The Six Stages of Digital Transformation

The Six Stages of Digital Transformation


Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proposed the “five stages of grief” in 1969 – the way human beings process loss and bereavement. Accepting change is crucial to moving on, said Kubler-Ross in her important thesis. And now Brian Solis, noted author on tech disruption, applies Kubler Ross’ cycle to the way an evolving business deals with going digital.

Each business is a victim of Digital Darwinism, the evolution of consumer behaviour when society and technology evolve faster than the ability to exploit it,” says Solis in a new report called “The Race against Digital Darwinism: Six Stages of Digital Transformation.”

Trying to survive in the digital jungle, companies are not only challenged by upstart predators and sophisticated customers, but also laden with the trappings of process and infrastructure that turned their humble organizations into industry behemoths in the first place.

The road to digital transformation is mined with overbearing complexities—envisioning customer journeys, for one. “The customer mapping process is very complex. It has to constantly consider existing touchpoints—[customers are] digital, they're mobile; they like apps,” Solis says. His report is “an attempt to give managers a manifest to make progress toward change, to let them know they're not alone.”

Indeed, Solis’psychologically shrewd report and his six steps are reassuring pats on the back to business owners and managers. “It’s Ok, You will get there,” he says and this is how:

Stage 1: Business as usual. Leadership rebuffs change. What Kubler-Ross terms Denial. Processes are built on legacy foundations and digital solutions are nailed onto them. Metrics are put in silos, analytics are just a reporting function, and customer views are 180 degrees.

Stage 2: Present and active.Listening to social media metrics and customer experience begins. Increased competition forces exploration of new channels and pilots are launched in social, mobile, and digital. Rogue experiments lead to ongoing strategy and experimentation. Digital education is embraced.

Stage 3: Formalized. The transformation's underway. Customer data begins influencing decisions and investigations are launched to locate gaps in data analytics. Collaboration intensifies company-wide and IT and marketing work together on a technology roadmap.

Stage 4: Strategic. The customer assumes centre-stage. Customer journeys are mapped and shared among departments. Leaders track cross-channel results more closely as ROI is tied to marketing efforts. Senior managers give change-agents a seat at the table, naming chief digital officers.

Stage 5: Converged. Common digital transformation frameworks are shared between departments and new executive talent and agencies are brought on board. Customer journeys are remapped to include experiential “micro-moments,” leading to further innovations. Kubler Ross’ Acceptance.

Stage 6: Innovative and adaptive. Beyond acceptance lies evolution. Digital is part of the transformed company's DNA and a flatter management and decision model supplants the old hierarchy. CX drives not just product development and marketing, but also sales, service, and HR. Transformation management becomes the new “business as usual.”

“This is a story that's usually told from the IT perspective, with technology roadmaps driving change,” Solis writes, “but customer experience—and studying how people are changing—can drive more relevant and innovative, enterprise-wide change.”

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