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Digital Transformation Part 3: Making the Plan a Reality

In part one and part two of the Digital Transformation series, we talked about the Head and Heart of digital transformation. According to BCG’s in-depth study, the winning formula is characterized by three key factors working together – the Head which is about aligning on a vision, the Heart which is about empowering our people on the journey, and the Hand which is about making the plan on paper a reality. (Exhibit 1)

Digital Transformation has been a key focus for organizations throughout the past decade; however, only 30% of the organizations report that their efforts have been successful. We dive into what the 30% do differently and consistently, to increase their probability of success by up to 80%. 

Exhibit 1 

In the first two sessions, we focused on how to begin on the right foot by mindfully setting a north star, followed by the importance of people-based transformation. In the final webinar of the series, we focus on the ‘Hand’ aspect of a winning transformation journey, and see how all the elements are interrelated and dependant on one another for a successful realisation of the vision through our people. 



So how do we hack transformation and make the small changes matter, and how do we pivot quickly as the future state evolves during execution?

Shiv states the evident truth that an organisation will not move up in maturity to multimoment in a night. Joanna echoes this sentiment, she stresses that transformation takes time; the solution is to set up foundational steps with smaller deadlines and more realistic milestones in place to build progress incrementally.

When undertaking the transformation journey there are four best practices to adhere to: (Exhibit 2)

  1. Measurable Impact – ensure discipline in execution and set teams up for success
  2. Collaboration – entrust your best leaders with the big rocks and ensure ongoing cooperation
  3. Capability Building – build capabilities while executing
  4. Ways of working – apply innovative methods, digital tools, and agile ways of working


Exhibit 2

The ‘Hands’ are a reality check – only in execution can the strategy be tested against the might of reality.

An unavoidable task in any kind of execution is decision making. How do we ensure we are making the right decisions? What areas do we need to address during a transformation? We split this into five main decision-making pillars: People, Process, Data & Tech, Channels and Partnerships. (Exhibit 3)

Exhibit 3

Some anecdotes and key points on what makes a successful transformation:

  • Sparking change in an organization can be seen as little fires that need to be ignited to drive overall transformation. The art of digital transformation lies in deconstructing the path to the North Star into small, incremental wins and identifying an evangelist to start and maintain the fire. An experimental mindset alongside the rigour and discipline of monitoring the many fires is integral to success; it’s important to start small, pivot, iterate, and scale fast.
  • The importance of understanding where you stand maturity-wise at the beginning of your transformation journey. An example can be seen from a telecoms company in the Philippines that wanted to increase personalization to a level on par with Starbucks. After three years, they were still unable to achieve this goal; their mistake was their failure to understand their current state before defining their North Star and the piecemeal efforts which come together to achieve the end state.  
  • We should leverage our internal knowledge base to build intelligence around consumer behaviours today and to determine the current baseline. This builds a strong, actionable foundation (even if it’s not 100% accurate) which informs us on how we should be growing, as well as helps the organisation to track progress for yesterday, today and tomorrow. There is a need to stay focused on driving the core business in defining key objectives and understanding the addressable opportunity, before solutionising and deciding how to get there. This embeds business criticality on how the vast available suite of solutions for data and tech can solve the business challenges.
  • Identifying use cases for technology as the bedrock of purpose, rather than putting the cart before the horse and getting a tech stack implemented without knowing what it will solve for.
  • Digital Transformation doesn’t need to be a big $10 million project, but it should leverage all the tools available to set you up for success. This includes partnerships, and a good partnership is one that is able to bring all the best-in-class teams together, in a simplified manner such that the marketer doesn’t get overwhelmed with that support system around them.

Often times, organizations are confused as to what partnerships will be required when undertaking a digital transformation – we often hear clients ask if they need a strategic or execution partner? An organisation usually need partnerships to transform, as the undertaking is so large. 

At the heart of any transformation is the people. Constantly changing priorities can leave us exhausted at best, and indifferent or cynical at worst. That is why it is important to ensure that all three elements of a winning transformation are present – the Head, Heart and Hand.

When embarking on the journey to greater digital maturity, remember that organizations do not transform, it’s the people who are living and thriving who do. 

Reach out to Merkle Singapore at [email protected] to discover how we can help you in your digital transformation.