The challenge of staking out a digital identity can be daunting for even the most veteran companies. Today, most companies have what can be considered a significant “digital footprint,” but few can truly say that they’ve established their own unique digital identity. So how can companies approach the task of evaluating and improving their readiness? Organizations are faced with many decisions regarding which solutions they should invest in, and some legacy corporations may need a nudge in the direction of digital maturity. The following six perspectives are essential to understanding the journey into a connected future for both companies and customers. Each perspective is informed by its own digital readiness layer.

1. The Customer (Digital Readiness Layer: Experience)

There’s a clear reason why customer experience (CX) has become the biggest digital talking point in the last few years. Companies must look to the journey customers take when interacting with their brand. They must truly understand what the customer thinks, feels and (most importantly) does each touchpoint. Tools to analyze the customer journey are a dime a dozen, however, so choosing the right one can be challenging.

In fact, however, no one-size-fits-all approach will accurately measure and define the customer’s point of view. Instead, each company must articulate the components of their customer’s journey, in order to identify the points that need digital expansion. What must be done to get those ducks in a row? When an organization can answer those questions, it can use that deeper awareness to appropriately supplement its digital footprint.

Case Study: Amazon

Unsurprisingly, Amazon hits it out of the park with customer experience. Their expanding Amazon Home section provides a fresh illustration of how they’ve earned their reputation as “disrupters.” Their extensive search filters allow shoppers to look for only what’s available for delivery in their area on that day, or to shop by individual room, brand, or type of item. In addition, Amazon offers 1 or 2 minute videos showing how to make a particular recipe, and they include a transparent drop-down menu that shows exactly which items are currently being used in the video. And if that’s not enough, their new Homes Services section lets viewers hire a vetted local professional to come and provide landscaping, cleaning, decorative or many other kinds of services.

2. The Interactor (Layer: Channels)

Companies must also be prepared to meet consumers where they are. In today’s wired world, digital channels have become so central to life. Using these channels, companies must ascertain exactly what their consumers are looking for, integrate their business strategy and push forward to put every interaction at the customer’s fingertips.

Even on a channel as fleeting on Snapchat, companies like Taco Bell are exploring new ways to reach their customers. This same vision can even apply to traditional interactions. Knowing when the customer might pick up a phone or visit a store is becoming more and more important, meaning companies must have contingencies in place to encourage continued engagement. By adopting the mentality of the interactor, digital communication readiness can be implemented faster and more reliably than ever before.

Case Study: Taco Bell’s Snapchat Campaign

Recognizing that the digital native generation communicates via the brief here-and-gone Snapchat platform, Taco Bell made a one-day Snapchat lens that turned user’s heads into giant tacos. With 224 million views, this Cinco de Mayo campaign was the biggest in Snapchat’s history. The bong sound associated with the Taco Bell brand was also incorporated into the experience, to engage all possible senses, and users spent an average of 24 seconds playing around with the app before sending their snap. Taco Bell has relied on Snapchat before, being the first company to use Snapchat’s on-demand geo-filters to launch their new dish, the “Quesalupa.”

3. The User (Layer: Product)

Once a consumer is captive, or once a customer is satisfied with the basic tenets of the customer-provider relationship, companies must then shift to considering the perspective of a true “user.” This is a person who is committed to the brand and continues to support its products or services. At this stage, a more product-oriented view of the consumer lifecycle comes into play. What are companies creating to improve this all-important brand advocate’s digital experience? In a world of third-party providers, the value of creating first-party content and products that truly meet the needs and wants of their consumers cannot be overstated.

Case Study: Zelle

Many of the biggest traditional banks across the country quickly realized that Venmo, Paypal and Square had revolutionized the payment industry. What’s more, they had done so without much input from the legacy banking institutions. In response (however slowly) the biggest national banks set out to redefine their own user experiences to better serve the Venmo model, collaborating to create Zelle, a payment platform directly tied to banks such as Bank of America, Capital One, Wells Fargo and Chase.

4. The Employee (Layer: People)

Companies that want to be more prepared for the disruption cycle must look beyond the customer to their own employee population. Lifting the right people into the right roles, giving employees the tools to succeed in the new digital paradigm and allowing employees to thrive in the fully connected world are prerequisites for digital readiness.

Companies planning an overhaul of their approach must look to the perspective of their employees to gauge the best rate of change or even appropriateness of approach. Without alignment and ground-floor support from the ranks, any digital strategy is bound to fail. The perspective of the employee cannot be ignored.

Case study: Adobe

Adobe is already known for its cutting-edge graphics software. Part of the company’s vision for its ongoing evolution involves a specific commitment to improve the employee experience. It needed to replace its cumbersome legacy HR system, as part of its continuing upgrade. With a focus on improving the overall employee experience, Adobe brought a whole new system (called “Workday”) onboard and won the participation of 88 percent of its employees and 99 percent of all managers. With this new cloud-based solution in place, Adobe found that it was able to fill 25 percent of openings from within, and their next step is to “prove to employees what cross-organizational visibility of talent can do to improve career opportunities.”

5. The Executive (Layer: Process)

The fact of the matter is that when it comes to a strategy for digital transformation, a company will always need an ambassador to push change. That individual must be on board with any digital readiness initiative, and they must also be ready to evaluate and guide the functional aspects of a cultural transformation. Functional process is a major component of an organization’s overall readiness to move forward agilely, and it’s too often overlooked.

There is real meaning behind buzzwords like agile process, minimum viable product and “fail-fast” mentality. These concepts demonstrate a true readiness for digital maturity, and companies must evaluate any proposed changes through the lens of their own process. Even the best solutions still require advocacy in order to bring about the necessary cultural change. If the executive can’t champion a planned strategy throughout the perilous obstacle course of an enterprise, change itself might remain outside of realm of possibility.

Case study: Patrick Hofstetter CDO of Renault and director of the Renault Digital Factory.

Hofstetter has guided Renault through a global transformation, implementing a stem-to-stern digital transformation that involved 120,000 employees worldwide. Furthermore, under Hofstetter’s guidance, this disruption didn’t interfere with the company’s ability to remain competitive. Hofstetter notes: “[The role of CDO is] really a coordination role, making sure that all the elements, of organisation and means, are in place to conduct this transformation which, especially in big industrial corporations like Renault, are going to take some time.”

6. The Infrastructure (Layer: Platform)

Finally, the perspective of infrastructure in evaluating and improving digital readiness cannot be ignored. Viewing potential changes through the lens of the technologies, connections and products that will be necessary to support them is a necessary discipline that is too often overlooked. Piecemeal stitching together of analytics, customer management, ad tracking, email management and other platforms will leave companies behind the 8-ball. Instead, companies must truly understand the implications of the changes they’re promoting, seek the technologies that are necessary to integrate those changes.

This perspective allows room for a more technical view when needed, but it can also provide a filter of feasibility for those high-level thinkers who know the complexities that come with digital transformation.

Case Study: Under Armour

Under Armour had a vision that they called “Connected Fitness,” but they realized that they lacked the technology to carry out this vision. To mitigate this discrepancy, they spent over $700 billion on acquiring several technology-based fitness companies, including MapMyFitness and MyFitnessPal. According to Under Armour CDO Robin Thurston, “We want to be known as the dashboard of all things health and fitness,” and she points out that they plan to continue to develop new technologies as part of their business model.

Utilizing a variety of perspectives during the period of digital transformation or (more importantly) beforehand, companies can better guarantee that their strategy is fully informed. They can avoid the dangers of remaining siloed in a set of habitual outlooks, and can readily assemble the puzzle pieces of a mature, successful digital strategy.