When your business decides to embark upon a ‘digital first’ approach to their marketing strategy you will face many challenges, one might be to keep your sanity!  I have had first-hand experience of managing two large, multi-million dollar, Omni-Channel and digital transformation projects and I must say, it wasn’t an easy ride.

Digital transformation projects can apply to all types of businesses, big or small, established or just started.  But they need to be managed right.  After the thrill of hearing the words ‘Project Approved’, after being told that management is completely on board, after getting super excited about the possibilities for innovation and transforming the business for the better, you can risk losing your enthusiasm.

You see, immediate, tangible evidence of digital transformation isn’t really going to happen.  This is not a fast-food strategy.  This is an all day, slow-cooked, wait ‘til the meat is falling off the bone approach.  To make sure it tastes amazing at the end will take a long time and probably a lot of money.  You’ll need a huge amount of patience and faith in the process but the results will be worth it.

To transform a business from top to bottom takes sweat, tears, commitment, a lot of time, more tears and a very, very driven management team (local and or global) fully on board. Without the highest levels of management believing or initiating the project to start with, your transformation journey will very likely fail, and very quickly. And even when management has a clear vision and intention to change, a lot of ‘things’ get in the way.  

IT, for example, was one of those ‘things’ that got in the way when I was trying to make headway on my projects.  Forget the look in the IT team’s faces the moment you tell them the business is committed to making changes and hence their involvements and participation is required. Forget issues like dated systems that were being band-aided with millions of dollars, simply because of legacy within the company and not because of the front facing experience that was being provided to users. Forget poor reiteration techniques, or no reiteration techniques at all. Forget lengthy discovery phases from very expensive digital agencies that simply fail to show results quickly enough.  Remember how good the food will taste at the end!

If you are thinking of starting a digital transformation journey within your business, or you have already started and are struggling to breathe then here are a few tip to make your digital transformation projects successful ones:

1.       Confirm the digital and innovation knowledge and vision of your management

Even when CEO’s, MD’s, Vice-President’s of Marketing, etc., are driving your digital transformation project they may not necessarily have the knowledge, vision and muscle that’s required to understand the complexity and breadth of an Omni-Channel project. You must ensure that the decision makers in your business are trained and up to date with digital, customer experience principles and human-centred design. Also, having an ‘on-boarding’ program will significantly minimise any misconceptions or misunderstanding along the way.

2.       Bring people on the journey

Having people boarding the digital transformation boat willingly and with excitement about the destination probably represents around 50% of any transformation project success. If people don’t believe in the project, ensure you are minimising friction, gain feedback and share why the business is doing what it’s doing. Make sure you get the various teams excited about the prospects of the project and show them tangible forecasts around profitably and brand impact before you get started.  Ensure you have an open line of communication with them and make sure that management is leading the conversation. If it’s your little digital marketing or transformation team leading the project and your management team is too busy to talk to their employees about the impact this is going to have to them, then people will never jump on board. They may feel at risk and insecure and it is the responsibility of management to confound these fears and explain the greater benefits to the business and to their careers.

3.       Work with management to align your team.  Make sure it is structured around the workload

If your day to day role responsibilities haven’t decreased and you have a transformation project added to your job description overnight then, I’m afraid, it’s not going to work.  You and your team will very quickly burnout. Have an honest and commercially driven conversation with management about the structural changes required to make it happen.  Do this early and you will save yourself a bucket load of stress, far fewer twelve hours work days and you’ll also give yourself a far greater chance of success. Identify the tasks needed, bring in inexpensive subcontractors for basic tasks when necessary and keep your mind focused on the conclusion.

Internal politics, culture, personal agendas, change of budgets and just general busyness can easily get in the way of success in a digital transformation process. Its how you deal with these situations and how quickly you educate your staff on what’s to come that’s going to bring light at the end of the tunnel.

Make sure you keep up the excitement, perhaps have a contagious chart to see how many people are as passionate and pumped about the changes that are yet to come as you are.

Written by Ale Wiecek, Founder at Sqr One