Breaking Down Silos to Enable a True Omni-Experience
Gone are the days when consumers had to physically visit a store during a fixed set of operating hours in order to part with their hard-earned money. Indeed, now that we're not restricted solely to bricks-and-mortar stores, shopping has become a truly round-the-clock activity.
And when looked at in this context, it's clear to see that the evolution of online sales channels has been one of the most transformative – and ultimately disruptive – changes to have taken place in the entire history of the retail industry.
But retail is not the only industry to have been impacted by this evolution, with businesses operating in the banking, hospitality, travel, education, and healthcare sectors all having witnessed a fundamental shift in the way their products and services are both delivered and consumed.
Any interaction with a consumer these days is not a simple sales and delivery process, it is rather a full-blown experience. And as such, IDC has found that customer experience is now a more critical performance measurement for businesses than ever before.
Given the emergence of multiple channels, ensuring an omni-channel presence is one of the major priorities for organizations across a whole range of industries. Indeed, putting multiple touchpoints in place (instore, online, mobile, customer care, etc.) is the new normal for businesses.
Ultimately, digital transformation is not about the technologies; it's about new ways of solving problems, delivering efficiencies, and accelerating business growth. In short, digital transformation is really about creating unique customer experiences in an attempt to grab some of that all-important mindshare.
But while digital transformation might not be all about the technology, it is evident that the increasing adoption of technologies is helping to accelerate changes across the board. Solutions that fall under the umbrellas of social business, cloud, mobility, Big Data analytics, cognitive computing, and the Internet of Things are all creating opportunities to facilitate a new era of customer experience.
In one way or another, digital transformation is impacting every industry at the macro level, but it is also affecting various activities, functions, divisions, and processes within individual organizations and helping to reshape the basic business models they employ.
Even if data and information is considered to be at the very center of digital transformation, the connection between information management and digital transformation is not always made. After all, for every form of innovation, collaboration, optimization, experience, communication, and so on, information or data is a critical success factor in making it happen.
For that reason, IDC believes that effective information management plays an extremely important role in enabling successful digital transformation. Indeed, it is critical at every step of the journey towards accomplishing key digital transformation goals such as better customer experience, higher customer-centricity, and the enablement of "knowledge workers" and true operational excellence.
As we move further towards information-based enterprises, information has become a key asset and critical part of the capital of the organizations that control it. Intelligent information management approaches are increasingly finding traction within boardrooms across a broad range of verticals, with activities around the value of data being evaluated on the basis of engagement levels and ultimate outcomes.
In order to reap the real benefits, it is critical that organizations focus on the actual business and customer challenges and embrace a clear and staggered approach that reflects the priorities of the business and involves all key stakeholders. Indeed, facilitating relationships and synergies between IT and business is among the most critical components of any such project.
As with social business, digital business – and any other form of customer-centric activity, for that matter – requires a capability to work across silos. Quite often, digital transformation is about reworking organizational structures, a process that can involve setting up new collaborative methods or centers of excellence in a bid to remove specific silos.
The debate about the responsibility for digital transformation within organizations is still in its infancy. But even if a chief digital officer position is created to take on that responsibility, the CIO and most of the other CxOs will continue to play a crucial role. There is no formulaic answer regarding the responsibility question, because – as always – it is the context that matters the most.
While digital transformation is undoubtedly a major priority for many organizations today, key challenges remain. These include breaking down the silos of functions and departments, upgrading the existing IT infrastructure stack with a strong analytics engine, and reworking organizational structures.
Only when these issues have been ironed out can an organization – retail or otherwise – even begin to provide its customers with a true omni-channel experience.