Who Moved My Customer? 3 Reasons for Digital Transformation Now!

Who Moved My Cheese
Picture Amazon.com

Have you ever read, “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Dr. Spencer Johnson? If not, I highly recommend this book. It is a classic guide—if not the classic—about change. The message is simple: you cannot avoid change. You can either embrace change or “die from hunger.”

Professionals all over the world are talking about Digital Transformation these days, but the majority of businesses—especially SMBs—do not have a clear, outlined digital strategy. The VDMA in Germany published the following figure at a press conference at the Hannover Messe Industrie this spring: At the Hanover Messe Industrie this spring, the VDMA in Germany said that 40% of German mechanical engineering businesses stated that they have a Digital Strategy, although they may not be written down. We must ask ourselves if Digital Strategies will really support businesses if they are not written down.

More figures to consider:

“74% of 1,254 global business executives stating that they have a Digital Strategy, but only 15% believed to have the necessary capabilities and skills to execute on that strategy”

Forrester 2014

Translated, this statement implies that, even if the businesses have a Digital Strategy, they cannot successfully execute that strategy.

In three, five, or even ten years, the businesses that do not act now will have to ask themselves, “Who Moved My Customer?” To give you an analogy: Ten years ago, virtualization of servers was barely found in SMBs. Today, you can hardly find a business that does not use virtualization. Today’s most important paradigm shift for businesses is Digital Transformation.

Here are 3 ways to prevent you from having to ask, “Who Moved My Customer?” in a couple of years.

No 1—Understand the task

In order to embrace Digital Transformation, we have to understand that it will require ongoing change. The only way to do that is to investigate, research, meet peers from other companies, and reserve a considerable amount of time for this task.

Here are some things we need to consider:

  • IoT (Internet of Things) will change both our products and production. We need to understand the severity of this on business. (I will go deeper into this topic in one of my future posts.) Digitally enabling our products is crucial for future business. It will take a lot of effort to fully predict the future demands of customers in terms of IoT. We have to imagine the future by understanding today’s technology and what the future will most likely bring.
  • Digital production will come in the form of 3D printing, robots that share space with humans, and much more. If we want to utilize 3D printing, for instance, we also have to change the way we design our products. Merely placing a 3D printer on the shop floor is not sufficient. This example shows perfectly why Digital Transformation should be viewed from a holistic perspective.
  • Social media, obviously. Although many businesses already use social media, there are still those that don’t see it as a necessity. Especially in the B2B space, there is not sufficient understanding of how social media can be leveraged to improve business. Business is, and always was, about personal relationships. Today, personal relationships are increasingly built by using social media channels like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and even Instagram. If you know details of the private life of the purchaser, you have something to talk about to break the ice. This is also known as CRM 2.0.
  • Cloud technologies—Many of my blog posts refer to this. Using cloud technologies make us more agile, efficient, and competitive. However, it is not sufficient to merely move systems to the cloud. Along with that, we have to adapt our business processes and the way we work digitally. In my post “Friends Don’t Let Friends Build Data Centers Anymore” I elaborate on that in depth.

I have chosen these four examples, although there are many more to consider.

No 2—Prepare a Digital Strategy

Digital Transformation is like a massive tsunami, which is why we need to prepare a Digital Strategy. Without a concrete strategy on paper, we are like ships without a rudder. In this state, we are affected by currents, tides, and wind rather than a decisive course.

The CEO has to start the Digital Transformation process, but he most likely lacks the time needed to lead it effectively. Depending on the structure of the business, naming or recruiting a CDO (Chief Digital Officer) is the best possible way to make sure that digitalization is really getting done.

The job of preparing a Digital Strategy in cooperation with all departments falls on the CDO. This requires support from the entire, of course.

You can read more information about this in my post, “5 Reasons why Digital Transformation requires a CDO.”

No 3—Act now

Even from the few examples in this article, it is evident that this is a highly complex subject. A truly effective Digital Transformation does not take months to implement, but years. The fact that our competitors may start their digital journey right now emphasizes the critical importance of acting immediately.

Any business that wants to do that needs to follow these steps:

  1. Assign a CDO
  2. Build teams in the company that shed light on various aspects of Digital Transformation within different departments
  3. Prepare a concrete roadmap for your Digital Transformation. Quick wins along the way will help to keep the overall mood up. Remember, though, that many tasks will take a lot of time.

If we postpone this vital task, we might end up asking ourselves, “Who Moved My Customer?” Acting right away does not mean that we have to do all the steps immediately. Instead, we must be aware of the tasks ahead of us and follow the company’s roadmap, step by step.

The purpose of this blog is to start a discussion. Please leave your comments, whether you agree or if you disagree. I hope to hear from you!

About Alexander

Alexander Buschek is passionate about Digital Transformation and the opportunities it gives businesses—especially MSEs. He is convinced that every business has to embrace Digital Transformation in one way or another in order to survive. The sooner a business begins its Digital Transformation, the better. Alexander was the CIO / CDO of Braunschweiger Flammenfilter and CIO of Cherry GmbH. Prior to that he was an entrepreneur, consulting MSEs about IT strategies, providing external project management, and overseeing various IT projects (e.g. ERP and CAD implementation and migration). Working with many MSEs gave him a deep understanding of this market. Alexander is now Senior Director, Analyst (MSE) at Gartner.