It Takes More Than Blood, Sweat and Tears to Start a Digital Practice

Over the last several years I have learned a thing or two about what it takes to start and sustain a digital practice – I have joined companies to start their Digital Practice as well as started my own Digital Practice and along the way I have made assumptions (often incorrectly), not asked the ‘right’ questions and taken missteps. Hopefully this post will help you assess the opportunity as you look to start your own Digital Practice or join one. 
 

1. What is Digital Strategy?

If you are reading this post you have probably heard your fair share of definitions for Digital Strategy, here is mine – “Digital Strategy is building holistic multi-channel strategies to drive business growth and productivity by aligning business and technology initiatives, defining governance models and best practices, establishing a digital center of excellence, identifying convergence, integration and process changes – all geared towards personalizing the experience for the ‘connected’ customer and advancing self-service opportunities”. I’ll be the first to admit that the definition is a mouthful and  it will continue to evolve overtime, however in my perspective it  captures the ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘whom’ and ‘why’ of digital strategy.
 
 

 2. Is the Sales Team On-Board?

Is the sales team committed to the idea of seeking out  digital strategy projects and are they adequately incentivized to sell projects that will typically be priced lower than  the  average implementation / vendor management / business process project. If the sales team is not engaged it is almost impossible for a digital practice to thrive because “Old Ways Will Not Open New Doors”. We cannot ‘dress-up’ software development and start selling it as ‘Digital Strategy’ to the same clients – we need to be tenacious and seek out new clients and find new ways to sell. To use a line from Godin Seth’s post “Tenacity is using new data to make new decisions to find new pathways to find new ways to achieve a goal when the old ways didn’t work” http://bit.ly/17DpTuw 
 

3) Does the Account Team at the Client Site Understand Digital Strategy? 

It is very likely that while the client is looking for Digital Strategy skills, the position is NOT advertised as a ‘Digital Strategy’ position – the team at the client site will need to understand the ‘true needs’ and advise the client on hiring someone with business, technology, process and innovation background who is equipped to ask the ‘right’ questions and connect the dots to successfully align business and technology roadmaps and prioritize opportunities in the mobile, social, web and streaming media space.

4) Where Does Digital Strategy Fit in the Company Functional Organization?

Does the company consider Digital Strategy to be the same as business strategy, IT strategy, marketing strategy or perhaps even creative strategy? Is there a turf war within the organization on who owns digital? The company will need to recognize that digital (including mobile and social) are horizontal capabilities and while rest of the organization might be organized by function, digital capability need to span functional silos. At a more tactical level this will also determine staffing for digital projects.
 

5) Is There a Go-To Market Strategy?

Is there consensus within the organization on a go-to market strategy which clearly describes a plan for acquiring digital customers as well as converting existing clients into digital clients (if possible)? Is there consensus within the organization on the approach that will be followed, marketing collateral that will be used, percentage of the overall company revenue that come from digital initiatives and the plan to grow this percentage? To build the Go-To Market Strategy it takes someone who can clearly articulate the impact of ‘going digital’ and can advise on convergence of business and technology. Additional details on the impact of ‘going digital’ are available on my blog post http://bit.ly/17DpTuw.
 
6) Digital Strategy is not “One Size Fits All”
 
Digital strategy is not “One Size Fits All” – it needs to be carefully crafted for the client by understanding the business direction, technology constraints, best practices in the industry, competitive landscape and most importantly the company culture. The tools, mechanics, methodology to create a digital strategy can be reused from one client to another but it takes true partnership to craft a digital vision for a client which will result in an actionable roadmap rather than a document that never gets looked at.
 
 
Leave a comment, start a discussion, make a noise … after all we are in the hot seat and poised to shape the future of business and technology!
 

