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Caterpillars eating the ‘digital’ in digital transformation

Caterpillars eating the ‘digital’ in digital transformation

Business transformation in an SME world

I love to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, to my daughter. I use a silly voice to read it, she finds it funny. The caterpillar can be a metaphor for transformation, it keeps on doing what it does, day in day out: eating, crawling, being a caterpillar. Then one day, it becomes a beautiful butterfly via transforms.

First of all, I’ve dropped the word “Digital”. This is simply due to the common misconception that Digital Transformation puts the focus on creating a digital platform to solve any myriad of problems. Problems that could be otherwise solved differently. Also it’s important to consider that digital will permeate most parts of life nowadays. We should focus on the change(s) we are trying to achieve and not the means by which they are.

Transformation, digital products and process enhancement

Now we’ve cleared this up, let’s get into this. Transformation falls into two camps, the first being “Faster Caterpillars”, which is another term for process enhancement. Effectively taking what you do currently and making it faster, smarter, more efficient, better looking, more useable etc... So your ‘caterpillar’ of a business moves faster and competes better in its matured market. Working against like-for-like products/services via a technological change that enhances how your customers experience your product. So think about recent years where a) retailers have brought in click-and-collect services, b) banks are becoming more app focussed and c) public transport services are using more and more different payment options for customers. But essentially the customer gets the same thing at the end of the day, in a) you’ve bought a toaster, b) you’ve checked your balance after a night out and c) you caught a tube to Old Street...which was late. Now this is great, simply because it takes what I like to call “life admin” out of the hands of the customer, elements that wear down the experience are being polished and incrementally scalpelled out. It should be the commitment of any business (big or small) to do what they can to enhance processes on an ongoing basis to the benefit of the the short/medium term.

Why short-to-medium? Because improvements and innovations only become incremental and the level of service enhancement will become expected. Your customers will eventually not care as much...anyone underwhelmed by the last five iterations of iPhone upgrades? You end up with an almost never-ending space race to the bottom.

Business culture shifts complementing transformation and marketing

Long-term thinking brings us to our second (and most transformational) camp, which is culture shift. While you are making your ‘caterpillar faster’, you will have to understand that one day, whatever you do will become obsolete (see Blockbuster). Therefore you will have to think about what kind of ‘butterfly’ you want to transform into. The change you make that means that your customers are still satisfied by your existence and you, as a business, survive, in whatever form is appropriate to your environment.

So...let’s bring up marketing, yes! Marketing! By marketing I don’t mean adverts, flyers, websites or whatever collateral you may throw at your team/agency to produce. But the essence of what it means, the CIM put it best, with: “Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”

This means tapping into your customers’ needs, not the product that they want, but the deep-seated Maslow stuff that drives human behaviour. The simple fact that a new perspective can satisfy a human need for shelter (AirBNB) where the technology platform that drives it becomes a secondary thought. The key consideration to transformation for a business is down to which need you address, from the most primal level.

Since the environment our businesses operate in is ever-changing and changing faster, we may want to consider our transformation sooner...and more regularly. This requires attention at the highest level of the business to ensure key human needs are being satisfied.

SMEs and transformation

Why does this appropriate to SMEs? SMEs are best-placed to undergo transformation and adopt more agile working methods.The key reasons are down to legacy systems not being as cumbersome as in larger organisations, who are funding start-ups as part of their own transformational journey. SMEs tend to have flatter structures, with top-level MDs and CEOs having more visibility of customer interaction and “shop-floor” operations, enabling greater consumer empathy. Also the SME can be nimble, it’s easier to turn around a speedboat than it is to turn around an oil tanker, so the requirement for more fluid, regular transformation can be addressed sooner.

At Fly we think about how your business can change and how the experience for your customer feels. We want to help you enhance your processes and ensure you are meeting needs in the most effective way possible, plus we will always consider the basic human need you address and build the necessary tools to satisfy them.

Mark Woolaston is Commercial Director of Fly Agency and thinks about this sort of thing from time-to-time to try and help clients out. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

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