Making digital transformation work for you

Photo of RSC cast onstage facing a full house to illustrate successful digital transformation

Digital transformation helped the RSC get to know its customers better and guide them to the content they wanted to see. Mark Armstrong of Progress and Richard Adams of the RSC ask: What can it do for your business?  

If one buzzword has gripped business above all others today it’s ‘digital transformation’. What’s more, explaining what it means needs even more buzzwords: “It’s about implementing an ‘omnichannel’ or ‘inside-out’ approach to your business strategy.” And so on.

Buzzwords are often poor disguises for a lack of substance. In this case, however, there are a number of ‘digital first’ businesses which have flipped traditional industries on their heads. Think Uber for transport, Airbnb for hotels and TransferWise for banking.

“But I am constant as the northern star” (Julius Caesar)

Established businesses and industry leaders are taking note and wondering how they can emulate that success.

Research conducted by Progress this year found that while 96 per cent of business leaders consider digital transformation important, 67 per cent of UK businesses think their organisation is in denial about it. There is a real fear of leaving things too late, with 86 per cent of those surveyed saying they need to make inroads on digitalisation projects within the next two years or face competitive losses; 59 per cent feared they were already too late.

Tradition is a wonderful thing. But a business doing something because it’s always been done that way is on a shortcut to failure. There’s always a newer, cooler and more agile competitor willing to give the customer exactly what they want.

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool” (As You Like It)

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is one organisation which has moved to address this challenge and focus on the benefits digital transformation can bring for audiences.

In spite of operating in a traditional industry with a loyal customer base, the RSC understood it could give audiences a better overall experience and make communications more effective by reinvigorating its digital brand.

It undertook a programme to rebuild its online presence from the ground up so they could personalise the experience of every audience member. It recognised they all have different needs and interests, and so set out to personalise the customer experience by understanding who, where and how they interact with the company.

For the RSC, moving to decision making based on data as opposed to the usual business hunches was a primary driver of its digital transformation programme. Understanding who each customer is, what their personal preferences are, and then delivering dynamic content based on that information would make every interaction more effective.

The visible heart of the programme was a brand-new, fully responsive website, which in time was planned to deliver unique personalised experiences based on customer interactions. Each customer will be pointed to the content they want to see.

For this to work, the RSC had to become a data-led organisation. It rebuilt its website from the ground up, implementing a suite of tools that allows it to make the most of customer data.

At its foundation is the Progress CMS and digital experience platform, Sitefinity, which, working with other tools including the Tessitura ticketing/eCRM system, deep analytics, instant polling and heat-mapping software, has given a tight circle of technology tools that develop a complete picture of users and serve them with content that meets their individual needs.

The RSC is also tracking the ROI on individual content assets and their effectiveness with different demographics. For instance, it has learnt video trailers are more effective with new customers than existing ones and can now deliver its trailers accordingly.

“Wisely and slow: they stumble that run fast” (Romeo and Juliet)

Digital transformation is like any other project in that it needs buy-in and understanding from all relevant stakeholders. The challenge comes from the fact that digitalisation affects your whole business.

A forward-thinking director can’t rush off and do this alone. The first step should be ensuring that every executive, department and employee understands what it involves and what it means for them personally.

The RSC understood this and set up a steering group with representatives from across the organisation so that everyone could contribute. At the same time, transformation isn’t a switch you can just flick.

Taking an iterative approach is the only way to test-bed new processes while providing the proof points of what is being done. Showing clear ROI in stages will help keep up the momentum of your project – and those little wins are great for employee morale, too.

“This above all: to thine own self be true” (Hamlet)

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes a company makes when undertaking a transformation project is to think there is a perfect blueprint to follow – that if it worked for them it will surely work for us. This neglects what makes your business unique.

It often culminates in a business throwing money at new technology and trying to shoehorn it in where they can. You hear about a company’s ‘digital strategy’ but that in itself is a problem. You shouldn’t have a separate strategy for digital; it should be part of your overall business strategy.

Look at ways technology supports your strategy and goals – if it doesn’t, then it’s not for you. The RSC focused on using technology that gave it a platform to create the experience its audiences want.

When it comes to digital transformation, the biggest risk isn’t choosing the wrong software – it’s a lack of internal alignment.

Understand what your customers want and how your business will meet that need. Then the details will start to fall into place.

For more on digital transformation

Visit Progress

This article was written by Mark Armstrong, vice president and managing director EMEA, Progress, and Richard Adams, consultant digital programme manager, Royal Shakespeare Company.

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Director magazine

Director magazine

Director is the magazine for business leaders. Free to IoD members and available to purchase through subscription, each edition is full of insightful interviews with entrepreneurs and company directors.

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