9 Business Technology Trends that will Transform Companies

  1. The need for new business leaders who understand the importance convergence of business and technology and are able to address the impact of digital innovation within the boundaries set by organizational readiness
  2. Gartner prediction : By 2017 CMO’s will spend more on IT than CIOs
  3. Videos will account for half of global mobile data
  4. Partnerships are key – no one company can do it all
  5. Collaborative Economy – rather than own people with want to rent or borrow. Have access to products on an as as-needed basis
  6. Integration is key – no one tool can do it all
  7. Fitness app installs will grow 70% by 2017
  8. Forrester Research predicts that by 2020 most IT departments in companies will disappear as applications such as email etc. move to the cloud (yet we have large,conservative clients that want on-prem solutions today)
  9. Successful companies will depend more than ever on the quality of their employees

Driving Business Growth, Priorities and Engagement through Customer Experience

BACKGROUND

Forrester recently released a book ‘ Outside In : The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business’. The book highlights that customer experience is the greatest untapped source of cost savings and increased revenue today. Additionally customer experience strategies can drive differentiating activities and processes at top companies. Forrester also discuss how to design and measure enterprise-wide customer experience.

As mobile and social are quickly becoming new channels for customer acquisition, engagement and service, many brands are looking to social and digital channels as a means to better understand customer interactions with the brand across multiple channels and touch points.

Also as the use of mobile and social channels increases exponentially, it is becoming critical that brands are able to create a 360-degree customer view by aggregating data from each one of these interactive channels. Without drawing from all touch-points, brands fail to have a holistic understanding of the consumer and run the risk of presenting disjointed messaging to the consumer as they visit the brand from a diverse number of channels.

CHALLENGE

How can we help our customers service their customers? How can we increase customer engagement and loyalty with the brand?How do we ensure that we are solving the right problem?

SOLUTION

When is Customer Experience the Right Approach? If the answer to the questions below is ‘NO’ then customer experience is the right approach to drive business priorities – are you able to pinpoint the customer’s painpoints? Are you addressing the pain they feel? Does everyone in the organization have a clear picture of the processes customers go through when interacting with the organization?

Are we Solving the Right Problem?: A common vision and vocabulary within an organization of the customer’ and ‘customer interactions’, across all channels is key to solving the ‘right’ problem. It is worth noting that by overlaying the customer journey maps with specific business goals such as improving productivity and efficiency of the sales force or increasing customer engagement and loyalty, we can not only identify  ‘new’ problems but also define ‘new’ solutions to old problems.

 Have we Identified the Right Opportunities? : Identify the ‘right’ opportunities by mapping customer interactions across channels and touchpoints and identifying highlights and lowlights by focusing on complex interdependencies between people, process and tools.

Have we Prioritized the Opportunities? : Once the opportunities across all channels have been identified, shared and verified by internal business stakeholders, they need to be collaboratively prioritized based on factors such as business impact and risk weighed against cost and effort.

APPROACH

Customer Experience Approach

User Centered Design Approach

Key Considerations:

Ensure Executive Sponsorship: The stakeholders selected as part of the steering committee typically span lines of businesses (LOB).  Since journey maps visualize ‘end-to-end’ interactions, multiple departments and stakeholders get involved in the discovery process hence leadership commitment is crucial to drive decision making across LOBs and for the success of a customer experience engagement.

Select Key Customer Segments: To obtain a good cross-section of interviewees it is critical to identify customer variability across several dimensions. As an example, for the sales force variability could be based on region, tenure, role and the type of customer the sales person services. It is also important to create a 360 degree view of the customer by creating a touchpoint mapand interviewing all teams within the organization that the customer interacts with.

Create Discussion Guide: The discussion guide should be tailored to the audience and aligned with business objectives.

Conduct Interviews: drill-down to the root cause, discuss what-if scenarios, best practices and current initiatives within the organization.

Create Customer Journey Maps: : Identify people, process, tools and technologies that affect the customer journey

Create Prioritization Matrix: collaborate with stakeholders to get a common view of the business impact and prioritization of the initiatives

Create Business Case / Enable Experience: Visualize the experience for one or more key areas by creating process flow and conceptual wireframes

BENEFITS

Truly understanding customer behavior, interactions, positive and negative experiences can lead to the following benefits:

Identify New ‘Niche’ Customer Segments – Just because people share some similar characteristics such as age and gender (e.g. female in the age group 35 – 45) does not imply that they share the same passions and interests. Understanding customer behavior, motivators and interactions will help to deeply engage with them and identify needs of the ‘niche’ customer segments which can drive development of personalized experiences which motivate customers to change behaviors.

