From The Editor | January 26, 2018

4 Digital Transformation Trends To Watch In 2018

Sarah Nicastro

By Sarah Nicastro, publisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies
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Softvision is a digital services company that provides digital innovation strategy, design, and execution for some of the world’s leading global brands. The company employs more than 2,500 professionals in eight countries and works with companies like Estee Lauder, Groupon,  Microsoft, Macy’s, Mozilla, Lululemon, and Neiman Marcus. Softvision’s CEO, Andres Angelani, co-authored the book “The Never-Ending Digital Journey: Creating New Consumer Experiences Through Technology.” Here he shares with us his thoughts on where digital transformation is headed and advice for your journey.

Nicastro: What advice do you have for field service companies looking for ways to embrace digital transformation — what are the best first steps?

Angelani: There are a great deal of businesses that only ‘look digital,’ vs. those that truly commit to ‘be digital.’ Companies need to adopt a different mindset — a new kind of corporate structure and flexibility to help them integrate their various business units and create an emotionally engaging conversation with customers leveraging new technology. You also need a collaborative approach that empowers engineering and design teams to work side by side quickly and efficiently — and at scale — to reach consumer and business goals.

Embracing digital transformation requires four primary elements:

  • Commitment from the Top: First, a top-level management decision has to be developed and communicated enterprise wide, along with a coherent budget for how to get the process moving
  • Corporate Culture: A culture needs to be fostered that promotes, rewards, and embraces innovation, technology, and experience design, ultimately allowing employees to explore and imagine new journeys
  • Assembling the “A” Team: Talent matters, and talent needs to be assembled that is relevant, well versed in the latest technologies, and one that truly believes in digital transformation
  • The ‘Agile Pod’ Approach: An ability to pivot, to pursue new directions, and a proper approach to continually evolve these goals. This approach is known as ‘agile pods’ that help nurture and propel agility and team maturity throughout digital journeys 

Nicastro: What are the most common digital transformation mistakes you see companies make and what is your advice for how to avoid them?

Angelani: 1. Poor Planning: No new Agile program aims for failure. Yet poor planning by unprepared and ill-informed team members who fix their sights on unrealistic goals will essentially doom a project from the very start. With waterfall, projects failed because they did way too much planning. Agile projects also fail because of poor or too little planning. Planning also implies validating assumptions and learning continuously, so a plan that is not refined does not allow the team to mature and become more assertive in estimates and dependency assumptions. So it’s not so much about the right plan, but rather about planning right.

2. Trusting Process and Technology More than People: As the primary driver of a project’s success, people are more important than either process or technology. Agile teams are self-organized and rely on team flexibility, autonomy, and diversity. For these we need team members with a good degree of emotional intelligence and adaptability. We want people that value feedback and build an organization that constantly looks for improvements. Select  and invest in people who are open to change, enjoy challenges, and are willing to do what it takes to ensure success, including learning skills outside their current skill set. Agile teams are key to ensuring success.

3. Poor Communication: Poor communication is recognized as the major cause of project failure.  Poor communication often leads to the delivery of the wrong solution. Effective communicators understand that the goal is to share information, that the information sharing is a two-way street but we need to understand how different communication methods work and how they should be used together.

Nicastro: What do you anticipate as the biggest digital transformation trends for 2018?

Angelani: There are a number of trends impacting the success of digital transformation in 2018:

  1. CX is the King: Customer experience (CX) became the centerpiece of business strategy as companies adjusted to the experience economy. In an era of the commoditization of every historic differentiator, the only remaining valid “why” is customers. All the transformational projects must focus on the client. We must bring relevancy, thought leadership, and innovation. The new consumer digital lifestyle of advanced tech with ubiquitous connectivity threatens all who do not rise to meet it. Consumers now demand that companies flex to their needs — and they will change suppliers in an instant if someone better suits them. Only those companies/brands that can digitally transform themselves to meet new customer expectations will survive — much less win.
  2. Digital Transformation … STAT: Digital transformation is a CEO issue and an economic question. Digital transformation is not elective surgery. It is the critical response needed to meet rising customer expectations, deliver individualized experiences at scale, and operate at the speed of the market. According to Forrester, 20 percent of CEOs will fail to act, resulting in those respective firms being acquired or closing.
  3. The Rise of Agile/Lean Principles: In the last two to three years we saw a big adaptation of agile practices at scale, and a lot of organizations are becoming more mature when it comes to agile methodologies. We already see a great deal of talk in agile teams about improving their performance and providing immediate value to customers. For 2018, the focus will be on lean principles such as reducing waste (for example inefficient ceremonies/meetings) and continuous delivery, where a team can release to customers even on a daily base.
  4. Analysis Paralysis: Companies know they should do something, but don't know where or how to start, so many will end up doing nothing. Companies know they could gain a competitive advantage by leveraging Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, but won’t start any real initiatives in 2018. They don’t understand what is possible, they don't know their data, and they really don't know how to start. Digital transformation partners that can show expertise and how to take companies on this journey will be the catalyst for real investment in this space.