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Highlights from Embracing Change: How to Jumpstart Your Digital Transformation Panel Discussion

On July, 31 2019, Znode hosted the event Embracing Change: How to Jumpstart Your Digital Transformation. The event, moderated by ecommerce expert advisor and author Brian Beck, included a panel discussion on considerations for organizations undergoing digital transformations. The panel featured: 

Mark Joseph, Vice President of North America Sales, inRiver

John Ambrose, Digital Commerce Practice Director, Perficient Digital

Rupesh Agrawal, President & CEO, Znode and Amla Commerce

Below are highlighted questions and answers from the panel discussion.

Brian Beck: Digital transformation is about technology, ecommerce, and tools, but it’s also about more than that. How would you define what a digital transformation is?

Rupesh Agrawal: Digital transformation to me is the transformation of how you serve your customers and users, as well as the transformation your organization. Applications and platforms that we provide are one part of it, but you have to overall buy-in from top leadership. The transformation needs to start by thinking about how you can help your customer. 

John Ambrose: The people and the process aspect of digital transformations is huge, and that tends to be the most paralyzing aspect for organizations to just move forward with the technology piece. At the time that can be pretty straight forward, but it really needs to have some internal alignment and movement at the top to start pushing that along. Just as important as the technology to enable that journey is the people and the processes to rally everyone.

Mark Joseph: To me it's a mental shift from inside-out to outside-in. It's all about the customer. You really need to know your customer and their journey, and then you have to build your organization around that.

Brian Beck: What do you see as the most common mistakes companies are making when they're selecting ecommerce platforms for their digital transformation?

Rupesh Agrawal: An ecommerce platform is of course very critical to digital transformations, but the first mistake people make is that they go after a hot, flashy platform without asking important questions first. You must first understand your customers, user personas, your products, and your operations. Ask questions about your customers like “What do they do? How do they buy?” Once you understand that, start documenting all the requirements they need. You don't want to buy a platform that you're customizing 80% of over three years, you want to buy a sustainable platform you only have to customize 20% or less of. 

John Ambrose: The voice of the customer has to be pulled into that decision. We've done work with our manufacturing customers just to understand the right capabilities that they need for their customer base; so it’s making sure you have alignment there. 

Brian Beck: How long does it take to get started on a digital transformation and what kind of resources are needed?

John Ambrose: Depending on your company’s level of complexity, it could be a couple of months to half a year or so depending on the journey that you take. The key thing is that you want to do it in the most risk averse way. Iterate through the process and make sure that you're seeing results. Internal roles such as product managers can be key resources as a company’s digital channel starts to mature. 

Mark Joseph: There are many things you need to consider. Product information management, for example, is a foundational resource to have in the journey. It’s great to get everybody’s input during the digital transformation, but you really need to establish a smaller steering committee of decision makers that can lead the strategy and rollout effort.

Brian Beck: How can digital impact your sales and other business channels, online or offline?

Rupesh Agrawal: I know manufacturers are constantly worried about channel conflicts and sales teams are worried that they'll lose their job because ecommerce will replace their job. However, what sales teams need to understand is that digital transformations can make them more efficient because, for example, they may no longer have to take orders over the phone. It’s important to start educating sales on how ecommerce is the new generation of commerce, and then help them become more efficient in the digital age.