Deliver Targeted, Personalized Content and Advertising – Moving beyond ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ – integrating back-end data sources, structured and unstructured data to create a 360 degree of the customer  can provide a wealth of information for improving customer understanding and targeting them with personalized content.

Increase Customer Loyalty – Customer loyalty and satisfaction can be improved by creating a 360 degree view of the customer and gaining deeper insights into existing customer segments as well as discovering new customer segments by developing a multi-channel strategy and aggregating data across mobile, social and digital channels.

CONCLUSIONS

The key to building applications which drive business growth and improve customer engagement lies in identifying a new breed of business leaders who understand the importance of customer experience and evaluating organizational readiness to deal with the impact of digital innovation.

Companies can truly understand the ‘empowered’ customer and build applications which transform the business by creating a common view of the customer (customer segments) across the organization by mastering behavioral, business and emotional context. Behavioral context measures engagement and propensity to buy, business context identifies business drivers and how to generate customer value differentiation and finally emotional context measures sentiment, customer preference and perceived value.

Convergence of Marketing and Technology

With the convergence of marketing and technology, companies are struggling to identify the rightful owner(s) within an organization responsible for prioritizing opportunities which will drive business growth and engage the empowered customer.

Additionally as the use of mobile, social and web increases, it has become critical for organizations to create a 360-degree view of the customer, highlighting both good and bad experiences, across channels and  touchpoints. In addition to focusing on business imperatives such as reduced cost, increased loyalty etc. to drive the customer experience, companies should also consider ‘engagement imperatives’ such as identifying customer pain-points, improving convenience and motivating customers to change behaviors which in turn will lead to increased ROI.

As organizations attempt to understand the customer better by creating customer journeys as well as creating a 360 degree view of the customer cross channels and touchpoints, they need to consider the ‘impact’ these innovative technologies will have on the enterprise. Some key considerations to keep in mind are listed below:

  • Identify Leaders: Identify leaders within the organization to drive the business model innovation required to incorporate new channels such as mobile, social and digital.
  • Create New Business Models: New business models will need to be developed which are nimble, agile and rapidly iterate.
  • Portfolio Optimization:  To achieve portfolio optimization organizations will need to drive alignment and synchronization of activities cross-brand, cross-channel and cross-stakeholder group (Decentralized approaches imply higher costs).
  • Update Business Processes: Current transaction-based processes may need to be updated to deliver personalized, targeted content tailored to the lifestyle of the customer.
  • Update Operational Governance and Management Processes : Operational governance and management processes will need to be built that tap into new market opportunities and customer needs.
  • Co-Create Value with the Customer: Organizational structure of the organization will be impacted by introducing customers into product development efforts.
  • Co-Create Value with Partners: Organizations will need to collaborate with players, such as information technology companies, design agencies, companies providing strategy / management etc. to deliver customer-centric products and services, as they may not have the resources and skill-set in-house to build relevant offerings.
  • Integration of Systems : Building a 360 degree view of the customer requires an understanding of data integration requirements between disparate data sources namely systems of record such as CRM as well as data from social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Data architects will now be required to build processes to connect structured as well as unstructured data

Deep-Dive into Multi-Channel Customer Intelligence

Background

As mobile and social are quickly becoming new channels for customer acquisition, engagement and service, many brands across the board are looking to social and digital channels as a way to increase their customer knowledge and understanding through multiple customer touch-points.

As the use of social channels increases exponentially, it is critical that brands are able to create a 360-degree customer view by aggregating data from each one of these interactive channels. Without drawing from all touch-points, brands fail to have a holistically understanding of their consumer and run the risk of presenting disjointed messaging to their consumer as they visit the brand from a diverse number of channels.

