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Salesforce 1Speaking at the London edition of Salesforce’s world tour, EVP of Customer Success & Growth Simon Short outlined the case for digital transformation, and also the factors which underpin a successful transformation project itself.

Short’s view on digital transformation is there are very few companies who achieve the goal of becoming digitally orientated. This is done to three reasons. Firstly, the aggressive expansion of technology is so vast some organizations are drowning in information overload. Another is the cultural side of digital transformation, there simply aren’t enough companies embracing the necessity of cultural change. And finally, despite implementing various technologies and advanced platforms, some companies still operate in silos. Until these digital silos are connected on one overarching platform, the digital transformation journey is not complete.

The invention of chess is a good anecdote to demonstrate the progression of technology. The inventor, Ibn Khallikan, approached the Indian king with the game and his reward was to be rice, more specifically one grain for the first square on the chess board, two for the second, four for the third, and doubling there on until the end of the 64 squares. Although at first it would not appear to be a great amount, the geometric progression of the amount of rice far exceeded the king’s resources. Short believes the same theory can be applied to the growth of technology in the business world.

“If you apply the same doubling theory and Moore’s law to the growth and importance of technology, we get have way through the chess board in 2002,” said Short. “Since then we’ve seen an explosion of technology within the business world. As we continue to move forward, it’s a real challenge for those with existing technology to make the change and get ahead of the trend. No one really knows what the power of technology is and where it will go. This is the conundrum for businesses throughout the world.”

One of the main challenges here is focused around legacy technologies, businesses cannot rid themselves of the cumbersome platforms quickly enough to capitalize on the potential on emerging technologies. But at the same time, Short highlighted the companies who focus on technology implementation and do not embrace the cultural change required will not be successful in the digital transformation journey.

Salesman painting tree instead of cityAccording to Short, digital transformation is so much more than simply implementing technology. Ensuring you employees embrace the digital change, as well as connecting the individual silos (for example the eCommerce platform to the customer call centre and also the logistics/delivery team), are more important aspects of the project than the technology itself. Without the digital culture and the connected model, the customer simply sees a business which is broken even if the technology is revolutionary. “Silos and culture are the two things which can kill any transformation project,” said Short.

But what is the secret to a successful digital transformation project? And what have the successful ‘Digital Masters’ done which other companies haven’t?

For Short, the project has to be led by the CEO and has to be phased in. The various different components of the project (business change, strategy, technology implementation, employee digital engagement etc.) have to be implemented hand-in-hand. If one area progresses faster than the rest, the project will stutter. And most importantly, there has to be a governance and accountability role, an area which most companies overlook, to ensure all components of the project are heading in the same direction and progressing at the same speed. In general, there are six lessons from Short’s and Salesforce’s perspective:

  1. Change has to be led from the CEO and not delegated down. The business unit and IT cannot get into a shouting match, pointed fingers at each other, the CEO needs to take control and pull the business along with him
  2. Physical and digital experience needs to be co-ordinated. The customer experiences the brand in the physical world as well as the digital despite the growth of the internet and technology; the physical and digital experience for the customer needs to be co-ordinated to be successful
  3. Outside-in thinking. Many companies make the mistake of telling their customers about how they are changing the brand, as opposed to understanding what the customer journey is and adapting the digital experience to enhance this.
  4. Understanding it’s okay to fail. This is one of the more challenging facets according to Short, as accountable businesses don’t like to fail. But the belief every PoC will be an extraordinary success is somewhat wishful thinking. Short highlighted being okay with failure is the only way to move on and achieve success.
  5. Data driven insights. The amount of data available to businesses is unprecedented and growing faster every day. Decisions should be based on the data available which has been derived directly from the customer. It removes uncertainty (as much as possible in any case) and provides justification.
  6. A single platform to connect the business units. Without a single platform to connect all business units, digital transformation cannot be achieved, as digital transformation should focus on the connected journey. The aim should be the seamlessly interact with the customer on all their touchpoints.

Digital transformation is a key objective for the majority of businesses around the world, and rightly so. According to MIT research which Short quoted on stage, digitally transformed businesses are 26% more profitable than what would be perceived as the norm, but too many companies are focusing on the technology as opposed to the customer. Until the ideas of culture, technology and silo connections are addressed on a level playing field, digital transformation cannot be achieved.

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