Question # 01
Hello Phillipa, thank you for taking out time for Branex. You are an experienced strategic leader of large scale multi-functional programs and have changed management initiatives and digital transformation for global organizations, so there is no one better to discuss about digital transformation. But before we continue, I would like to know how you started your journey?
Phillipa: It has been an interesting one, I can tell you that.
I started my journey in commercial. I have worked a majority of my career in sales and marketing. I had run various innovation product launch projects in my time, but was given the opportunity to use my skills outside of my usual challenges by leading large scale, global implementations for ingredient and specification changes, (for example) across the entire product portfolio and production footprint.
My first large scale program, with over 120 people involved, was for a value engineering program. The first time I, and the company I worked for, had done anything like it. I have had more than one global relocation, having to adapt professionally and personally, but this program was the steepest learning curve I ever encountered.
Little did I know that it was another key step to where I am and what I do today.
In commercial, our job is to focus on the customer and their needs.
In innovation, we focus on where our customers’ needs are as yet unmet, trying to find a solution to fill that gap and facilitating the required internal changes to make things a reality.
In marketing operations, we work to streamline processes, making them more efficient, and reducing time to market while also reducing risk.
In value engineering, we evaluate our entire product offering by sector and geography to ensure that it is fit for purpose in today’s world and delivers against customer and consumer needs and expectations.
All these steps encompass change, needs-based product and service delivery, and customer/consumer interactions. So, I see them as the perfect foundation for working within digital transformation, which is no different, as it is all about ensuring the best customer experience through streamlining processes and aligning it with IT.
Question # 02
Organizations are under duress to digitize services quickly at scale to meet rising the customer demands and create new revenue channels. What are your two cents for such organizations?
Phillipa: Although we are unsure of what ‘the new normal’ will be, it is critical for leaders to understand that ‘the next normal’ is going to be different to how things were pre-pandemic.
Combine that with the rate technology is advancing and being applied to streamline business processes to deliver ever improving customer experiences, then your imagination of ‘what could be’ is the only limit.
Something that is not possible today, may be tomorrow. If you are not ready, then your competition or new market player will be.
My tips may sound contrary to complex dynamics and the pressure felt to digitize, but they are critical to achieving success.
- Do not digitize ‘because everyone else is and you ‘feel you have to’. Digitize because you have a clear end vision, or ‘North Star’. The core set of technologies you bring into the business and every execution should contribute in some way to this vision.
- Establish the right digital leadership and internal mindset. Digital transformation is still seen as the challenge and responsibility of IT. Digital transformation requires a new, highly collaborative, relationship to be forged between IT and the business. Instead of letting IT dictate success, now is the time to transform how the rest of the business see IT by energising and exciting business leaders.
- Establish the right external mind-set. Those that win on the digital transformation front know that the main driver is always your customer, their needs, and their experience at every touchpoint.
The main areas where process improvement is focused to improve the customer experience revolve around:
- using advanced analytics to enhance customer intelligence
- leveraging mobile and eCommerce technology
- augmenting physical products and services with digital products and services
- integrating CRM and ERP functionality to expediate and improve customer service.
- Keep it simple to mitigate risk and minimize required long term investment. Cloud solutions flip the script from project based ‘one off’ investment to a more stable, long term funding. By implementing the ‘out of box solutions’ offered by various products and platforms, you can deploy new customer experiences within days. You also have the additional benefit of having ready-made best practice architectures without having to re-invent the wheel.
Some benefits of cloud-based solutions include faster time to market, easier scalability, reduced risk, enhanced analytics, and simplified innovation. Everything an organization looking to scale at pace and create new revenue channels should be looking for.
- Do not underestimate what it takes for adoption and to embed throughout the organization. Change management, including organization-wide communication, training, availability of learning resources and easily available support from IT, business leadership and product owners, is critical to the success of any efforts to digitize.
Good change management efforts are required to help employees transition from the planning stages through to post launch. You have to be prepared to change your processes, structures, and mind sets, sometimes dramatically. Communication efforts are also not to be underestimated in importance. The technical aspects need to be demystified so business owners do not feel like they are being spoken to in another language.
