As our world embraces all things digital at relentless speed, the commonality of language, understanding and impact for your business can be ambiguous.
It can be open to a large amount of interpretation and this can often lead to a mismatch in expectations.
‘Digital transformation’ and ‘Omni-channel’ are the key terms that are often used; however, sometimes in searching for that commonality and understanding, it’s almost like asking: “What is The Meaning of Life?” when you hear some of the responses.
I took a look at my own credentials in this world and realised that my experience goes back 20-plus years covering more than 25 websites across 10 companies embracing 50+ countries. This covers a multitude of business operating models, various website stages from evolution to revolution and includes the integration of clicks-and-bricks in a number of initiatives.
As a senior leader or CEO in those businesses past and current, I was always looking to refine and truncate what truly mattered for customers, optimising sales and profitability and therefore needed simple (please) dashboards and codification (ideally one-pager please) to help me drive the business.
Fortunately, I worked with exceptional people and partners to achieve this common language and way of operating in very dynamic environments.
With the ambiguity and variance in what digital transformation and omni-channel means I decided to ask a number of senior leaders in positions of Chair, CEO, Chief Digital Officer and other leading executive positions what their understanding and answers were to the three questions:
- What does digital transformation mean to you?
- What does omni-channel mean to you?
- What does the Meaning of Life mean to you? ☺
What had the most commonality of patterns of understanding? Yes, you guessed it, the Meaning of Life…. which was a combination of Monty Python jokes (for those of a certain vintage) as well as some genuinely heartfelt comments about what it really did mean to them.
What does digital transformation mean?
The patterns that emerged on digital transformation were interesting. First of all, respondents had experienced a wide variation on what it means in their own stakeholder interactions, including some disliking the term ‘digital transformation’.
However, the key common threads were:
- Resetting the central importance of digital within the business and dealing with the speed of shift in meeting customers’ evolving expectations
- Using this reset to transform the ability of businesses to improve processes, people and customer experience resulting in new revenue streams and / or cost savings
- Customer-centric thinking which included machine and AI learning (which is becoming more personal and desirable), however then checked by the brand’s purpose, human spirit and creativity, acted at speed, to give that brand a key advantage.
What does omni-channel mean?
The patterns that emerged on omni-channel were a little more congruent and equally interesting. As with digital transformation, the people I asked had also experienced a wide variation on what it means in their own stakeholder interactions.
The term itself generated paradoxical views from loving the term to actively disliking it. The key common threads were:
- Communication without restrictions between channels
- Profiting by meeting the needs of customers, in whatever way they choose to interact
- ‘A single ecosystem that connects every touchpoint with the consumer from the consumer’s perspective, unlike multi-channel which is from the business / operational perspective’
Prior to the research I had more than suspected this wide range of interpretation. I had therefore engaged with co-founder Nathan Lomax and his superb Quickfire Digital agency team.
The core objective was to create a combined product of Quickfire’s technical expertise alongside my own real-life examples of running brands as a CEO when I needed to maximise sales, profitability, and customer excellence.
It’s a modular roadmap to help you understand where you are at on your digital transformation journey, strengths, and areas to develop, and the modules best suited for you to apply to your business.
On omni-channel, I have been working with the equally superb Sentinel Management Consultants and their CCO, Richard Reed, on a training course initially positioned for Key Account Managers in the FMCG world which is now complete.
Again, we will be looking to pilot shortly and if you want to know more, let me know. This effectively looks at the changes in the omni-channel world and how best to understand and apply them to win in your business.
And on the meaning of life? Whilst there isn’t a training course or product to buy into (yet ☺), it has provided a rich level of debate on what’s really important, surprisingly heartfelt, as well as some great jokes! For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Monty Python sketch (or even, who are Monty Python), I leave you with their own interpretation:
“Nothing very special…. try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”
Pretty simple then.
About the author
Vince Gunn runs his own business consulting firm and is a former CEO, CCO and MD of brands such as Farrow & Ball, Sofa.com and Crocs. He is also non-executive director of Pagazzi Lighting. Connect with Vince on LinkedIn.