How Leading Businesses are Waking up to the New Transformation Reality

April 2017

Our recent panel at Marketing Week Live brought together leaders from fashion, education and marketing to talk digital transformation and what it means for business. The panelists each brought their own perspectives and advice to the discussion, but agreed on one thing for sure: transformation is the new normal. So with all these opportunities at hand, how can we give it the spoonful of sugar that sustains our energy for constant change? Here’s what Accenture Interactive, Metail and Pearson, three companies already on the road, had to say about some of the key transformation drivers.

Keep up with the customer

Metail is a virtual fitting room service that’s changing the way women shop online, with company values tailormade for customer-centricity. ‘For us the customer is queen,’ says Chief Creative Officer Sarah Walter, ‘so everything we do starts and ends with the girl who wants to create her wardrobe - and we make it everyone’s job to stay as close as possible to her, wherever they work.’

Sarah recommends making the customer real - keeping in mind that what works for one team might not work for another: static persona presentations didn’t chime with their engineers, but screening vox pops where real women shared their reaction towards the product did.

Bernie Segal, Managing Director of Accenture Interactive, spoke about a client who holds regular customer afternoons where people across the business come and listen to customer stories. They stack those against what people are searching for on Google Trends, and use those collective insights to guide their pitches and ideas. ‘

‘For us, keeping up with our customer is about not being tempted to race ahead of them’, explains Geoff Seeley, Vice President of Global Customer Marketing at Pearson. ‘You need to really interrogate how new tech joins up with the customer and what they want. Strike a balance between being in tune with the customer now, and looking into the future. Don’t run so far ahead of the customer that you look over our shoulder to find they’re gone,’ he advises.

This is a topic which goes way beyond marketing’, Director of the Google Digital Academy Shuvo Saha speaking at Marketing Week Live.

Break in new technologies

New technologies aren’t just for shipping out to the customer, they can make an outsize impact inside the company too. How do you plan for innovations that benefit everyone?

As a former Vogue editor, Sarah took streams of bright and beautiful new things and edited them down to the very best examples of their kind. ‘I apply a similar approach to new tech: how are people using this, why are they using it; ultimately will it drive your product to greater success faster?’

Stretch your people not just your tech

As an education organisation, Pearson see how people learn best inside and out of the building. ‘We believe that capability and behaviour are two different things, and to really make an impact you need both,’ Geoff says. ‘It’s on every individual to bring their own energy and vision to what they’ve learned so they can take it back into the company and do new things.’

Top-performing talent won’t wait to be sent on a course either, they stay curious and participate in their own self-learning journey by staying across new trends and evolutions themselves.

‘We’ve seen lots of success by setting up guilds internally,’ adds Sarah. ‘The most important thing in any organisation is good people and if you encourage ongoing learning, you’ll keep them. We give 6 days of training a year and the guilds act as a space to share and explore the ideas they uncover there for the business.’

The start-up mentality’s not just for start-ups

At Google we live by this, but it can be tricky to enact alongside the realities of the day job. What does it take for organisations to provide a culture of innovation and a fail-fast mindset?

Bernie: ‘Firstly it is about getting the spark in the organisation. If you’re struggling to get people onside, think about what you’d bring to the board on a Monday morning - customers, videos, search trends - it helps to bring what you see outside, into the business. Next it’s about creating speed and getting the innovation underway. Funding the innovation can be done by taking cost out of the existing processes and re-investing the money into new areas and innovation. BMW have a good model: they’re doing big things in mixed reality and car visualisation - see what they featured at CES this year. To fund this experimentation they’re saving money in other parts of the business.’

Geoff: ‘This kind of thinking has to be championed at a senior level in order to rally the troops and show them where you want to go with energy. They need to know you’ve only failed if you don’t learn from failure.’

Sarah: ‘Internal hackathons are big for us to enable people to go into silos to try and solve a problem: that immersive experience really ignites passion. It might not work, and that’s ok: what’s important as a leader is to sponsor the failure but recognise when’s the time to sunset a project too.’

Embrace the dawning age of digital transformation

‘Business as usual going forward is digital transformation,’ Bernie concludes. ‘It’s now about how we organise our teams to deal with the big, medium and day to day opportunities that exist - digital transformation and innovation is the new normal.’

‘When I first pitched Pearson’s digital transformation strategy I was asked ‘when will it end?’’ recalls Geoff. ‘The answer is never. It just keeps rolling.’

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