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By: Dr. Shirley Morejon, Global Commercial Banking Market Executive, Bank of America

Digital demands on companies skyrocketed following the onset of the pandemic as workers went remote and consumers spent more time online. One report from customer engagement platform Twilio shows that COVID‑19 accelerated companies’ digital communications strategy by an average of six years while 97% of enterprise decision makers believe the pandemic sped up their company’s digital transformation.

However, 70 percent of large-scale change programs don’t reach their stated goals, according to McKinsey. In the two years since the pandemic’s onset, we’ve seen that for companies, being forced to change and changing effectively are not the same. Businesses that shift successfully follow comprehensive digital transformation strategies tied to business objectives, particularly in meeting and exceeding customer and employee expectations. Following are four foundational practices that drive success:

1. Develop a clear data strategy.

As businesses integrate more digital tools into day-to-day operations, they generate more data than ever. Social media, digital payments, loyalty programs, website interactions and other new technology platforms add to the troves of data. But business leaders are stressed about organizing and acting on the data effectively.

It’s imperative to capture the most accurate information from customers, products and vendors. From there, you need a method to organize and store the data securely. Lastly, develop a distribution strategy to ensure the right people have the correct data to inform decision-making. Successful data usage starts with a plan from collection to distribution and aims to help organizations make smarter, faster decisions while improving customer and employee experiences.

2. Break data out of silos to drive value.

Ensuring you get useful data in the right hands requires effective digital tools throughout the organization. Too often, organizations put the bulk of tech innovation responsibilities on IT or digital teams, but every team can use data to deliver more targeted solutions. Modern software platforms and APIs can make data securely accessible to the people who need it when they need it.

When considering where to integrate new data solutions, ask yourself what are your company’s top daily functions that require data. Is that data usable, visible, secure and integrated? If not, ask employees where the gaps are. Open the door to creative ideas and input from people of all experience levels and job titles.

3. Start with the customer – not the technology.

Though many company leaders expect operational efficiency and process improvements from digital transformation journeys, those metrics shouldn’t dominate your strategy. Instead, focus on your customers first.

People expect the same seamless delivery of digital experiences in business as they get in their personal lives, such as buying groceries through an app, connecting with colleagues via videoconferencing, finding entertainment with music and video streaming and more. Technology is a huge and vital part of human existence today: Forrester research estimates around 80 percent of consumers see the world as strictly digital in 2022. From the way we pay (McKinsey research notes that 82 percent of Americans used digital payment in 2021) to the way we do business (90 percent of respondents in an Accenture survey believe virtual assistants will handle more than half of customer interactions within five years), digital touchpoints shape our lives.

So instead of starting with the back office and seeking ways to cut operating costs, ask yourself what technology can do to improve your customers’ experiences with your brand. Start by imagining your customers’ journeys of engagement from first hearing about your brand to the first transaction they make to the customer service they receive after purchase. This process, called a customer journey map, can help you improve the experience from start to finish. This is the information that should kickstart your digital transformation journey.

4. Empower your employees with digital tools.

Yes, successful digital transformation starts with a customer-focused approach — but the strategy must consider employees, too. Just as the way people consume media and buy products has become increasingly digital, so has the way they work. With the rise and staying power of remote or otherwise tech-enabled work during the pandemic, employees see that digital tools could make them better at their jobs, often with less effort. And digital natives, who make up the largest group in the U.S. labor force, already had high technology expectations.

A good digital strategy will help you free up your employees’ time on manual and tedious tasks, creating more room for higher-value, innovative and creative work. It will also help you attract more digital-savvy employees who can drive your company into the tech-first future.

Customer and employee experience should be at the center of any digitization effort. Equipping employees with the right tools, making data more accessible and increasing the value of your data with the right strategy will all add up to more satisfied customers. But remember — as you innovate to stay competitive, so will other companies. Digital transformation isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it process. It must be a continuing journey of learning, testing, iterating and executing to exceed ever-expanding expectations.


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