Knowing the Customer Journey is Key to Digital Transformation Success

As more companies and their executives seek the business rewards of digital transformation, they can also put themselves unnecessarily at risk.

projekt202 Vice President of User Experience Michael Blakesley and Digital Transformation Officer Kevin Green recently discussed the importance of fully understanding the customer journey. Failure to comprehend customers' wants, needs and interactions with a brand can undermine a company's best-intended efforts at digital transformation.

Following are highlights from the interview with Michael and Kevin. The full podcast is available online.

[Digital transformation] needs to be a cross-company priority. It needs to be something that is really a metamorphosis of the business to think about ways that develop a mindset for innovation, not just a functional area.

The kind of case studies we see in the market are things that projekt202 has been doing for years, where we see an opportunity to innovate, to take an analog process or something that is a bit outdated, and coming up with a path for innovation through generative user research, doing some ideation, coming up with a backlog, developing that product and then iterating on that product, and trying to do that in a very cost-effective and very fast time-to-market.

[projekt202 Chairman and CEO] David Lancashire always says, "Digital transformation is what we've been doing for years. It's just the new term."

How do you really get the full 360-degree of the customer and understand what they're doing beyond just those data points? That's been the major catalyst for why digital transformation has become the number one priority for CEOs, CIOs and CMOs, regardless of size of business.

We're seeing a lot of additive touchpoints in that customer journey, which creates more overhead, more time, more challenges in the long run. That doesn't necessarily mean it's going to improve the customer's experience with your brand and that causes all sorts of challenges.

You have to understand that full end-to-end journey. You can look at the data and identify an area that may be an opportunity, but when you look at it through the lens of every touchpoint, you can find out that what you're doing may improve one data point, but it's going to completely disrupt and eliminate the value you're getting up and down the entire process. That kind of shortsightedness, that narrow point of view as you're going in and thinking about how to improve the customer experience, is probably the biggest mistake I think we've seen across the board.

What we try to evangelize to our clients is, understanding user needs is not [about] going out and having a lunch, and it's not a survey. Qualitative analysis is not sending out a link to a survey online where people can freeform responses to your questions. There's valuable information in that, but it's not observing people going through it. The only way you're going to understand why people will believe in your brand is if you go out there and understand what they believe in.

If you really want to capture the heart of your customer, be a part of that customer journey. A brand should want to be part of that journey.

You have to go out and understand these behaviors, map that journey [in] the appropriate way, and figure out how you add to that journey in a logical way to make you more part of their natural behaviors than a roadblock or something additive. You can be smart and do things that your customers want versus trying to keep pace with the competition.

The development of the customer story is so powerful, but it's also the basis for the organizational vision. A lot of digital transformation has to be championed from the top.

Developing that story and understanding the customer, then translating that into a business vision, is also one of the biggest issues that a lot of organizations are having today. They don't necessarily understand how to make that transition.

You have to think about what needs to change in the business environment to make sure that -- as this vision comes to life -- it is reflected and implemented all the way down and across the entire organization. We're going to see fundamental changes in how businesses structure themselves.

We've been seeing a lot of emphasis and interest on doing design systems. A design system is a way for product teams to get consistency. Once there is vision established of what it should be, they can quickly start to develop more products and innovate more quickly because they're not trying to solve the same problem over and over again. They're using all these tools in their toolbox, in this design system, to produce quickly, to iterate, to make things better. It's creating this more operationalized concept within the product teams to continually look for ways to innovate and to bring product to market that much faster. A design system's impact on product and design consistency is absolutely critical.

It's not a matter of just updating processes or trying to implement a new technology platform to make things happen better or faster. It's being able to define the vision of what the company's trying to achieve.

projekt202 is the leader in experience-driven software design and development. We are passionate about improving the experiences that people have with enterprise and consumer digital touchpoints.

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