Question # 03
You have great experience with B2B and B2C, both are two different categories. What are some core factors and strategies you suggest for B2B and B2C businesses for their digital transformation?
Phillipa: To lead a successful digital transformation, you need to appreciate that B2B and B2C, work differently.
This has been highlighted through the many B2B companies that have directly imitated the tactics of B2C players, leading to their digital transformation efforts being disappointing or even failing completely.
Unfortunately, lack of success in B2B digital transformation through this ‘copycatting’ of B2C approaches has resulted in B2B leaders being sceptical about the digitization potential for their business.
What is failing to be addressed with a cut and paste from B2C is the market dynamics and customer behaviours unique to the B2B sector such as:
- Businesses often not having a single decision maker
- Complex value chains
- Structured and robust multi-layered decision-making processes in place
- The number and type of channels used in the decision-making process
For B2B, it is not a simple matter of being able to bypass various people or processes to get directly to the one-decision maker as it so often happens in B2C.
B2B success relies on navigating complex value chains and tackling the diverse needs of multiple decision-makers and influencers. When this is overlooked, digital transformation efforts will be disappointing or even fail completely.
What really motivates professionals (in my sector) to participate actively online?
How does their participation actively build on their reputation in the larger community?
How do you engage by capturing a wider scope that moves beyond your products?
If you manufacture food, for example, look at building an online community that houses recipes, nurture open partnerships with other complimentary products or services or with restaurants and chefs etc. Become a hub for the sector, it’s not about just you, it’s about being memorable as a solution provider and knowledge sharer, a giver, not ‘a product or service’.
Question # 04
Marketing has evolved so much in the past two decades, do you think there is still space for traditional marketing tactics? Being a digital transformation maven, what would you suggest to brands and startups who are facing difficulty with their digital and social media strategy?
Phillipa: You’re absolutely right. Marketing is a totally different discipline to what it was when I started. Those that don’t evolve are in danger of losing out to their competition and being left behind.
It’s not that there is ‘no room’ for traditional marketing. The basics are the same; artful storytelling, authenticity, transparency and tapping into needs and emotions.
What has changed is the numerous channels of communication that are now open to marketers, the varied methods of engagement you can now deploy and the instantaneous feedback relating to your product or service you can get.
If brands and start-ups are struggling to create their digital and social strategy, there are a few things I would start with.
- Tell your authentic story. The key things you should include in your story are your history, mission, inspiration, beliefs, drivers, goals, audience, and reason you exist.
- Be consistent. Every time someone comes into contact with your brand/company, they should see the same, consistent story across emails, social media, blogs, videos, printed materials, or response to customers.
- Provide value and interest. Share information. Show you know your stuff. If you are in the food industry, share great recipes, if you are in the fashion industry, share images and thoughts on the latest from the catwalk; whatever industry you are in, you can provide resources that answer frequently asked industry questions.
- Be honest, open, and approachable. Engagement, engagement, and engagement. That’s what marketing has always been about, but now, it’s just more accessible and instantaneous than ever before. Whether you are a B2B or B2C (or P2P), you need to connect with your customers on a personal level.
- Respond If someone engages with you, be it direct communication or via social media. It is critical to find the time to respond. Also, engage with customer and consumer generated content. It makes you/your brand more human, relatable, and memorable.
- SEO keywords (website)
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with various platforms and content types. Use analytics to see what creates the engagement and where your main customer base ‘hangs out’. Then, focus your efforts on those platforms and styles of content. You don’t have to be everywhere! Focus wins the game.
Special note: there are LOADS of free resources to upskill yourself (check out places like Google Digital Garage, Google Skills shop, HubSpot Academy, Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, and Hootsuite as starting points) or you can always hire a VA or content to support your content creation journey.
Question # 05
You have great expertise in Strategic Direction, Planning & Implementation, How Important do you think digital transformation is for Startups and established businesses? As an expert, what baby steps do you suggest for digital transformation?
Phillipa: Digital transformation is critical for all businesses to stay in the game. That doesn’t mean automating everything you can get your hands on and having the most sophisticated AI and tech available.
