As organisations look to stay relevant to their customers we look at the secrets of achieving digital transformation

Digital transformation is a term that has been prevalent for a number of years as businesses in all sectors look to adapt to an evolving landscape as technology drives change. However, what does successful digital transformation look like, and how can organisations make a success of it?
Recent research by Claranet asked 750 IT decision-makers across Europe and the results suggest that digital transformation is far from simple and that many organisations are struggling to implement change. Claranet found that while 81% of respondents felt they should experiment more with new processes and technology, 48% felt that their IT department is stuck in a ‘reactive mode’. In addition, just 10% felt their organisation was agile with regard to IT processes.[1]
For Econsultancy Senior Research Analyst Sean Donnelly, the key is the end user. “The user experience (UX) has to be at the heart of the digital transformation process,” he says. “The basic principle of UX is being able to discover content, making it as easy as possible to find and to consume; making it as easy as possible to educate someone about the product you are selling.
“You have to know who your audience is and who will need to be using the technology,” he adds. “Understand your reason for undertaking change, the channels, the devices, and how people are going to find your content.”
"User experience has to be at the heart of the digital transformation process"Sean Donnelly, Senior Research Analyst, Econsultancy
Clear vision
The secret to achieving what you want, according to Donnelly, is a clarity of vision. “When it comes to process, it is about understanding clearly what the procedure or process is currently, and then drilling down into how technology can work to improve that,” he says. “With strategy, it’s about looking at what is happening across every single department – only then do you come to technology.
“With technology, the key is to be aware of the risk of bright, new and shiny versus what you actually need it to do. People can often be sold a dream then, when they install it, find they only need to use a fraction of its functionality. It is not just about purchasing technology, it is ensuring it is fully utilised. It is about understanding clearly what the technology that you need is, and what needs to be upgraded.”
RS is a company that has undergone, and continues to undergo, digital transformation as it looks to meet its customers’ demands. “People are demanding more and more from the companies they buy from,” says Vishal Chhatralia, Global Vice President of Digital Marketing at RS. “Everyone wants the purchasing process to be exceptionally easy and intuitive. They want to have connectivity so they can make those purchases where and when they want – they are time-poor, so they also want everything to be quick.
With increasing consumer expectations comes the need to work harder to provide a better service or risk falling behind competitors, believes Chhatralia. “Digital transformation can be looked at from a ‘carrot-and-stick’ point of view – the carrot is that customers are looking for companies with a good digital offering, so there is a huge opportunity to retain and grow your customer base if you get it right,” he explains. “The stick, however, is that the modern consumer, whether it’s buying from retail or procuring industrial products, is ruthless and will quickly abandon companies that don’t deliver what they expect.”
"At RS, we do not put anything in place unless it’s come from, or been run past, our customers"Vishal Chhatralia, Global Vice President of Digital Marketing, RS
Customer-centric approach
RS has put customers at the centre of its digital transformation. “We have developed a user-centred digital approach as opposed to an ego-centric approach,” says Chhatralia. “A lot of businesses talk a great game about putting customers first, but they still design in an ‘inside-out’ manner in that they create a user journey that people inside the company think customers need.
“At RS, we do not put anything in place unless it’s come from, or been run past, our customers,” he adds. “That way, we can be confident that we’re making digital improvements that actually help customers. Doing this has meant changing people, changing cultures and bringing in new talent and technology, but there is now a strong belief in this user-centric approach.”
This understanding of customers has come through customer labs where RS brings customers into the business and runs ideas past them, gets feedback and implements their ideas and requests. In addition, Chhatralia’s team has extensive data capture from the RS website with up to five million pieces of data captured each day, which also provides valuable information.
What does all this deliver? The answer, according to Chhataralia, is relevance. “We can offer customers more relevant products, a more relevant stock profile, more relevant content, more relevant imagery of our products and overall, a much more relevant experience,” he explains. “Customers should see a much slicker, more intuitive and personalised user experience because it’s been built around them.”
The lesson is clear – while digital transformation is essential in virtually every industry, the secret to its success is a laser-focused attention to the needs of the customer when anything new is implemented.