Operating digitally is operating in the age of buzzwords, and it can be hard to separate ambiguous concepts from concrete initiatives. Here are tips for creating a tangible and adaptive roadmap.

Digital transformation projects have become nearly ubiquitous among the major players in every industry, but it can often be unclear what exactly “digital transformation” looks like. In reality, it isn’t a nebulous project business leaders can wish into existence — it’s made of discrete, tangible projects carried out by employees, and businesses need to play their cards intelligently to get it right.
We’ve covered the process of digital transformation extensively — building a clear roadmap can go a long way towards building an effective, agile strategy. But as with every big ticket digital idea, small details can spell either success or failure. Here are a few essential pieces every business must consider when implementing a digital transformation roadmap.

CHARTING A COURSE

1) More than anything, your plan needs to be flexible

Even in the past few years, the face of digital has transitioned from user engagement social networks like Facebook and Twitter to life-engagement platforms like Snapchat and Uber. Experience is now of the utmost importance — but the way experience manifests itself in the digital space may yet change once again. Adoption of new services and apps is drastically increasing. It took Facebook four years to reach 100 million active users. Instagram went from one million active users to 300 million in just one year.
Imagine launching a digital transformation roadmap on the precipice of this latest progression in social without any flexibility. Sure, uncertainty is a threat most businesses face — and the task of implementing a roadmap in such an environment is daunting — but without room for change in a digital transformation strategy, companies will find themselves starting from scratch every few years as digital continues to evolve and even change course.

2) Measurability from start to finish

Another concept we talk a lot about at Centric Digital is benchmarking for success — establishing a baseline from where you can assess and audit your position to find out where you need to go. This baseline must be comprehensive, insightful, and industry specific. If a bank launches a new product and the baseline for social engagement is a comparison to a cosmetic product launch, then success will seem utterly unattainable. 14 shares or tweets may seem low, but if the nature of the industry tends towards low social engagement, then it may in fact be a success.

“Benchmarking” itself doesn’t simply begin and end with a project, roadmap, or initiative. Along with understanding the obstacles at the start of a project, including against the competition, companies must understand what success will look like once the digital transformation kicks in. The first 100 days can make or break perceptions of success, which means that companies should benchmark early and often when implementing a total digital overhaul.

3) People, people, people

There’s endless commentary about how “digital” is IT, product, and data — but that’s not really the whole picture. As is the case with most efforts that require creativity, insight, and strategy, digital is the people behind the strategy. The more digital becomes about real-world engagement, the more the thought leaders in the digital world matter — a ship is nothing without a rudder.
And while ownership of digital transformation projects rests mostly with executives, the entire enterprise needs to not only be behind the initiative, but be ready and willing to compromise and collaborate in support of a mutual goal. Allowing individual employees to maintain their course while the rest of the crew works towards a new goal will only result in false starts and half-measure projects.

4) Socialize it

Digital transformation roadmaps often boil down to good communication. Every moment that follows the initiative to take that step into digital transformation relies heavily on communicating goals, strategies, approaches and responsibilities from the moment you get started.

To that end, socializing the various moving pieces of digital transformation roadmap becomes one of the most daunting tasks. In an organization with potentially thousands of employees, what’s the best way to make everyone feel up-to-date, and, more importantly, included in the digital maturation of a company? Don’t forget, people want digital experiences because it’s an immersive, enjoyable feeling to be on the cutting edge of tech — and that same feeling will go a long way toward getting people to understand the tasks you’ve set before them.

Long story short, getting the messaging out across the entire organization couldn’t be more important to guaranteeing that no one feels left behind or in the dark when digital transformation becomes a priority. Young or old, employees will want to know exactly how the face of the company they are representing is changing for the better in the digital age.

5) Remember, content is king

Digital transformation opens endless routes for interacting with and exploring new experiences across a multitude of digital channels and touch points. However, all the innovation in the world would be nothing without content worth “touching.”

That’s why it’s so vital to make a plan for more than just the structure of your digital transformation — transformation leaders must also be prepared with the content or content strategy to fill the new digital platforms they’re building.

Content has been and will continue to be king on digital platforms wherever and whenever they’re accessed. Without the meat and potatoes of digital — aka all the “stuff” — the roadmapping and planning can go underutilized. Moreover, having actual content ready to go once the digital strategy is fulfilled can meaningfully influence strategic decisions.

SUM OF ALL PARTS

The upshot of this is that companies need to coordinate with more than the IT department. As digital moves into every sphere of the business, open communication must likewise branch to those areas.

In fact, the concept of digital transformation can be an effective driver of better overall inter-departmental and line-of-business collaboration. When road-mapping a digital transformation, companies must anticipate these changing internal dynamics and adapt the business to be agile enough to let this collaboration between employees flourish. And sometimes, this teamwork may require leaders and workers to come out from behind their devices once in awhile.