There is no one size fits all image as to what is needed and what it looks like. It will vary depending on your industry, your target audience, existing customer base, your operational geographies, what your competition is doing, your short-, medium- and long-term strategies, and what you stand for among many other things.
What is paramount is to focus on the best experience you can give to your customers and then use technology as the enabler to make this happen. Improving their experience could be anything from being more accessible, making knowledge and information easily available, and speeding up service and deliveries, to simplifying or making the order process more transparent.
The baby steps I would advise for those starting out
- Put people first – people in the middle – and people last. Digital transformations succeed by putting people front and centre. Every transformation project must
- begin with understanding the needs of your customers
- take your people with you on the journey, not underestimating the change management aspects by communicating and motivating throughout.
- close when all employee learning, development, talent management, governance and success criteria measurements are put in place
- Engage across the business before making decisions, in pre planning stages. No one person can drive all of the changes that are required for an organization to operate at a level of excellence for customer experience. Digital transformation can only succeed as a companywide initiative, which requires strong collaboration from company leaders.
- Understand your state of preparedness. Technology is outpacing how ready we are to adopt it. It is critical to understand how digital-ready you are for the steps you are about to take. If you don’t know what your customer needs, how can you make the right decisions? If you have not explicitly understood and written down your current processes, how can you build them into a new system?
Leaders need to implement the culture, processes, and technology that will enable their business to compete in the modern marketplace.
- Set yourself up for long term success. There are two areas you need to think about when setting up the post-launch governance; ‘run and maintain’ and ‘continuous improvement/innovation’. Run and maintain is about ensuring the day-to-day smooth running of the system, security measures and its interfaces with other solutions. Continuous improvement/innovation is about managing the longer-term outlook, such as the updates developed and pushed by supplier and any improvements driven by your business’ internal needs.
- Analytics, analytics, analytics. Analytical tools have changed the sales process beyond recognition. Analytics captures so much data; you no longer need to wonder where your customers ‘get their information’ or how they make decisions. You no longer need to hunt down your customers or try to figure out the ROI of campaign activities using so many assumptions the data is next to useless. Now you can see where your target audience is, what content they like to engage with, and where. This in turn feeds your digital transformation’s continuous journey. The more you know about your customers, the more you understand what they are thinking, wanting, and needing and can tweak their experience accordingly.
- Be willing to take risks and learn from mistakes.
Digital touchpoints will continue to evolve, and companies will need to take risks and develop agile processes to keep up. It also helps to look at whether every change requires a detailed business case with companywide approvals, or if you can define a different way of working that empowers leaders to deploy new functionality that is consistent with the strategy that targets improvement of customer experiences quickly. This approach also helps ease investments and manage risk levels through phasing implementation of new capabilities over time.
- Find partners who can fill the gaps. However digitally mature a company is, it is unlikely that they will have all the required skills in house. The faster technology continues to evolve, the more likely it is that this gap will increase. Rather than trying to futureproof your in-house teams for a future none of us know yet, a much wiser route can be to partner with third party solution providers. It is often cheaper and faster than trying to build all possible required capabilities internally.
Question # 06.
Lastly, Branex is a Software and App development plus digital marketing agency that helps startups and small businesses go digital. How important is it for businesses, new or established, to collaborate with professional digital media agencies?
Phillipa: Very few companies have dedicated in-house capabilities to develop software and apps – so whether you are a global player or a single person start-up – this is something better left for the experts.
They know how to bring your vision to life through technology and take the stress out of development by leading you through each step of the project/process and knowing all the details behind how to make things work across different platforms for a seamless customer experience.
They also stay on top of the latest trends, innovations, and emerging technologies, so you don’t have to. In a world where tech is moving faster than the blink of an eye, this knowledge and insight adds enormous value, allowing you to focus on running your business and keeping up with the latest developments in your industry, while still being able to harness and benefit from the most relevant tech.
When it comes to digital marketing, the need is just as great. Larger companies tend to have some dedicated resources in this area, but they nearly all work with agency partners to bring their vision to life. When you are a smaller operation, it is even harder to find the hours to run your business and digital marketing simultaneously. Using a partner agency who understands what needs to be done and knows how to get the most out of digital, is an investment, not a burden.