By November 19, 2020Insights

Digital transformation through the customer lens


Why is it that in 2019/20, 70% of all money spent on digital transformation was wasted? In real terms, that means of the £1.3trillion spent, £900b failed to achieve its stated objectives.

In a world where we are racing to digitally re-engineer business, it is becoming increasingly important to take stock and learn lessons on how to optimise our investment in new technology.

Chris Garthwaite, CEO CGA, firmly believes that in many cases it’s because the digital initiatives undertaken are done so purely from the internal perspective and culture of the sector. Too often digitisation is seen as a fixed project, delivering benefits against existing sector measures. Rather it should be seen as a change programme requiring new measures of success, reflecting the outcomes customers are looking to achieve through digitisation..

Speaking at the 2020 Digital Manufacturing Week event recently, Chris explained that, whilst it is obviously imperative to drive efficiency of production through these programmes, it is also essential to see the programme through the customer lens. By taking the customer perspective and understanding the outcomes they are trying to achieve, organisations can improve the opportunity for their programmes to succeed.

Chris highlighted three questions underpinning any digital transformation programme

  • What is the definition of success as defined by your customer or even your customer’s customer?
  • How confident are you that your programme has got the balance right between cost efficiency and meeting your customer’s needs in a human way?
  • Are you confident you have de-risked your investment?

Each of the questions demand the business to reflect on exactly what the objectives of digital transformation are. How efficient do you make the process; how effectively you deliver the product and how to use technology or digital transformation to improve that efficiency are very appropriate questions from the manufacturer’s lens. However, if you also consider “how can we use digital transformation to support the customer experience and the way the product is being consumed downstream?” you unlock a significant opportunity to resolve customer’s emotional frustrations, that often get ignored.

It’s a fresh perspective, and if taken a step further and applied across the whole supply chain, to appreciate the needs and frustrations of your customer’s customer, you can start to understand how to add value through the life of the product. Just as you would expect your suppliers to understand your business, if you understand your customer’s customers better than they do, and can leverage your transformation programme to incorporate this, you can truly start to add value.

Customer insight helps you re-imagine what your proposition might be and how technology can help deliver this. In a world that is changing so fast, there is a real need to stay close to customers, to understand the outcomes they are trying to achieve, their needs and expectations, to ensure your product and the way in which you deliver it remains relevant.

Yet many digital transformation programmes are divorced from the customer. The language of internal projects is often efficiency, production, control, input, time – all measured with existing metrics.

However, the language of the customer is very different – transparent, easy, hassle free, enjoyable etc – both in terms of tone and intent, which if not aligned to project objectives sets the programme up for failure from the outset.

Getting true value from your digital investment means balancing the process-led manufacturer perspective with the relationship-led customer perspective. For leaders, taking the time to ensure these perspectives are aligned will pay huge dividends in the successful implementation of digital initiatives. To do that requires the measures of success, reward and recognition to be aligned to this new perspective.

If digital transformation is led purely from the internal existing culture the chances are it will never be optimal. Organisations need to be appreciative of how customers are changing in their needs and expectations. Leading brands are doing this – when done properly it allows the logic of the technology to become translated into magical customer experiences that meet the changing emotional needs of customers. This delivers a truly “Branded Experience” focuses on the quality of the delivered experience as much as the quality of the product produced. As such it ignites innovation, helping  you identify how you can use digital technology to step change the experience.

In summary, digital programmes that solely focus on efficiency and cost optimisation rarely deliver the benefits initially identified. In effect they recreate and enshrine existing processes in new technology rather than reflecting desired changes in the expectations of customers.  For digital transformation programmes to deliver the potential benefits they promise requires the mindset of the organisation to change, from leadership down. Successful companies recognise the need not only for product quality, but also the need to deliver great experiences for clients and customers. To do this they will need to deeply understand the outcomes customers are looking for, redesign the underpinning processes involved in the delivery of the outcome, and then, and only then, align the digital technology to deliver the process. In this way businesses can leverage the potential of digital tools to transform the productivity of the organisation whilst delivering a great customer experience.

Ultimately it is the experience that the customer remembers, and any digital transformation programme must be aligned to that intent.

In the words of the great Peter Drucker…

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all…Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the customer gets out of it.”

Chris Garthwaite is CEO of CGA and is recognised as a pioneer of customer experience, based on his work over the last thirty years, helping clients around the world design and deliver design compelling customer propositions.

CGA a highly respected Customer consultancy, specialising in customer-centric insight and change programmes. Working with leading brands across a range of sectors, CGA one of Europe’s leading Customer experience solution providers, and specialises in helping clients navigate the challenges of changing customer needs, societal shifts and digital disruption.