Digital transformation is not easy.
Particularly when you consider that, reputedly, around 70% of all transformation programs fail to meet expectations or their objectives.
That means only 30% of programs succeed.
Therefore, I was excited when I was asked to moderate a panel at Pegasystems’ annual customer event, Pegaworld, in Las Vegas with 3 organizations that have delivered, and continue to deliver, successful digital transformation programs.
The panel was called ‘The Insiders View on What It Takes for a Successful Digital Transformation in the Contact Center’ and I was joined on stage by Matthias Maschke, SVP HR Shared-Services for Deutsche Telekom, Michael McFarland, Director of Technology for Digital Credit Union (DCU) and Stijn Eulaerts, Director Product Management for Telenet. You can view a video of our whole discussion here.
For your reference, Deutsche Telekom are the largest telecommunications provider in Europe by revenue, Digital Credit Union are one of the top 20 credit unions in the United States and Telenet are the largest provider of cable broadband services in Belgium.
Here’s my summary of what was a fascinating conversation.
The major driver behind all of their programs was necessity. The sort of necessity that comes from the need to replace out-dated and legacy IT systems, bring two companies together following an acquisition but also the need to create a platform that would not only future proof their business but also allow it to scale and develop alongside their developing customer needs.
An interesting idea emerged from our initial discussion about the meaning of transformation. Michael McFarland noted that the use of the word transformation is a bit of a misnomer. Things do and will continue to evolve. Stijn Eulaerts built on that idea and said that in Telenet they do not use the word transformation very often but, in fact, they call their program ‘Darwin’ signalling a more evolutionary view.
For all parties, one of the key success factors behind their programs was organizational alignment. To achieve that they ensured that had buy in from not only all of the executives across their respective businesses but also from all off the management staff across their organizations. This was accompanied by a governing structure, which was comprised of multi departments and, in Telenet’s case, was organized around topics and not functions.
That meant that everyone was clear on and behind the vision for the program and the journey they were about to embark on. Matthias Maschke built on this and said that when you run a transformation program you need to become the Chief Communication Officer so that you constantly communicate with, and align all, of the parties involved.
Not doing so would have meant that all of their programs would have met a number of road bumps along the way.
But, that didn’t mean that it was all plain sailing.
Michael McFarland of DCU said that they had faced barriers with certain groups within their organization not accepting the expert advice that they were given. That meant that they had to rework and redo certain parts of their program once those groups had been brought round after seeing the success of other groups. That lead Michael to reflect that, in retrospect, it may have been better to structure their program into more manageable chunks so that they could test, learn and iterate within their program more effectively.
Stijn Eulaerts said that from their perspective they were not that concerned about getting things right first time but, rather, getting the fundamentals right was way more important. Matthias Maschke concurred and suggested that they have built a culture that not only fails fast but learns even faster.
However, one of the biggest challenges they all highlighted was the switch in mindset from being more process and technology driven to being customer first and empathy driven. And, this is not something to be taken lightly.
To combat this Telenet use ‘blueprinting’, which matches customer journeys with the operational requirements so they can effectively map together both the customer and employee experience.
Another challenge that emerged was the the idea that world does not stop while you are in the midst of a transformation program. You have to continue to compete, innovate and grow both your customer base and your financials. Your competitors won’t just wait for you. While that requires extra work and planning. That is just part and parcel of the whole process.
In terms of what the future holds, all parties agreed that they are in the process of doing the ground work and preparing for the future. Stijn Eulaerts captured this idea well when he said that you must make sure that you build in ‘optionality’ into your program so that you are ready for whatever comes next whether that is AI, VR, blockchain or whatever else is around the corner.
Finally, as a bit of fun to end the panel and related to my new book, Punk CX, I asked each of the panelists to name a punk song that best described their transformation program. Here’s what they came up with:
- Matthias Maschke chose “Smells like team spirit’, a play on the classic Nirvana track. Not strictly a punk song but very ‘punk’ in spirit and the message is clear: Act as one team and you can accomplish anything.
- Stijn Eulaerts, a self-confessed kid of the 1990s, chose Daft Punk’s ‘Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger’. Again not strictly a punk song but the message is clear and provides a good description of where Telenet’s focus lies.
- Michael McFarland chose ‘Controlled Chaos’ by CFO$, which many readers may know as the entrance theme to the SAnitY pro wrestling franchise. Again, not a punk song but Michael says it describes what DCU’s program sometimes feels like.
Summing up the conversation, it seems that a clear vision, deep buy-in, ensuring people have the right mindset, constant communication, alignment and taking an evolutionary approach have all been essential elements in these successful transformation programs.