person standing in front of the word "caution" written on sidewalk
PHOTO: Goh Rhy Yan

Whether you know it or not, if you provide technology, services or even physical products, yours is a digital business. And chances are, you’re consumed by digital transformation. You want to become more agile and more responsive. You want to build applications faster and more efficiently. And you want to make it easier for customers to initiate transactions and consume your offering on the platform of their choosing. Good intentions, all.

As the saying goes though, the road to digital transformation is paved with good intentions. (OK, fine, that’s not really a saying. But you get the point.) If digital transformation was easy, we wouldn’t be here talking about it. Every business would be agile, every application would marry speed and quality, and every service would seamlessly transition between platforms. You don’t need me to tell you that’s not the reality.

So, if virtually every business in the world is consumed with transforming for the digital era, why are so many still struggling to do so? The answer lies with a handful critical but not-so-obvious mistakes often made along the path to digital transformation. Let’s examine four of them in more detail.

Failure to Think Mobile-First

The mobile train has left the station, folks. As a society, we are rapidly headed toward a day when the majority of transactions are initiated and the majority of content and services are consumed via mobile applications. So if you want to successfully transform your business for the digital age, your mobile applications and mobile user experience can no longer be an afterthought. Frankly, it can’t even be a secondary thought. You need to start thinking about mobile right alongside web, and about a synchronized approach to app delivery. 

Now, that doesn’t mean you automatically devote more resources toward the development and delivery of your mobile apps than you do toward your web apps. If your business is more heavily skewed toward web applications than it is mobile applications, then so too should your development resources. The point is not necessarily to allocate more resources toward mobile; the point is adjust your mindset to consider the entirety of your digital presence at all times, inclusive of mobile. Think about how much of your business is driven by mobile today, and how much of it will be driven by mobile in the near future. Change is undoubtedly coming, and you don’t want to get caught flat-footed.

Related Article: Ready for Mobile-First Indexing? 5 Gotchas to Avoid

Failure to Make Testing a Strategic Imperative

Notice I didn’t say failure to test. No one is completely and totally disregarding the need to test their applications before they deliver them to market. (At least, I certainly hope no one is!) But just because everyone is testing in some form or fashion doesn’t mean you’ve made it a truly strategic imperative.

How do you know if you have or you haven’t? Pretty simple. If you consider testing the sole responsibility of the QA team, and you run tests only at the very end of the development cycle, then, as they say on social media these days, you’re doing it wrong. If, on the other hand, you consider testing everyone’s responsibility, and you’re implementing continuous testing throughout the entire development cycle, then you’ve made testing a strategic imperative — and your path to digital transformation becomes that much cleaner (as does the user experience on the apps you deliver to customers).

Related Article: Digital Transformation Will Create Profound New Mandates in 2019

Failure to Monitor

So, you’re thinking mobile first, and you’ve implemented continuous testing to ensure that you can quickly deliver bug-free apps to market … and yet the needle still hasn’t really moved. Your customers haven’t responded the way you expected them to, and your digital brand hasn’t evolved the way you thought it would.

If that’s the case, your transformation is likely hampered by a failure to monitor. Monitoring in this case means many things, including the speed and performance of the application post-delivery, and just as important, the degree to which all of the bells and whistles you’ve built into your application are translating into customer satisfaction.

Here’s a hard truth for businesses in the digital era: sometimes, for no real reason, the best laid and best executed plans simply fail to translate into customer satisfaction and loyalty. You might be delivering fast, intuitive, visually appealing apps, and still not be connecting with customers the way you expected. That’s why it’s critical that you closely monitor and measure customer satisfaction, and adjust quickly when and where needed.

Related Article: Today's Product Managers Know Who's the Boss: The Customer

Failure to Adjust

Speaking of adjusting, the failure to do so will keep even the most well-intentioned organization from successfully transforming for the digital era. From coding to testing to integration, so much time, effort and brain power goes into designing, developing and delivering flawless web and mobile applications. Delivering an app to market only to realize that it’s not resonating with users (for whatever reason) can be disheartening.

But digital transformation is a journey, not a destination, and changing on the fly is part of the experience. Delivering a new app to market, despite all the work it takes to get to that point, is really just the start of the process. Achieving excellence in the digital era is as much about iteration as it is innovation. The businesses that truly stand out in the digital era are those iterate often and continuously improve upon previous app releases. Remember, in the modern era, user expectations often change overnight. Businesses have to adjust and do the same.