When it comes to new technology, there are two distinct attributes that are always present: a term that almost no one understands, and an implementation path that is even harder to understand. Sound familiar? LOL

So, what is it that must occur to better understand and embrace new technological advancements—all without seemingly chasing proverbial squirrels or getting lost in the collective confusion of new tech fads? Simply put: don’t get caught in the hype … instead, ask what your business needs to succeed and to start at your own pace.

A perfect example of this is the new world of “Digital Transformation,” the latest term that for some still represents the newest in high tech buzzwords, but for many more a term that has come to represent a new renaissance in our technological age. So what the hell is it?

The best way to describe Digital Transformation is to first explain what it is not—it’s not just tech for the sake of tech. The idea that companies can somehow “transform” digitally in the twenty-first century is a lot like telling people that they should switch from buggies to cars 130 years after the first automobile was invented—too little, too late.

What Digital Transformation does represent and what it symbolizes, is a business approach that is equal parts technology and end-user / customer experience. With the advent of mobility, an era of data was introduced never seen before. That data, and its inherent link to overarching connectivity, has brought about the next great revolution in business: the essence of Digital Transformation.

The Human Element and the Power of the People

To accurately describe the term Digital Transformation, let’s first begin with the end-user / customer side of the equation. As mentioned, when the era of mobility was introduced a new world of connectivity came with it. From social media, to anytime/anywhere enabled eCommerce, to apps that manage every aspect of our personal lives—collectively these represent a source of personal empowerment. The fact that we can all share thoughts, moods, personal opinions, reviews, and more—all on our own timeline—represents a level of control and oversight that we have never had. It has created a new narrative and a new power over our own destinies that we have never before experienced.

Pair that power and what it represents as a collective influence over the retail world, and now the tables suddenly turn towards consumer demands and expectations—the power is in the hands of the people—where every retailer is held accountable and, simultaneously, held in stark comparison to its competitors and even other industries. These comparisons become commonplace in this new era of consumer expectation and demand.

So, what are retailers doing to address customer expectation and demand? As consumers of all types use and compare experiences from brand to brand, companies must answer the call for better services and must meet customer expectations to remain relevant and competitive. It’s at this point where old services and new technology must be reimagined and retooled to serve the digital world in the future. This is the first half of Digital Transformation. It does away with the archaic approach of what was known as the Customer Journey, and now firmly places the power in the hands of the consumer, creating a more comprehensive approach now known as the Customer Experience.

The Technology that Supports the Experience

Obviously, technology plays a huge role in Digital Transformation: it’s the engine that drives customer experience and business outcomes. However, the challenge that is associated with Digital Transformation is not the process itself, it’s the dissolving of old guard IT silos that’s the hurdle to overcome.

In the past, such things as eCommerce, brick-and-mortar, customer support, account management, and so on, all resided in very deliberate silos—many of these never spoke to each other. This is partially a corporate culture issue but, more importantly, it’s a technological one.

Creating an environment where highly siloed technology can speak to one another was never an easy thing to accomplish. Having ERPs, point-of-sale, eCommerce, and payment gateways, just to name a few, all work harmoniously is, well, crazy. Right? After all, disparate technologies being leveraged as one system was never a reality worth chasing.

Now, add in the likes of Artificial Intelligence, chat bots, social media data, single-user-profile data, and combine those with all of the other aforementioned systems and you have an even bigger conundrum—one that also happens to represent the need for Digital Transformation. Now, having the ability to create the connective tissue between all aspects of a company’s business process mechanics and to leverage and utilize it to deliver a seamless and highly engaging customer experience whether online, in-app, or in-store, is not just needed—it’s downright expected.

Therefore, Digital Transformation requires the technical expertise to enable all systems to connect and speak to one another, all while automating the majority of these processes in a way that supports the end goals of the company and the customer.

When you take the customer into consideration first—designing a desired experience that is highly personalized to everyone—you create a roadmap for technical implementation. Then, by tackling each system on a granular level and creating the connective tissue to leverage data and process, you achieve your end goal: a business that is truly transformed … Digitally 😉