Last week I read Rob Llewellyn’s review of the new book by McKinsey’s Jürgen Meffert and Anand Swaminathan, Digital@Scale. Rob knows his stuff, so I tend to listen to what he says and he was clearly impressed. Consequently, I bought the book and I haven’t been disappointed. This is possibly the best commentary on the subject I have come across. The authors are spot-on with with so many points and they make them clearly and succinctly. Most importantly, their analysis reinforces the case for “brand-led business transformation”.

They underline the need for businesses to move quickly. I’m staggered that businesses I encounter often haven’t made a step toward transformation and often don’t even have a plan. It takes years to transform even a modest SME and if you haven’t made the shift to the digital economy in the next two or three years, you will be in serious jeopardy. Remember, John Chambers and others have made it clear why 40% of businesses we know today won’t survive the digital economy.

I like the emphasis this book places on the role of managers and employees. Again, most senior executives I encounter don’t appreciate that, while they may be responsible for leading the transformation of their organisation, they are not the ones who will actually be carrying it out. That’s the role of managers and employees in the outer office, on the shop floor and in the field and they aren’t going to be able to do pull it off unless they understand and buy into the objective.

When I start a project I ask a lot of questions. These often concern quite basic stuff I would expect any executive to know. Things like the profile of their clients. The shallowness of the understanding many executives have of their business never ceases to amaze me and this is usually despite having all the data they need to hand. The authors of this book reveal that generally businesses analyse no more than 5% of the data they hold. Of course, this the principle of “drinking from the fire hose” of which we’ve always been aware and it highlights the greatest benefit of digitisation and the reason transformed businesses will eliminate those that don’t make the change in the next few years.

Another common feature of today’s businesses is their lack of customer focus. I’ve never met an executive who didn’t profess a focus on customer needs, but I am usually able to point to their website to demonstrate that they are not walking this talk. In fact, businesses generally tend to be self-obsessed. Websites are a great revealer. If yours talks about your business, it’s structure and products you are probably doing the same. A customer-centric business will lead with the benefits their offer provides for customers, the rest is, at best, supporting evidence and rarely interests customers. It is good to see this book highlighting this factor.

Of course all of these points and others the authors highlight are automatically addressed if you approach transformation in the correct way. That starts with defining your brand and, most importantly, its inherent “promise”. My Brand-led Business Transformation Programme places great emphasis on this initial part of the transformation process, but it also ticks all the boxes drawn by the authors of this book.

Transformation is about aligning a business to the opportunities provided by the digital economy and there is really only one way to approach this. It has to start with a process of discovery when your existing data is analysed and the findings incorporated with published insights, market facts and competitive analysis to establish customer needs and your capacity to respond to them. This in turn dictates a plan for filling your resource gaps, which enables you to narrow down your “brand model” with its “brand promise”.

Rather than rush straight to market with this though, you must first ensure that your organisation can deliver its promise, consistently. That requires every employee to understand and commit to playing their part in the delivery. I’m particularly pleased that the authors point out it will be employees not senior executives who develop the digital processes required, but they can only do so if they are dialled in and committed and that is the product of the internal marketing component of your brand development programme. Every business needs to get into the habit of internal marketing. It’s a continual process for any contemporary business. Only when your internal marketing has brought your employees on board with your brand can you take your proposition to market.

Remember, if you launch before you are confident of being able to deliver your promise the prospects you attract to your door will be disappointed. They say it costs ten times as much to attract a new customer as it does to repeat sell to an existing one, but once they have been disappointed and reject you, it could cost 100-times as much to bring them back again. You work it out!

There are many more great points raised in this book, but pretty well all the pitfalls the authors identify are resolved if we approach transformation as an end-to-end process whose starting point is brand. As far as I am concerned, that definitely makes it worth a read.

First published on LinkedIn September 2017

Phil Darby
August 3, 2018

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