Skip navigation EPAM

Deliver Successful Digital Transformation: Focus on People

Deliver Successful Digital Transformation: Focus on People

This blog post is the first in our three-part series exploring why digital transformations fail and what businesses can do to make them real.

The impact of a digital transformation should reverberate across a business, from IT and marketing to sales and HR, and across all customer touchpoints. A transformation should transform holistically. It should accelerate processes across the business, introduce new services to address the unmet needs of customers, generate insight from across touchpoints to inform future activities, establish new competencies to support new business capabilities and more.

Unless all the pieces are considered together, you can be left with unrealized potential — such as new technologies that aren’t exposed to customers and internal users because no one planned to update the interfaces. Or newly designed services that can’t be used because no one was hired to operate them. Or even whole new channels that cater to an audience that doesn’t exist in that space.

Simply put, people are the key. Successful digital transformation relies on knowing your customers and helping your people drive the change needed to keep customers happy.

All too often, the commonplace silos within an organization prevent this integrated thinking, leading to transformation that stalls or fails to live up to its promise:

  • Technology solutions that don’t consider the real needs of customers
  • Experience initiatives that don’t consider the operating model required to run them
  • Business change goals that don’t provide the tools or training to drive adoption

Bring Customer Centricity to Technology-Led Change

Despite the countless articles on the importance of putting the customer front and center, we still see many briefs that are looking to change an organization’s technical architecture without including a customer perspective. We’re asked to diligently assess the maturity of each technical capability, to review the performance of each component, and to design future architectures that will follow modern architecture principles.

All of these are important activities, but without a deep understanding of the customer, their needs, wants and behaviors, the future architecture could easily include capabilities that no customer is looking for, or fail to address an otherwise unidentified gap.

Businesses selling consumable products such as printer ink wouldn’t have considered moving to a subscription model to ensure their customers never run out, if they didn’t know this was a common pain point. 

Banks were sure customers wanted the human touch of their branches, until they saw people demanding access to information and services 24/7.

Hotels felt confident in their owned channels, until they understood the hassle customers faced browsing through multiple competitor offerings, so they started integrating with aggregators.

Successful transformations must consider not only the technology, but the customers that will define the requirements that technology needs to deliver. This means CTOs need to work more closely with CMOs and sales and customer service teams to truly understand the different audiences. Customer research should be baked into any transformation projects, from surveys to one-on-one interviews, to surface insights on what customers are looking for—and thereby inform the solutions that can be delivered.

As part of our transformation work with LV= General Insurance, we conducted a 13-week customer research program, alongside consulting and co-creating with over 80 LV= stakeholders, to reshape the views and beliefs of LV= General Insurance’s board and senior team.

Evolve the Operating Model in Parallel

Great ideas need great people to make them real. To plan and design them. To implement and run them. Without the right people, and the right processes and tools to support them, the most exciting of opportunities may never materialize, or could even lead to audience confusion and, ultimately, failure.

Personalization can create far deeper engagement with a customer than presenting the same old boiler plate time and time again. But defining personalization use cases, building the technology and operationalizing the capability is no small feat. Someone has to be responsible for:

  • Identifying new opportunities
  • Defining personalization campaigns
  • Creating and uploading content variation
  • Implementing the rules around content and audiences
  • Monitoring and reporting on results 

Without the right team in place, the personalization technology will simply sit there, unused. A transformation stuck part way through.

Chatbots may enable self-services for many customer queries, but unless someone is monitoring the questions asked and where responses have both succeeded and failed, to continually improve the bot, problems will arise. A widely acclaimed launch could soon lead to greater customer frustration if users can’t find answers to questions on new products or services — compounded by the fact that the availability of call centers is now reduced.

In our transformation work with Vue, we created a new content studio model and team to leverage the new capabilities we were implementing, a team that has continued to partner with Vue for many years.

When exploring and defining the future audience experience, make sure you’re also reviewing the as-is capabilities from technology to operations; identifying the to-be state required to deliver on the new experiences; and defining a clear roadmap to close the gap. Without an integrated roadmap, you may be bringing in the wrong people or establishing the wrong processes, or even doing the right thing but at the wrong time. 

Functions need to collaborate throughout a transformation endeavor right from the outset, not just during implementation, with senior stakeholders from all major functions represented.

Ensure Change Management is a Critical Enabler, Not an Afterthought

Many times, we’ve spoken to a business department or business unit about their previous transformation attempts only to hear about new tools or ways of working that weren’t adopted because people across the company didn’t know about them or weren’t trained on them.

Organizations contain teams, and teams contain people. Humans come with a capacity for invention and ingenuity, for resilience and ambition, but they’re also at risk of fatigue, boredom, mistakes and false assumptions. Any transformation by its very definition will change someone in what they do, or how they need to do it. People only have so many hours in a day and asking them to make changes on top of that can be impractical or even paralyzing.

Our digital transformation research found only four in 10 companies had mandatory trainings for business and IT organizations on most or all critical topics underlying digital transformation and business success.

When considering a transformation, it’s important to simultaneously contemplate the appetite and capacity for change across the different parts of your business. Where might you need additional resources to support business-as-usual work while existing team members are retrained? Where did you already experience a failed transformation, necessitating extra support to make a second attempt stick? What part of your business should train later in the roadmap to ensure other teams with dependencies are already aligned?

An assessment of the readiness for change should be carried out early in defining a digital transformation, identifying not only the most obvious challenges but also opportunities to build upon, such as potential change ambassadors that can help drive acceptance and adoption.

Be Smart: Break Down Silos with an Integrated Approach

Successful digital transformations are holistic. They take an integrated approach, simultaneously considering the different lenses of technology, experience, business, operations and data. They understand the different components in these complex organizational systems, and the relationships between them. They connect the right people, at the right time during the transformation process, to gain the insight, commitment and enthusiasm of all those that will play a role in making the transformation a long-term success.


Hi! We’d love to hear from you.

Want to talk to us about your business needs?