Despite the availability of brand monitoring tools (e.g. Radian 6, Alterian and Scout Labs) and brand analytics tools (e.g. Crimson Hexagon, Crowd Factory, SAS and Oracle), brands face the challenge of trying to close the gap between aggregating data from diverse channels and drawing actionable business insights. In order to turn observation into business advantage, feedback mechanisms need to be created to channel insights towards product improvement, business process improvement and trend recognition.

The Challenge

Harnessing the power of big data to drive business and organizational decisions is not without challenges.

Real-time analytics: Recent statistics demonstrate how high the volume of Twitter data really is – Twitter is seeing around 155,000,000 tweets per day, at about 2500 bytes on average for each tweet and about 35 Mb per second – handling the immense amount of data at a sustained rate is a challenge. Also, gathering real-time analytics is made more difficult because of signal-to-noise ratio. Twitter is especially hard given the high rates at which tweets are created and the minuscule number of those tweets that are relevant to a campaign.

Sentiment Analysis: Sentiment Analysis is about the meaning of the content. Knowing the sentiment (positive, negative or neutral) is a good start, but not enough. The data needs to be analyzed to derive improvement opportunities such as ideas for product innovation and business process improvement. The process of mining data is additionally difficult since the human interaction component cannot be completely eliminated.

Solutions

Many companies are trying to get hip on how to tackle the problem of harnessing excessive amounts of data spread across multiple customer touch points. As companies mature their social programs, they can progress through a variety of stages. Companies who are in the earlier stages of social maturity such as Gatorade are focusing their efforts on listening. Gatorade has created a “mission control center” which is staffed by employees who monitor Twitter and Facebook, 24 hours a day.

Other companies such as SAP have long been monitoring and interacting with their employees and customers via social community sites. SAP’s Senior Vice President Mark Yolton has spoken extensively about his 8+ years of experience using the Social Monitoring tool Jive, which has helped SAP form several social communities both internal and external to the company. The SAP Community Network is used to drive social innovation, commerce, intelligence and social insight. Mark champions that biggest benefit SAP has gained by creating these communities is around ‘Customer Intimacy’ – aggregating and analyzing customer data that allows them to create a 360-degree view of their customers wants, needs and actions which helps SAP understand and interact with more effectively.

At the more experienced end, are companies like Dell who use media channel to engage with consumers and drive sales. Dell has more than 9000 employees trained in social media, a ‘Chief Listening Officer’ and a twitter handle @DellCares which resolves 98% of Twitter reported support requests. Dell’s BI solution is available on a smartphone or tablet, provides up-to-the-minutes sales data and customer intelligence and suggests next actions for front-line service personnel.

Benefits

The analysts at Forrester have coined a term ‘Social Intelligence’ which is defined as the process and use cases for harnessing social media data to inform your business strategy. It involves monitoring social media, collecting and analyzing the content, and using the insights to inform your strategy.

The true benefit of aggregating structured data (weblogs, social CRM, application data) and unstructured data (social applications such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, customer comments and product reviews) is being able to derive actionable insights. Additionally brands need toprovide a feedback mechanism to channel these insights for product improvement, business process improvement and trend analysis.

Aggregating and analyzing data across channels provides the following additional benefits:

Identify New ‘Niche’ Customer Segments – Just because people share some similar characteristics such as age and gender (e.g. female in the age group 35 – 45) does not imply that they share the same passions and interests. Building a community of loyal followers, deeply engaging with them and actively listening and participating will help to identify new niche customer segments.

Deliver Targeted, Personalized Content and Advertising – The future of competitive advantage lies in managing and analyzing all the critical data entering a business environment. Data which provides user preference and location information such as product reviews, check-ins, ratings etc. collected across the mobile, social and digital channels provides a wealth of information for improving customer understanding and targeting them with personalized content.

Increase Customer Loyalty – Customer loyalty and satisfaction can be improved by creating a 360 degree view of the customer and gaining deeper insights into existing customer segments as well as discovering new customer segments by developing a multi-channel strategy and aggregating data across mobile, social and digital channels.

Conclusions

Drawing business insights such as determining ‘top performing regions’ or ‘top influences’ can be accomplished relatively easily by aggregating and analyzing structured and unstructured data, however, the hard part is in drawing subjective business insights such as determining ‘product improvement ideas’ or ‘future trends’.

