Digital transformation has been a movement in the business landscape for at least the past 25 years — businesses must adapt to new technologies in order to remain relevant. For example, AI is the newest tech businesses are trying to adapt to, and five to ten years ago migrating to cloud-based platforms was a priority. Today, 89% of companies are in the process of adopting digital-first strategy (or they have already), but delivering on these huge promises can be a strenuous journey.
I recently guested on Strategy for Breakfast, a podcast that tackles business challenges in today’s ever-changing tech and corporate landscape. Ben Thompson and I spoke about what a successful digital transformation looks like and the preparatory methods organizations can utilize to undergo this metamorphosis.
We first discussed the way that digital transformation is essentially a business transformation; “digital” is globally ubiquitous, so any transformation in today’s world has to presuppose the digital and accommodate future tech developments. Throughout my years of experience, I’ve led half a dozen transformations — not all of them were “digital transformations” per se, but they all moved in a digital direction.
When it comes to transformations, regardless of your industry or role, the road ahead is paved with challenges and difficulties. Ben asked me for the key characteristics of successful digital transformations — my first piece of advice is that a company must be feeling some level of pain in order to undergo a transformation. If the business is doing fantastic with record profits, it’s hard to make a transformation work because there is no momentum to change, and the board or leadership are likely to wonder, “why fix something that isn’t broken?” Pain points are necessary when it comes to transformations; those are what fuel the fire of change and help the organization persist through the journey.
All the best-laid plans will probably be disrupted when it comes to business transformation. That’s why my second suggestion for any digital transformation is that the leadership team must be aligned. With any change comes fear and anxiety — if people see fissure in leadership, it expands into a Grand Canyon. Maintaining a cohesive message can ensure fortitude in your team, and creating an agile methodology can allow you to adapt the transformation plan in accordance with disruptions. Embarking on a journey of change is a team effort, and division can completely derail your progress.
My final cornerstone for transformations is that constant and over-communication is essential. Understanding the transformation and its expectations helps employees understand their role in the change and mitigate the fear that comes with change. Further, a transformation isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon; if the goal post is years away, employees will suffer through degrees of fatigue. In order to combat this constant treadmill and possible turnover, clearly communicate the process with them. Involving employees will help them stay engaged and become excited for the transformation. If the first win is so far away, you’ll lose people — create milestones that can be launched in a matter of months will manage obstacles one-by-one and boost morale. Thoughtfully considering and improving the employee experience will minimize turnover and have more people championing for the transformation — even your customers will feel it.
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Julie Roehm is the Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Experience Officer at Party City. She is an innovative customer-centric marketer known for strategizing profitable corporate turnarounds with fast revenue growth via capturing stories that resonate with clients. She was named “Marketer of Year” by BrandWeek, Brand Innovators ‘Top 50 Women in Brand Marketing’, the Tri-State Diversity Council’s “Most Powerful and Influential Woman”, an Automotive News “Marketing All-Star” and one of Working Mother’s “Top 25 Women”. She’s on the forefront of new marketing ideas, and being result-oriented, she uses her vast marketing experience in all facets of business strategy and marketing execution to help deliver the message of the brand.