Each and every one of us is exposed to the digital transformation efforts of all sorts of organisations every day. Whether it is business, local councils, central government or the NHS we are all rapidly learning to adapt to and embrace the rapid evolution of digital technology.

The eighteen months of global lockdown we’ve all just experienced has further accelerated our exposure to such transformation meaning even the slowest adopters and digital laggards have had to embrace digitally enabled changes in their lives just to get by.

For every organisation plotting its future course, this is highly significant. Even some of your most ‘old school’ customers (and employees) have started to adopt and adapt. Many seem to have discovered  that some things were better done digitally after all. So much so that, by some estimates, eighteen months of lockdown advanced some human behaviours (including those around digital adoption) by up to a decade.

This, of course, has big implications for any organisation and how it makes decisions about the pace and shape of its future direction. More and more, both are dictated by customer expectations. Crucially, these expectations are increasingly shaped by their customers’ experiences across a multitude of sectors.

Organisations traditionally scanned direct competitors to understand their marketplace and decide future direction. This somewhat limited horizon tended to focus on ‘companies like us’ who were often facing similar challenges, with similar legacy blockers. For these businesses, the pace, shape and possibilities of change were hampered by infrastructure and perhaps the narrow thinking of employees who spent their careers in one sector, perhaps moving between close competitors with similar challenges. In contrast, start-ups and disruptor brands often begin with a broad knowledge of the technological art of the possible, and then back that blue sky thinking into a target industry.

Customer expectations are sector-agnostic!

In 2021 the chances are your customers are experiencing disruptors in their everyday interactions in all sorts of sectors. Your customers (and employees) are coming to expect a level of innovation, ease and convenience from every daily interaction no matter what the sector.

Things have changed quickly. It was still the case 10 years ago for consumers to have to book a day off work to receive a delivery of – for example – a washing machine. A 7am – 4pm slot was the norm. Contrast that with the customer experience of a disruptor such as Uber. Once your customers have experienced their app, the estimated fare, the moving display, the exact ETA etc, expectations of other brands in other industries are forever raised. Hanging around at home all day for a washing machine seemed, at a stroke, absurd.

So what does this mean for organisations plotting their future course? It means any complex change programme such as a digital transformation must be informed by three distinct components:

  1. The technological art of the possible.

This is a deep exploration of how technology could transform your business and redefine the art of the possible for your customers and employees. This is not simply an amalgam of sales pitches from digital solution providers – your starting point is a broad understanding of the breadth of what is – and will be – available in the technology space.

  1. Customer closeness beyond just data.

What do your customers really feel and want from your industry and your brand? Data might be able to tell you 92% of your customers want faster delivery for example, but customer closeness will establish the ‘why’. A key element in this is understanding how digital innovation has impacted every aspect of their life and how this may impact expectations and aspirations for your industry or sector. By understanding customers at an emotional level, future innovation goes beyond transactional excellence and helps to shape products and services that make your brand ‘sticky’.

  1. The structural ‘art of the possible’ for your company.

A clear-eyed view on what exactly lies under the bonnet of your current organisational set up is vital if a robust future transformational roadmap is to be created. A vision informed by customer closeness and made possible by technical excellence will quickly fail without a clear view of what needs to be done (and undone) to deliver it.

For more information about how Partners in Change can help you in the complex change and digital transformation space, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via richard.hatton@picconsulting.co.uk.