The State of Digital Transformation
A Pulse Check from Vlocity @ Dreamforce '17.
There’s no bigger or better event on the planet to learn about digital transformation than Dreamforce, sponsored by Salesforce and held this year November 6-9, 2017 in downtown San Francisco.
There were more than 170,000 conference participants, and Vlocity hosted more than 200 customer/prospect meetings and over 40 product overviews, customer sessions, and CXO events.
It was particularly awesome to see 14 Vlocity customers on stage at Dreamforce sharing their successes to packed crowds - describing their experiences working with Vlocity on digital transformation while sharing the results of the tangible business impact of “becoming digital”.
Dreamforce provides a unique opportunity for companies to learn from experts and share their own experiences with digital transformation. With so many thousands of participants focused on the topic, I thought Dreamforce 17 would be a great opportunity to conduct some first-hand research on the state of digital transformation, as described by Dreamforce attendees themselves.
I decided to conduct a quick poll with 100 customer participants, asking just one question as attendees moved across the Dreamforce Park from one information session to the next.
“What one word best describes the status of your company’s digital transformation effort?”
Asking for just one word kept my research simple (and hopefully not too invasive and maybe even a little fun). The one word response also allowed me to classify a company’s overall sentiment on digital transformation. Many respondents had an immediate response, while others spent several minutes thinking before responding. One guy came back to me 15 minutes later asking if he could change his answer, which suggests at least some participants were quite thoughtful about their responses. I offered every participant the opportunity to see other respondents’ anonymous answers after sharing their own. More than 90% of participants wanted to see what other people selected for the “one word” they used to describe the status of their company’s digital transformation effort. I didn’t categorize everyone I spoke with, but the majority of people were from industries in most need of digital transformation – telecommunications, utilities, insurance, and public sector, and the roles ranged from CEO to project manager. Many represented the IT organization, but the majority held either line management or business transformation roles.
My 100-person poll elicited 85 unique responses. This was a pretty interesting finding in itself. It seems the terms “status” and “digital transformation” are difficult to pin down, and evoke a wide variety of creative and varied responses.
I did a quick analysis of the responses, which included a categorization of responses into the following four categories:
- Just starting
- Not totally happy
Here’s a breakdown of responses…
Overall, the majority of respondents were positive (Excited or Optimistic) about their company’s digital transformation efforts, which is not surprising since I was polling people attending Dreamforce as either Salesforce prospects or existing customers. Collectively, Dreamforce attendees represent arguably the leading edge of digital transformation activity. The most prevalent positive theme described by respondents was around innovation. The word “Innovative” was the top word cited from my question (6 responses), and it speaks clearly to how digital transformation helps companies become innovators in their industry. But the positive feedback included a much wider variety of responses, listed in the table below.
While these varied and positive sentiments around digital transformation are insightful and most encouraging, I think the more interesting data comes from the people who provided the “not totally happy” answers. These responses revolved around three main themes…
- Not Moving Fast Enough – A number of customer respondents felt that they are not moving fast enough with their digital transformation efforts. Responses from the laggard category included “Adolescent”, “Antiquated”, “Behind”, “Immature”, “Nonexistent, “Slow”, “Sluggish”, and “Under-paced”. Speed matters in the digital world, so it is critical to deploy digital solutions quickly to accelerate the overall pace of innovation. Vlocity is very focused on helping our customers deploy quickly. Our pre-configured, industry-specific solutions and innovative integration technologies help complete digital transformation projects in weeks vs. years. The key message here is that if you are in the laggard category, you need to realize that the vast majority of your competitors are aggressively pursuing digital transformation initiatives. Time is of the essence. Speed matters.
- Lacking Investment – Many respondents from my quick survey felt they were not receiving an appropriate level of corporate investment from their management to achieve digital success. Single word responses included “Under-funded”, “Denuded”, and “Under-prioritised”. A key best practice we see from digital disrupters is investing in digital as a competitive advantage in terms of people, process, and technology. Amazon, for example, spends 5 times more on IT than their retail industry competitors. Failure to invest in digital as a competitive advantage will inevitably result in failure for any business.
- Implementation Challenges – Digital success takes a lot of hard work. Respondents described the process of becoming digital as “Chaotic”, “Complicated”, “Difficult”, “Hard”, “Scary”, and “Stressful”. Getting rid of costly, complex, and outdated legacy systems is certainly not a picnic, and I believe these responses reflect the inherent challenges companies face in moving from maintaining existing legacy systems to deploying new systems that drive faster innovation and business impact at lower costs. Fortunately, modern, industry-specific digital tools are making the process of digital transformation much easier. One transformation strategy that many Vlocity customers have adopted is building new omnichannel employee and customer interfaces that integrates with existing legacy systems and data sources. This provides immediate value, creating a 360 view of customer information and guided sales and service transactions. In parallel, our customers then develop a data strategy that helps logically decommission outdated legacy systems as data and workflow shift to digital.
I hope these new insights from Dreamforce 17 are helpful. It was a pleasure to interact with so many Dreamforce attendees to get a pulse on the overall status of digital transformation. Many of my planned 30-second survey interactions resulted in extended discussions on the topic of digital transformation. Passion and optimism exceeds concern. Those heavily engaged in digital transformation initiatives are both optimistic and cautious, while earlier stage participants are frustrated with an organizational lack of urgency and investment in the resources and tools needed to be successful.
I welcome the opportunity to speak with you about how new, modern, industry-specific technologies from Vlocity, working in lock-step partnership with Salesforce, can help accelerate your digital transformation journey.
Thank you to everyone who participated in my quick poll at Dreamforce. I welcome any feedback!
Here’s the full list of the responses I received to the question “What one word best describes the status of your company’s digital transformation effort?”
|3.||Beginning (2)||Just Starting|
|8.||In Progress (2)||Just Starting|
|9.||Nonexistent (2)||Not Totally Happy|
|10.||Starting (2)||Just Starting|
|17.||Antiquated||Not Totally Happy|
|18.||Arduous||Not Totally Happy|
|19.||Average||Not Totally Happy|
|20.||Behind||Not Totally Happy|
|21.||Challenging||Not Totally Happy|
|22.||Chaotic||Not Totally Happy|
|23.||Clueless||Not Totally Happy|
|25.||Complicated||Not Totally Happy|
|29.||Denuded||Not Totally Happy|
|30.||Developing||Not Totally Happy|
|31.||Difficult||Not Totally Happy|
|32.||Disconnected||Not Totally Happy|
|45.||Hard||Not Totally Happy|
|62.||Painful||Not Totally Happy|
|69.||Slow||Not Totally Happy|
|70.||Sluggish||Not Totally Happy|
|71.||Stressful||Not Totally Happy|
|72.||Struggling||Not Totally Happy|
|73.||Tactical||Not Totally Happy|
|78.||Trying||Not Totally Happy|
|79.||Unclear||Not Totally Happy|
|80.||Under-Funded||Not Totally Happy|
|81.||Under-Paced||Not Totally Happy|
|82.||Under-Prioritised||Not Totally Happy|
|85.||Visionless||Not Totally Happy|