marathon runners
Does your team have the stamina to be in digital transformation for the long-haul, or are they more likely to hit a wall a few miles into the race? PHOTO: Martins Zemlickis

You wouldn’t train for a marathon without a year of rigorous training, would you? 

Any athletic feat requires a mix of hard work, dedication and education. But when was the last time you checked your organization’s digital fitness level? 

In other words, does your team have the stamina to be in it for the long-haul with some sprints along the way, or are you more likely to run up against exhaustion a few miles into the race?

Running metaphors aside, digital fitness is one way to review and benchmark your organization’s readiness for successful digital transformation initiatives. It predicts whether your organization will thrive or merely survive in a digital-first world which grows in complexity as customer expectations and demands increase.

Whether you dreaded those mandatory physical fitness tests during middle school gym class or relished on-field competition, the digital world equivalent has a whole new set of standards that should level the playing field in a world where digital proficiency separates winners from also-rans.

We’ve unquestionably entered a digital-first age, where traditional strengths and differentiations like better products, smart manufacturing and great customer service aren’t enough to acquire or retain customers. You need more to stay on top of your market. Or, if you’re an upstart with great ideas, to overthrow incumbents.

Consider this your digital fitness training guide:

1. Get Clear About Your Vision

How does your organization think about next-generation customer experiences — the whole organization from top to bottom, spanning business, marketing, IT and app development? 

Thinking broadly when considering where you’re going and how you want to get there is a crucial first step on any digital fitness journey. Without it, you’re more likely to get off track and lose sight of why you started running in the first place. 

Think about what your customers want, and what you want those digital customer experiences to look like. Then consider how you want to streamline internal processes with digital tools and technology to deliver customer experiences that stick. 

2. Find the Right People

Are your employees thinking digital-first? Do they have the skills and experience to help your organization be successful now and in the future? Are you hiring for key roles in application development or digital marketing or data analytics with seasoned, proven talent? 

Are your executives providing the mandate and driving that down into the organization? What training programs do you have in place to make sure team members are getting increasingly “fit” — building skills in important areas like analytics, big data, personalization or content strategy — to support the evolving requirements of your customer-centric business? 

The teams you build are directly connected to your digital fitness potential. 

3. Assess Your 'Innovation Attitude'

In digital execution, just like sports, attitude is everything. Step back and ask: How well is your organization prepared to execute on digital initiatives, both large- and small-scale? Does your work on new technical capabilities move quickly from idea to production, and do those capabilities directly impact the strategy and goals of your digital-first vision? Are business and IT teams working well together to innovate?

What separates winners and losers is your organization’s ability to innovate across not just your business, but across your customers’ journeys with you, your brand, your business. Like running the 100-yard hurdles, you need to do this with speed and agility. And, without question, you need to be able to do this across a range of digital channels where your customers exist and conduct business.

4. Gauge Your Comfort Level with Change

Sometimes maintaining digital fitness requires understanding when it’s time to shift from old business practices to new ones. In this case, from offline to digital, serving up experiences where your customers are, not where they used to be. You need to support today’s and tomorrow’s initiatives: websites, digital marketing, mobile and multichannel experiences, voice-based interactions, perhaps screens and signs that function like an extension of your customers’ journeys with your brand and business.

Can you pivot your training and do the legwork necessary to get back on the right path?

5. Evaluate Your Technology and Adjust Where Needed

Just as you wouldn’t run a marathon in a pair of jeans and cheap pair of sneakers, your organization’s lasting digital fitness largely depends on its foundation. 

Across marketing and IT departments, how are you planning and onboarding foundational technology like digital experience platforms to build, manage and deliver content- and commerce-rich interactions and experiences? 

Your decisions to hang onto dated technology or adopt new, modern platforms architected to support today’s standards have the power to help you win in competitive markets where experiences, not products or prices, are the differentiator.

Digital transformation is not a one-and-done deal. It’s not a project. It doesn’t end. 

It’s a way of doing business that requires massive change. No company knows what’s going to happen next month, next year and beyond. But you need to be prepared, and the only way to do that is by becoming (and staying) digitally fit. That’s how you’ll establish a competitive differentiation and keep pace for years to come.