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PHOTO: Joshua Fuller

A recent survey of 450 C-suite executives by Celonis found that 45% didn't know where to start when developing their transformation strategy — despite a third of businesses spending over $500,000 on business transformation in the last 12 months. Where are organizations falling short?

  • 82% admitted they do not review their internal business processes to understand what needs to be prioritized when setting initial goals for digital transformation.
  • 62% set digital transformation KPIs without understanding what is going wrong with current operations.
  • 58% left the task of explaining change to the front line to consultants and middle management.

When it comes to digital transformation, it’s easier to launch straight into building budgets, onboarding new hires and upgrading technology without stopping to consider what needs to change. But if you don’t understand how your organization is currently running, any investments you make are unlikely to deliver the desired impact.

Where to begin? With your customers is a good start. Here are three customer-centric steps to avoid starting your digital transformation initiative off on the wrong foot.

Have a Vision for Transformation

Investing in customer experience (CX) is an imperative for organizations looking to gain a competitive edge. In fact, Forrester found customers are 4.5 times more likely to pay a premium for an excellent experience. Ideally, CX goals are aligned with the overall business strategy, but before you can do that, you need to understand what your customers want, need and experience.

One way to do this is with in-depth input from customers. Executive teams often think that one single tool or app will transform the customer experience, when in reality it’s smaller changes to different tools at different points of the service cycle. The only way to truly know how to improve your customers’ satisfaction is to ask them.

Try conducting individual interviews and ask for candid feedback on your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Or hold focus groups where internal and external stakeholders can discuss their needs and priorities — and honestly share how your organization is meeting them. Once you have this honest input, you can use it to validate — or change — your transformation vision.

Related Article: Failure to Launch: 5 Causes of Digital Transformation Failure

Put Strategy Before Technology

The power of digital transformation is its scope. Instead of focusing on individual technologies and operational strategies, digital strategies should focus on fundamentally transforming the business.

That’s a key finding from the MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte digital business study, which found that the strength of digital technologies isn’t the technology itself, but how companies integrate them to transform their businesses and how they work.

But strategy alone isn’t enough — you also need a digital culture, and leadership able to drive transformation. Consider the following questions:

  • Does your digital strategy go beyond buying software? Digital transformation is more than installing fancy new software and calling it a day. You need to change how you innovate, how and why you take risks, and how you make decisions. Buying technology won’t fix those things for you, but can help support new behaviors once they’re in place.
  • Does your company culture support digital transformation? Most organizations are used to business cases, multiple layers of approval and clearly defined areas of expertise. For effective digital transformation, employees must feel comfortable and supported in taking risks that may or may not succeed.
  • Are you confident in your C-suite’s digital skillset? Your executive team doesn’t need to be able to run a Google Analytics report or confidently hold forth on your enterprise data flow, but they should be able to understand how combining strategy and technology can transform the customer experience. If not, you’re unlikely to keep pace with industry changes.

Once you’ve addressed these questions, you will be in better shape to keep pace with customer expectations — and position yourself for success over the long haul.

Related Article: 3 Ways to Realign Your Organization to Focus on Customer Experience 

Reimagine the Customer Experience

Customer experience spans every step of the customer journey, beginning when a customer first hears about your organization and continuing long after they’ve made a purchase. And customer expectations are higher than ever. Forrester found that organizations that invest in CX see over 5 times the revenue growth than those that don’t.

With any digital transformation initiative, you need to understand the impact on customers. Review and evaluate all your organization’s customer touchpoints, from research to selection to post-sale interactions like renewal, service and support. Where are there silos? Where do you lose insight into the customer’s journey? Where are there gaps in data sharing between systems?

Don’t forget the insights you can glean from conducting customer interviews. And don’t be concerned if you hear complaints. In fact, complaints can be one of the best tools you have for driving change, since complaints can help you to address the underlying issues. When people don’t speak up, you have a larger problem on your hands, because you’re never given the opportunity to fix what may be broken.

Your own support team can also be a great resource for firsthand experiences with customers. You might choose to observe them on support calls as well. Find out customers’ most commonly asked questions, as well as their top concerns. Listen for patterns and address the big issues — and don’t forget to look out for the positive outcomes that should be upheld and celebrated.

A sustained focus on CX is transforming the business landscape and everything about work — the systems we use, our customer relationships, technology and more. Realigning and mobilizing your company around CX is no small feat, especially if everything seems to be working well enough.

Yet without transforming your organization’s strategy, processes and customer journey, any digital transformation initiative is unlikely to make a lasting impact. Focus on changing how your organization thinks and works before implementing technology, and your customers will thank you.

Related Article: Have a Bad Reputation for Customer Experience? Own It (and Other Advice)