The key to successful subjective analysis is in empowering and training the personnel at various customer touch points to ask probing questions of customers and flag answers which require deeper analysis. Flagging specific ‘key data points’ will allow actionable nuggets of information to be highlighted and stand apart from the sea of information.

Additionally, forming a deep relationship between people interfacing with customers at multiple touch-points such as social media channels, customer service channels, websites etc. and subject matter experts, such as product managers and designers who are within an organization, will allow for business insights and relevant data to be captured in ‘real-time’ rather than ‘after the fact’, which will lead to better understanding of customer behavior and opinions.

Creating a Mobile Maturity Model

A mobile maturity model describes key practices for each of the maturity levels and provides a framework and an objective criteria for clearly evaluating a brand’s current as well as desired mobile maturity level. Analyzing a brand’s current and desired mobile maturity levels is the first step towards performing a Gap Analysis which helps to identify capabilities of interest. These capabilities then need to be prioritized based on risk, effort and business impact to create an actionable roadmap.

The mobile maturity model described below consists of 5 distinct maturity levels:

Level 0, Limited Mobile Presence: Level 0 is characterized with limited mobile presence, mobile is not considered core to the business and need for a better solution is not acknowledged by the organization.

Level 1, Reactive and Experimental: Level 1 is characterized by the business reacting to external pressures, need for improvement is acknowledged and pilot implementations exist but overall vision is absent.

Level 2, Defined and Repeated: Level 2 is characterized by mobile being considered a core customer interaction channel and a global vision drives investment in the mobile channel

Level 3, Managed and Measured: Level 3 is characterized by a seamlessly integrated channel experience and mobile capabilities expanding beyond implementing the core business capabilities

Level 4, Optimization and Innovation: Level 4 is characterized by a rich, dynamic, seamless channel experience where continuous improvement and optimization becomes the focus and capabilities drive deeper efficiencies and innovation.

The image below lists key practices describing each of the mobile maturity levels :

Mobile Maturity Model

Mobile Maturity Model

Creating a Mobile Strategy

In my previous post I mentioned that brands who do not consider mobility an integral part of their business strategy may experience limited benefits  from building mobile applications as opposed to brands who focus on developing a mobile strategy which ties back to business goals. A mobile strategy should provide a framework to help brands identify development, cross-platform, monetization, promotional and globalization strategies prior to developing mobile applications.

A mobile strategy provides the framework, vision and guidance on which mobile applications will be built. When creating a mobile strategy be sure to address the following:

1. Key Market Insights: Provide an overview of the mobile market focusing on mobile penetration, market share by device and OS worldwide as well as in the US. I have found spending a few minutes on the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies is a helpful way to show the ‘state’ of emerging technologies.  In this section I also touch upon mobile, social, digital usage patterns and high-level discussion on challenges such as device / platform fragmentation.

2. Competitive Analysis : A competitive analysis is a  good way to study a brand’s competition and the gap between the brand and the innovators and leaders in that business vertical. A detailed competitive analysis focusing on features, functionality and capabilities will help to clearly define the short-terms and long-term objectives the brand hopes to achieve with mobility.

3. Project Sponsors and key Business Stakeholder Interviews: One of the key steps in building a successful mobile strategy is in identifying business stakeholders from cross-functional teams. Interviewing the stakeholders on their goals and objectives to be met via the mobile channel, their target audience and their mobile behaviors and discussions around projects, data sources and application touchpoints will help to ensure cross-functional support and buy-in.

4. Develop the Mobile Strategy: When implementing a mobile strategy, one methodology that I have had success with is POST (People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology) advocated by Forrester. The mobile strategy should be customized to the brand based on their unique requirements, project prioritization, risk (e.g. resistance to adoption, concept maturity etc.), LOE and business benefit (e.g. increasing sales, decreasing costs or increasing loyalty).

5. Best Practices & Mobile Trends : Identifying best practices and mobile trends help brands to best leverage this emerging technology in building mobile websites, native apps and hybrid apps to meet business objectives in the short-term as well as long-term.