Designing the organisation for a digital customer experience

The last two years have been the most disruptive for organisations and professionals in recent memory. Not only has COVID tested the resilience of the human race, it has also fundamentally changed the levers of core competitive advantage across industries. Thriving businesses, seen as disruptors in their respective industries, had to transform themselves overnight to adjust to the new normal. Organisations who ignore this or are slow to respond to this new world would either be completely out of business or risk a prolonged period of diminishing shareholder returns.

To achieve this transformation, there are three questions that CEOs and boards should answer:

Successful digital transformation and building personalized customer journey-led experiences have implications beyond technology and requires careful organisation design. It requires a redesign of the operating model, organisation structures, internal work processes, measurement frameworks, governance mechanisms and reward policies. Often organisations fall into the so called “technology trap” thinking that buying the best-in-class technology/tools or copying initiatives from digital natives (like the Spotify model) will overnight lead to digital transformation. For transformations to succeed, organisations need to be fundamentally re-wired and redesigned to derive the best value out of their technology investments. Organisations also need flexibility to adjust to the rapidly changing external forces and break organisational silos to give a “unified face” of the organisation to end customers. This is not a one-off activity. Organisations need to constantly “mutate” and reinvent themselves to be relevant in the marketplace for their customers.

What do companies need to do achieve this “holistic” digital transformation?

Delivering a seamless customer experience across journeys requires new ways of working and a change in mindset amongst the workforce. Organisations need to be designed in the context of their unique strategy, product/services, and capabilities. Whether to hire a Chief Digital Officer reporting into the CEO with a global mandate to drive digital or leave this to the business unit leaders will vary from organisation to organisation depending on existing strategy, operating models, ownership of P&Ls etc. For example, how a product-led company with multiple product lines across categories would organize itself to deliver a superior customer experience would differ from how a global function-led organisation would do it. Organisation design is all about choices. There is no perfect design, there are just designs that fit best on a set of “design principles” and then there are compromises while selecting from the available choices. And, just as the organisation adjusts its strategy to compete in the market, organisational design must also evolve and mutate to react to the business strategy. However, we do see that a few design principles remain consistent across organisations that deliver successful customer experience transformations. All such organizations should:

In a nutshell, to deliver digital transformation, it is imperative for leaders to redesign their organizations, build a digital culture, institutionalize agile and drive collaboration & risk taking amongst their employees. The extent of these changes would differ from company to company depending on their unique circumstances but would require focused leadership efforts on the key transformation levers discussed above. Finally, it is always good to seek external advice for neutrality and a fresh perspective. Leaders can leverage the established methodologies that consulting firms like Adobe Professional Services bring to the table along with their experience in delivering such transformations across multiple organizations and the expertise of their organization designers with the right mix of technical & business skills.

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