Digital Leadership. A New Way to Create Value

These are amazing times to be a Project Leader.

New technologies are driving exciting changes to the way we engage with our clients, opening up new opportunities and expectations.  More and more, market leading companies are driving success through “digital transformation”, using information and technology to transform the way they understand and engage with their clients, focusing on their behaviors and expectations and customising their user experiences to create a “stickier”, more personal relationship.


The conversation has changed.

No longer do we think in terms of “old school” client engagement, based around a defined product offering with “off the shelf” sales and fulfilment. Digital transformation means that clients are now looking for a new way of engaging.

“The market boundaries has shifted.”

“Our clients’ expectations have changed.”

“If you’re not digital, you are not in the game.”

As Project Leaders, should we be taking notice of this “digital conversation”?  Yes.  We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change the way we engage with our clients – to think about our clients’ success with a digital mindset, to deliver value through creating a more personal, responsive relationship and in turn, redefine the way we measure success.

The old “iron triangle” of scope, schedule and cost has lost a little of its lustre.  It’s time to change our approach.

Reshaping the Customer Experience

Digital transformation is driving fundamental changes to the business landscape. The challenge for companies is not whether but rather, how to respond to these changes. Indeed, when we sit back and think about the value to be derived from adopting a strategic digital mindset, the case is compelling.

Brand awarenessInterbrand’s top 100 global brand ranking (2016) shows 6 of the top 8 global brands as being part of the “digital ecosystem”

Share priceWatermark Consulting draw strong correlations between market success and a focus on customer experience; those companies that focus (do not focus) on enhancing the customer experience, consistently out (under) perform the S&P 500 Index.

Customer loyaltyForrester Research shows a positive correlation between those companies that focus on outstanding customer experience and revenue gains tied to customer loyalty.

Digital experienceAccenture research shows that 74% of businesses are creating omni-channel B2B models to “meet client expectations” –  marketing strategy in increasingly recognising that getting the digital experience right helps transform our customers from single purchasers into long term partners.

Companies that are leading the way in developing a digital customer experience live and breath these points.  They understand deep down that “being digital” means more than focusing solely on technology; it means reshaping the customer experience through digital solutions to better understand their customers and create engaging, personal experiences.
So how can we identify the stand-out companies that are responding effectively to the changing digital landscape?

Targeting our Clients’ Digital Gaps

MIT and Capgemini argue that a company’s response to the digital landscape is a combination of what they are doing and how they are managing it. When we blend these two characteristics together, we can think about a company’s digital maturity in four levels.

  1. Beginners carry out a few ‘digital experiments’ without committing to a digital strategy
  2. Conservatives have a firm grasp of ‘how’ to do digital, but have not made any serious investments or commitments
  3. Fashionistas have many digital activities underway but without a firm grasp on the “how”, they lack a coherent strategy
  4. Digirati balance the ‘what’ and ‘how’ and are able to drive value from a broad, well-managed approach

Understanding our client’s digital maturity is key to leveraging leadership opportunities. MIT/Capgemini argue that Digirati outperform their peers in every industry, with consistently higher revenue, net profits and stock prices.

Here’s the thing though – not all companies do this as well as others. In fact, MIT/Capgemini also argue that only 25% of companies are Digirati, meaning that the remaining 75% have room to move up the digital maturity spectrum.

By identifying and understanding the 75% non-Digerati companies, we can find opportunities through our practices and outcomes, to actively drive a Digirati mindset.

This is the essence of Digital Leadership.

Creating New Client Value

Unsurprisingly, getting to grips with the digital landscape is challenging to Project Leaders who are up to their elbows in daily headaches and rusted-on client work practices.

But that’s where a digital mindset helps us stand out.

It helps us to think beyond the immediate, to peer over the horizon and look for longer term, strategic opportunities to drive superior client outcomes. It allows us to think about where our clients sit on the digital maturity spectrum and look for the opportunities to fill their gaps.

Why? Because understanding how we can lead our clients along the spectrum gives us a terrific chance to create extra, lasting client value.

The old ways of connecting with our clients – the tired, rigid, one-size-fits-all practices, no longer work. Customers and suppliers can now connect and engage from across the world, faster and easier than ever before.

Our benchmarks for client satisfaction have been smashed apart, our measures of success have been redrawn and the Project Leaders that prosper are those that adapt and use digital solutions to reshape their clients’ engagement.

Project Leaders can use a digital mindset to create niche value, by changing the way they engage their clients, establish their programs of work and drive business value. They extend their thinking beyond the traditional project boundaries and help their clients see where they can add extra value and open up new opportunities.

So what does this mean in practice? What are the practical steps that Project Leaders can adopt?  Let’s start by thinking about why Digirati companies stand out.

  • Digerati balance the focus on how and what; they build a systematic, long-term approach towards digital transformation, blending culture, governance, vision and capabilities.
  • Digirati make considered, strategic decisions about where to make digital investments; they understand which channels drive the best returns and target those that provide the best strategic, value-driven outcome.

Project Leaders can leverage these characteristics by adopting some simple behaviors:

  • Lock your program of work into the client’s wider vision. Look beyond your project horizon. Show the client how your program aligns with the overarching vision. Looks for ways to embed your outcomes and help shape customer understanding across the wider organisation, far beyond the original project audience.
  • Bring cross-business representatives into your network. Build a network of cross-business supporters and flag wavers from across the client organisation. Let them see how your team’s work can help them reshape their own workplace.
  • Create a top-down digital culture. Successful digital transformations are driven from the top down – whilst the grunt work is done from the bottom-up, senior leadership support is critical. Invest serious time and effort into managing your senior stakeholders and helping them see their business with a digital mindset.
  • Create a strong IT/Business working relationship. Foster the lines of communication – collaborative, creative, fearless. Think beyond your immediate team and look at the broader organisation. Have you tapped into the right forums, made the right connections with your influential stakeholders, engaged the right business units?
  • Build digital skills. Consider your team members and ask whether they have the right digital skill set. Do you need to engage specialist expertise, train your team or roll skilled resources in and out as your program requires?
  • Drive value-add delivery into strategic domains. Ensure that you deliver into clearly defined target channels that line up with the client’s long term strategy.
  • Map out a digital capability. Seek opportunities to leverage your solution across the client’s wider organisation by linking customer-side (social, mobile, online) and operational-side (data analytics, enterprise collaboration etc.) capabilities. Rather than delivering a solution that sits in isolation, look for ways to position the client with a scalable, long term platform that brings together a funky customer experience with enterprise-wide data analytics and decision making.

Pulling it all together

The numbers are in and the market has spoken.

Market leaders are responding to the emerging digital landscape by re-imagining their customer experiences through a digital context, using data to build a more detailed, personal understanding of their customers’ behaviors and expectations then building responsive, digital user experiences that help transform the customer relationship.

When we consider that not all companies are adapting as well or at the same pace, then opportunities to add transformational value through adopting a Digital Leadership mindset jump out at us.

Digital Leadership challenges us to understand our clients’ digital maturity, identify the gaps, lead them towards a Digirati mindset and help them re-imagine their own customers’ experiences.

Get this approach right and we can create opportunities for additional, lasting value.

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