How soon after implementing our digital transformation initiative will my company start to see real business value?
Over 20 years of working closely with leading enterprises to help them transform the customer experience and deliver growth, that’s the question I’m asked more than any other, and with good reason. After all, there’s a lot at stake. Every company is under pressure to maximise the value of their platform investments, ensure they can deliver efficiently, and meet changing consumer demand.
With this in mind, I’ve learned that embracing an approach to business transformation that’s based on putting people (all stakeholders, not just customers) at the heart of every decision can get the job done much faster, allowing companies to recognise value much sooner.
Below, I’ve broken this approach down into five interlinked principles.
The number one value driving a successful business transformation is trust. By its very nature, a digital transformation initiative needs to spread across the organisation and even beyond company boundaries. This helps teams to refocus around thinking differently, embracing new models and processes, and forging new partnerships — including those with external partners.
This process can only happen when trust is present, so the journey should start with a process of including and listening closely to all stakeholders.
For example, our Professional Services teams recently supported a leading automotive manufacturer on a transformation initiative that involved working with the IT and business departments, as well as the external dealer boards. Including these stakeholders made it much easier to get a clear sense of expected outcomes from every end-user, right from the start.
Speaking honestly about expectations and anticipated results will also deepen trust and keep employees connected to the organisation’s business transformation goals. This can be achieved through a series of training sessions or the introduction of new tools and approaches.
At Salesforce, we use a tried-and-tested management process to help us create and maintain a cohesive direction for any business transformation initiative. It’s a collaborative construct that has been essential to our own progress: the V2MOM (vision, values, methods, obstacles, and measures).
It all boils down to five simple questions:
What do you want the transformation to achieve?
What values are important?
What method do you use to get there?
What obstacles are stopping you from being successful?
What measures do you use to know you’ve got there?
When stakeholders across departments come together in a facilitated V2MOM session to respond to these questions, then share their responses transparently, what emerges is the outline of a common language.
By building on these commonalities, it’s easier for organisations to convince everyone to get behind the transformation vision. For example, a building materials company wasn’t able to successfully deploy the Salesforce platform until it elevated its transformation effort from an IT project to a company-wide initiative, with common goals and objectives that everyone could commit to.
The V2MOM can also encourage a mindset of creativity, change, and empowerment. This is especially important as organisations seek to end inefficiencies and adopt new ways of working.
As I’ve indicated, the approach I’m describing is all about putting customers first. But for that approach to be successful, companies need to keep a human connection at the heart of everything they do.
That means using design thinking to look at every business case through the human lens of the customer. When solutions and services are designed with a user-first and empathy-first mindset, they can drive more engagement.
Let’s look at this in a little more detail. When you build something that you know users actually want and will be relevant for their work — when a solution is desirable, feasible, and viable, in other words — you will find that you can progress with relative ease. It will be a much simpler task to reach expected outcomes.
Inclusivity isn’t just about making services more accessible for people with disabilities. It’s also about giving every customer what they need when they need it, in the form they want. That might be through a mobile app because they don’t have a computer, or through social media and messaging platforms.
In short, while efficiency-based strategies and metrics are important, they’re not the only way to understand the success of a customer offering.
A core digital transformation goal is to unlock the business insights that can be derived from customer data to deliver consistent and personalised experiences. For most enterprises, that goal remains out of reach.
Growing IT complexity is just one of the challenges. Research from Mulesoft reveals that data silos remain the biggest obstacle to digital transformation for 89% of companies. Accenture found that 84% of businesses don’t have the right platform in place to maximise the full potential of their data.
Winning in this environment means deploying a platform that can break down silos and connect all customer data across every system and business securely. Such a system becomes a single source of truth, so everyone in the company can see the relevant customer information at any time.
That way, it’s possible to create a unified customer profile across all touchpoints. Not only does this connectivity help companies rapidly deliver outstanding customer experiences and new applications, but it also makes life easier and more efficient for the entire organisation.
Take the example of a company Salesforce recently worked with that designs, manufactures, and sells sports fashion. Deploying a platform that acts as a single source of truth is allowing it to go beyond mere ecommerce execution. Instead, it is converting shoppers to members and providing them with personalised experiences that not only boost brand value but higher customer lifetime value as well.
A key thing to note about the elements I’ve been outlining is that none of them need be limited to a single business transformation initiative.
Instead, they can be applied at any time to help companies stay innovative and continuously adjust their offerings in line with changing customer expectations. That’s especially important in today’s business environment, where the pace of technology change is continually increasing.
If companies can constantly drive change and adoption, they can respond to market and customer needs faster with iterative and adaptive ways of working. They can also improve performance and create lasting value across the enterprise.
But the approach I’m suggesting goes further than just enabling IT teams to embrace agile and DevOps principles. More than that, it involves looking at the skills and experience of everyone across the company to ensure they can be connected to and involved with any business transformation plan. It also involves establishing new, collaborative ways of working in cross-department and multi-disciplinary teams.
Take the example of the retail bank which placed its entire workforce on our Trailhead program, helping to ensure its 15,000 employees could quickly get up to speed with its digital transformation vision.
Taken together, these approaches to business transformation can deliver outstanding benefits. Consider the example of a leading automotive manufacturer that wanted to create a more connected customer experience. That included transforming its round-the-clock roadside assistance service, where support agents aid drivers in the event of accidents, breakdowns, and other emergencies.
Adopting a technology-first approach, the company hired an enterprise resource planning systems integration firm and devised a business transformation strategy that included automating some call centre approaches. However, it quickly realised it was facing a major challenge: it had underestimated the complexity of the planned transformation. As a result, the roadmap for the initiative was unfocused and unwieldy, and the proposed timeline was far longer than expected, stretching over several years.
Working with the Salesforce Professional Services team, the company reframed its approach using the human-centric principles outlined above. Collaborating closely with call centre agents and other stakeholders articulated a clearer roadmap and worked to ensure active buy-in for it across the organisation. It also redesigned its proposed solutions using design thinking so they more precisely met customer needs.
The transformation was as much cultural as it was technological. As they went through the V2MOM phase, employees were encouraged to discard old ways of thinking and bring a sense of fun to reimagining the internal processes that would lead to outstanding service. This also included team members taking part in wellness surveys where people were encouraged to speak up if they felt there was a risk of being overwhelmed by the change processes the company was proposing.
The best part? By adopting this approach, the company was able to cut implementation time in half, being able to showcase value to the business much more quickly.
By applying a human-centric approach, the Salesforce Professional Services team can help organisations take their first steps to digital transformation success.
The results speak for themselves. Recently, Forrester Consulting spoke to 200 companies across the globe and examined the potential return on investment that enterprises can realise when they work with Salesforce Professional Services.
Forrester found that our teams can help companies accelerate the implementation speed of a business transformation project by 35%, allowing them to reduce project timelines and recognise business value 13 months sooner than average. Overall, companies that adopted it saw a return on investment of 229%.
By working with us to adopt the five principles outlined above, companies will be better able to achieve stakeholder alignment and build the digital capabilities that can drive customer-centricity and productivity. At the same time, they will also be better positioned to emerge as masters of change and the new leaders in the post-COVID era.
Speak to the Salesforce Professional Services team to learn how we can support your business transformation!