How to succeed at digital transformation

Businesses are almost universally undergoing digital transformation today, but only five percent of organizations say they have mastered digital to a point of differentiation from their competitors, according to a new report.

On behalf of Accenture Interactive, in May  Forrester Consulting conducted an online survey of 396 organizations across the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Germany, France, China, India, Japan, Brazil and Mexico to evaluate their digital and customer experience strategies. In the report, Digital Transformation in the Age of the Customer, Forrester found that "improving the customer experience" (21 percent) edged out "growing revenues" (17 percent) as the top business priority for the next 12 months.

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Additionally, companies pursuing digital transformation are primarily driven by increasing margins (58 percent), speed-to-market (51 percent) and customer satisfaction (48 percent), according to the report.

"Digital transformation at its core is a way to focus the organization and leverage a lot of the newer ways they can engage with their customers, employees and suppliers," says Jay Dettling, managing director, Accenture Interactive, and North America digital commerce lead.

"Look at how fast consumer behavior is changing and how great customer experiences are jumping industry boundaries," he adds. "Companies need to ask themselves how long customers will accept experiences that are just 'good enough'."

Companies are focusing their digital channel efforts on making customer interactions more engaging. The report found 63 percent are planning to enhance their online experience and 46 percent are looking to add or improve their mobile offerings. But only 39 percent are focused on improving their in-store experience.

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"Customer experience is now clearly at the heart of digital transformation, and digital is at the center of that customer experience," Anatoly Roytman, managing director, Accenture Interactive, and global digital commerce lead, said in a statement Tuesday. "But many companies have considerable ground to cover on their path to becoming digital enterprises. They're challenged with setting a digital vision and strategy, getting the right people in place and measuring digital success."

The report found enormous differences in opinion as to who should be setting the digital vision and strategy. According to respondents, ownership is currently divided between the CEO (38 percent), CIO (33 percent), chief digital officer (10 percent) and CMO (8 percent). But when asked who should own the organization's digital vision and strategy, it was the CIO who came out on top (30 percent), followed by the CEO (27 percent), the CDO (17 percent) and the CMO (8 percent).

[ Related: Why enterprise digital transformation efforts stall ]

"I think it's so hard because of the scope of the organizations which it impacts," Dettling says. "You have to connect different departments internally and align them to a set of goals."

To be sure, he says, technology is integral to digital transformation, but business strategy, operational processes and metrics all need to line up as well to make that transformation successful. The leader who sets the vision and strategy needs to have a strong handle on the technology and a clear understanding of the other elements as well.

"You're going to be making a significant investment in technology," Dettling says. "But if you're a business leader and you think that's the main point of emphasis, you're going to be missing the other legs of the stool. The best way to support business alignment is to make sure the digital strategy tactics support the business strategy."

Forrester Consulting and Accenture Interactive have four recommendations for leaders who are driving digital transformation:

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Thor Olavsrud

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