigating the digital transformation will bring a systematic and well-governed process to their digital transformation. This means agile, flexible processes — but these abilities must be rooted in a strategic approach.

Leaders who create differentiating customer experiences will employ new perspectives in selecting their WCM tools, ones that look at new methods of transforming not just a website or an intranet, but the entire business. As a recent Harvard Business School study concluded:

“Leaders across the business must learn about and stay abreast of digital trends. They must know why each is important and how to use it. The payoff for such effort is compelling: Digital Leaders are expanding into more new markets, growing faster, and increasing their profit margins over their competitors.”

A WCM isn’t just a tool to update your website. It has the opportunity to be the heart of a business’ complete digital transformation. But in order for that to happen, businesses must approach the acquisition of this tool with that goal in mind.