Meghan Walsh

CHICAGO — Companies created within the past 15 years understand the imperative of digital experience (DX). But more established businesses need to create DX initiatives, make them a key part of strategy and sustain them through organizational development.

It's a battle of digital natives versus digital immigrants, explained Meghan Walsh, senior director of global marketing at Hilton Worldwide, explained during a session at CMSWire's DX Summit here.

Like immigrants in the physical world, Walsh said digital immigrants need to take their culture with them during their enterprise evolution. “We have to take all that we have learned —  our culture, our history and our rituals — and we have to figure out  the same things that my grandparents did when they all immigrated to the US from Ireland," she said.

“You have to maintain your culture but do things in a different way."

That's the exciting part, she added.

Companies committed to DX should start by winning the support of the C-suite. Unless these top executives are on-board, digital initiatives will fall flat. 

"We want to make digital a sustained practice in our enterprise and to do that we need executive and senior level attention and support,” she said.

Digital With Caution

Much like Deb Lavoy, CEO  of Narrative Builders, explained during an earlier session at the DX Summit, Walsh emphasized that no enterprise can decide that they are moving to digital and then jump immediately into decisions about technology. The need to be more cautious.

She also pointed out that those involved in the process need to develop a narrative that explains the purpose of DX transformation to decision markers in in the organization as well as identifies goals.

“There is a whole conversation between the two [stakeholders and decision makers] and it is a complicated conversation. There are decisions that have to be made, there is prioritization that needs to be done, there is funding that has to be found,” she said.

“Consider what the experience is going to look like and which channels you are going to launch on is interesting because that’s where all the cool stuff takes place. But if you don’t do nitty gritty internal selling and support development, development of the digital experience is going to be that much harder.”

Steps To Digital

Walsh said DX transformation starts with a solid strategy, and grows through agreement and alignment.

Strategy, she said, needs to be considered within four contexts:

  1. Customers: Identify your customers and their needs, as well as the available data about them, your retention and acquisition strategies, how you measure them and options to reward them. She said most digital immigrants fail to appoint a customer advocate or "someone to own the conversation."
  2. Technology: The people that select technologies need to evaluate open source against proprietary offerings and suite solutions against a best of breed approach. They also need to determine whether the organization uses an API platform or not.  “You can’t leave IT out of the process even if you are saying to yourself 'IT just makes things so difficult.' IT has to be a decision maker and it needs a strategy,” she said.
  3. Content: DX is based on content. There needs to be a clear understanding of how the organization structures, stores, creates and protects its content. In addition, someone needs to evaluate distribution and localization efforts.
  4. Products: Think of digital as a product you are going to be iterating and building over time. 

Once all of the pieces of the strategy are in place, businesses can agree on future direction and align stakeholders around a roadmap for transformation.

“Alignment is exhausting because it is a constant process to keep everyone on the same path,” she said. “You have to be constantly talking and explaining to stakeholders how their teams are going to be impacted."

Other key pieces of a DX transformation include:

  • Taxonomy: Controlled vocabulary is essential for consistent DX
  • Data: That includes what you have and what you would like to have
  • APIs: They can provide savings over time despite their initial costs

Adopting DX is a long-term decision with many consequences for the organization. The key is planning: Just like physical immigration, poorly planned moves can go terribly wrong.