The evolving terminology mess and promised golden solutions
If you have run a digital transformation project before, you know this one. You know tech people love jargon. Sales people that got you to the tech people love to over-promise. You will see fancy moving things and shiny colors and feel like robots are roaming the streets. Before long you will loose focus on what matters most: Creating value for your business. There is a usual suspect when you cannot understand how the conversation is relevant to what you do. The other party is clueless about who your customers are and what their customer journey is.
Do you know your customer?
When you started your business you had a customer in mind that would be a great fit for your products and services. Your team evolved and now it is more than you and an idea. With hard work and luck your team might have grown quite a bit. Your customer have evolved, too. Their purchasing habits have changed. What they care about has changed. Their relationship to your business is not the same. When you run a business you are joining your customers in their journey, they are not joining you. This is true no matter the business size. Your challenge is to keep up. What you spend in digital transformation projects, you do so you can keep up. It cannot help you have an understanding of your customer core needs as it relates to your business. Your talented team should know the customer. The talented agency you hire, should know your customer. They don't always do.
Does your digital transformation partner know your customer?
Many times you will find agencies and professionals try to avoid asking questions. They want to be the image of an advisor who knows it all. They might fear being perceived as less capable if they have to let you know that they don't know. Yet, they don't. We don't. The right consultant will bore you with questions focused on your customers. You see, development agencies have talented people on board. They spend a lot to hire the best. That said, these talented people are technology focused. Amazing as they are, they have no clue about what you do and how all their talent can help you. That's why you should insist to let them know, and be glad if they bore you with questions.
Why does it matter?
Software developers can build amazing things. Their peers will cheer them. Technical minded people will look at their work in awe. They have a thing for solving problems that don't bother anyone for the fun of it. The excitement will sweep you as you and soon enough you loose focus. It helps to stop and ask why you are doing something. If the answer to that question does not come back to your customer, you are wasting your time. Without customer focus, no matter how fancy your project is, it will not be relevant. You will fall out of step with your customer and it will be costly to get back on track. Your business, any business, depends on meeting customer needs as it relates to what they do. If you cannot come up with a reason on why and how a solution benefits your customer, you are wasting money. You can only benefit and add value when your customer benefits and gets value. Do not ask why do you care. You might care for countless reasons. Ask why your customer should care. This takes us a modern challenge of customer focus.
Too much data kills customer focus
Harvard Business Review described this problem perfectly in 2016:
After decades of watching great companies fail, we’ve come to the conclusion that the focus on correlation—and on knowing more and more about customers—is taking firms in the wrong direction. What they really need to home in on is the progress that the customer is trying to make in a given circumstance—what the customer hopes to accomplish. This is what we’ve come to call the job to be done. Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done” - Harvard Business Review
The issue has gotten worse in the last years with data is front and center. We get bombarded with it. On Google Analytics we can segment visitors by education, gender, age, geography, interests. We are humans. Give us data and we will make sense of it in a way that is relevant to us. Agencies promise unparalleled insights into user data. That does not mean customer data. That is user data. Knowing your customer means knowing how they related to your product. Why they need it and what problems it solves for them. If you are selling water filtration products to families, the fact that they speak Spanish is irrelevant. You do not need to know. You should not pay to know. If you started your business in San Antonio, 36% of people speak Spanish. That does not mean that Spanish speaking customers prefer your product. It means your business is in San Antonio. It does not tell their story, it tells your story. Reject what information you do not need and be good at telling it apart. Gathering data is easy. It is cheap. It is meaningless unless you asked for it to begin with because it solved a problem you had. We live in an era of unsolicited data feeds. For most businesses wholesale data will not tell you more about your customers than what you can get by meeting them. It will just distract you. Focus on helping customer get things done and make it easier for them. Wholesale data is descriptive, but not predictive. You should decide what data you need based on what you do. Don't make important decisions on data that is not specific to your needs. Next time your digital transformation partner shows you a dashboard with nice charts, ask how that gets you to solve your customer problem. Kill that chart. That takes us to a universal solution.
Keep it simple
Keeping customer focus is not difficult if you remember why you are in business to begin with. Remember the struggle you are trying to solve. Keep in touch with your customers. Keep solutions and spend money on serving them better. Solving their problem faster, cheaper, conveniently. That's what true digital transformation is about.