Dickens's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come painted a bleak picture for the ‘covetous old sinner’, Scrooge. He was shown a vision of a lonely end, with his death unmourned and his grave left to rack and ruin.
In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge has the opportunity to prevent such a fateful outcome, by changing his miserly ways for the good of both himself, his employees and his fellow townsfolk. Scrooge does, indeed, repent and becomes, "...as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world."
Now, I don’t for one second wish to imply that the C-level of your organisation are akin to the avaricious Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley, and deserve terrifying, supernatural visits. However, the moral of Dickens’s festive tale holds as much relevance today as it did back in 1843, and teaches an important message which business leaders can learn from.
There are two types of organisations in this world or, to be more precise, two types of business leaders. Those with entrepreneurial spirit, who aim to stay ahead of the curve and embrace digital modernisation to secure the long-term success of the business they lead. And those who don’t.
Fezziwig vs. Ebenezer
For the sake of this article let’s call the ones who do ‘Ebenezer’ and the ones who don’t ‘Fezziwig’.
You may think that I’ve got these the wrong way around. After all, wasn’t Fezziwig the jovial merchant who was renowned for putting employee happiness at the core of the business? And Scrooge was, well, the complete opposite?
Our dear Fezziwig may have been a lovely chap but, fundamentally, was a bit rubbish at business and outrightly refused to embrace change. “I’ll have to be loyal to the old ways and die out with them if needs must”, he says to a fellow businessman. And die out with the old ways he did, when the disrupters overtook him with a competitive advantage that he simply wasn’t equipped to counteract.
If your organisation is headed up by Fezziwig, yes, you may well have a cracking Christmas party, but by the New Year, the following will befall you…
The Fate of Fezziwig Enterprises
Buy now, pay later…
Digital transformation will continue to be a key priority for all senior and middle management, but our Fezziwigs will be in no hurry to change, as they fail to understand the value of digital modernisation. Instead, they will seek to gain market share and competitive advantage with an aggressive acquisition strategy, which will simply compound operational inefficiency.
Acquisitive businesses must address the digital challenge, otherwise streamlined integration and centralised digital management will be an impossibility. Fezziwig’s digital estate will become disparate, impacted by unintegrated legacy systems and a quagmire of issues for his poor CIOs to try and sort out. The global brand messaging will become disjointed, inconsistent and CMOs and CDOs will have a raft of customer experience headaches.
Personalisation will continue to be a bandied-around buzzword, dropped into Marketing’s digital vision and board meetings as a top priority. A hasty technology investment will be made, and a silver bullet will be expected to pierce the customer experience challenge in a flurry of increased conversion, loyalty and revenue.
Unfortunately, this won’t happen. Why? Because the first, most vital step was missed out. Before even considering personalisation, an organisation must address the four pillars of its Digital Foundations – People, Process, Platform and Performance.
It must fully understand its customers and their needs. It must ensure it has built its internal capabilities with the right skills to deliver its digital aspirations. It must put in place the appropriate processes and set the success measurements and KPIs. Then, and only then, should a technology investment be considered.
Let me help myself
Fezziwig will be so busy yelling at his team to sort out the mess of yet another failed integration of an acquired company’s IT systems, data and digital estate, that he will forget all about his customers.
These customers will continue to be frustrated that their expectations to self-serve online are not being met, and they’re still having to listen to abysmal hold-muzak for forty minutes, every single time they need to contact Fezziwig Enterprises’ international call centre.
When they finally manage to speak to someone, they have to answer a raft of questions about themselves, despite them having been a customer for over ten years, and then reiterate their request, which they've already explained on email. And on an online form. And on a previous call. And on Twitter.
Like the cumulus over Mount Olympus, The Cloud will continue to hold the answer to every single technology performance problem, ever. Despite these problems not undergoing any analysis for the root cause, in the context of the wider business strategy.
Heavy investment in cloud solutions will ensue, only for the performance issue to still exist.
The Elevation of Ebenezer Enterprises
Upon meeting the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Ebenezer Scrooge exclaims, "I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good…”
In the context of this article, if Ebenezer was a CEO in today’s climate, this ‘good’ would have come in the form of a well-considered and all-encompassing business transformation strategy, focussing on the four foundational pillars.
Ebenezer and his senior management team understand the importance of investing in the people, processes, tools and platforms to ensure the on-going success of the organisation’s business objectives.
Budget is approved against a well-considered digital roadmap, and managers are empowered to make the right decisions, based on pre-defined KPIs and success measurements.
Across the business, everyone is aware of the organisation's core objectives and the role they play in achieving them.
Stakeholders from across the business have bought into the company’s digital vision. A core team oversees the centralised digital management, and content editors from across the organisation’s international markets are trained to deliver localised content.
Newly architected digital processes enable Ebenezer’s marketing team to create global, localised campaigns quickly, with consistent brand messaging and digital assets delivered from the DAM. There is a process in place to enable the translated content to also be used for other online and offline channels.
Ebenezer invests in self-service development, which enables his customers to manage their account online and drives operational efficiency, as the number of calls coming into the call centre rapidly decreases.
The systems used within Ebenezer Enterprises’ call centres provide a single view of the customer, charting all the interactions a customer has had with the business, across all channels. The rubbish muzak is ditched, as calls are handled at a much faster rate, and customer satisfaction scores reach an all-time high.
Ebenezer’s CIO drives the Digital Transformation agenda, in collaboration with the CMOs and CDOs. The CIO instigates business modernisation by investing in technology which will drive efficiency and reduce global marketing and operational costs.
The CIO won’t bin all pre-existing platforms, but will instead seek to invest in technology which can expose the digital gold buried within them, and which can be fully integrated with important legacy systems.
The new systems will be more accurate in their segmentation and personalisation capabilities. This will provide Marketing with the tools it needs to deliver truly relevant content to the organisation’s global client base, through the right channels, at the right time.
Delivering data-driven campaigns will be at the forefront of Marketing’s mind. It will invest in the staff development needed to ensure continual, consistent analytics. By doing this, there is an enhanced understanding of the marketing levers of Ebenezer Enterprises’ digital estate, and how to best achieve the goals for the year, as defined in the joint digital marketing plan which was agreed by Sales, Marketing and IT.
A Digital Measurement Framework will be put in place, so everyone in the business knows exactly what success looks like, and they all work towards a common goal. There is a wide understanding that the digital measurement KPIs enable the business to accurately report progress against planned performance, and they are shared in the recently reviewed monthly board meeting agenda.
Customer feedback routes provide the business with excellent insight on how to continually optimise the services it provides. Campaign and conversion analytics help steer A/B and MVT testing, which takes place on an ongoing basis and continually improves conversion rates across the global digital estate. Conversion stats are understood globally, and best practice is shared with regional colleagues in quarterly update meetings.
Be more Scrooge
If your organisation is seeking to ramp up its Digital Transformation plans in 2016, it is imperative that it first undertakes a Digital Foundations assessment. From that, a digital road map can be agreed and the right investment made at the right time.
Unlike Fezziwig, C-Level must be willing to instigate this change, and ensure the business has the right capabilities, processes and platforms to deliver it.
Customers will continue to be frustrated until their expectations of a localised experience, in their chosen language, enables them to self-serve. The key to truly improving customer experience in both B2B and B2C sectors, lies in developing a single customer view, and harvesting that data to provide relevant, meaningful engagement.
Digital presents an unrivalled opportunity for delivering global success for all organisations, but to maximise this opportunity takes careful consideration and, above all else, an entrepreneurial spirit.
If you’d like to discuss how you can improve shareholder value, streamline operating processes, improve insight and reduce your technology footprint on a global scale, please get in touch.