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Why a Digital Ecosystem Matters

These days, it’s impossible to go two seconds on LinkedIn without seeing something on Digital Transformation. From big names like McKinsey and Bain to independent consultants, it’s as trendy as Matcha and LED lighting in 2016. But what is digital transformation? Like, in English?

My definition is simple: it’s where every single client-facing touchpoint in your organization can (and does) support a seamless multi-channel experience. The retail example is: you purchase something online; need assistance setting it up so call a help desk; and ultimately decide to return it in the store. Every one of those channels knows everything there is to know about the purchase and prior contacts, and can facilitate whatever action you're requesting next. (Eventually it'll be expected it can predict howyou're feeling the second or third time you engage but that's a topic for another day.)

Saying it that way makes it sound both unsexy and straightforward. You need look no further than my nightmare Costco experience

over the holidays, however, to see that for blue chip institutions with complex IT, supply chain, and product delivery frameworks, the former is true but the latter is not.

Why it’s so challenging is because most organizations have grown up rooted in human-to-human interaction, think bank teller-to-patron. The larger and older the company, the more likely their underpinnings were built as one-way streets. Naturally, over the years, Web-services and middleware has been used to bolt digital experiences onto existing platforms but Amazon, Uber, and others who have grown up as ‘digital natives,’ have changed consumer expectations which, in turn, has changed the game. Like it or not, that means C-suite executives must look deeper into their middle and back-offices to transform in kind.

So if the “easy pickings” have already been harvested, where do you go next? I suggest tackling your most painful, paper-laden, error-prone operations one at a time; transform them from beginning-to-end such that wherever or however your customers engage, the process is both painless and transparent. That takes a stable of IT services that are API-enabled and event-driven (so, back to the not-easy part) but why I'd start there is simple: Ifyou know it’s broken, chances are your customers do too.

Marquee brands are made and lost one person at a time. Not once during each teeth-gnashing moment did I think Costco was trying to ruin my day. Unfortunately, by the time my situation was resolved they had wasted so many hours of my life that despite all the ways their bulk-purchase value proposition has saved me from my horde of hungry Gen Zboys, the "happiness halo" I once had was completely gone.