Why Customer Experience Should Dictate Your Digital Transformation

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: June 14, 2019

Customer experience (CX) should drive your digital transformation. But with the increasing number of digital transformation failures in recent years, it is clear that we are focused on the wrong things.

Most organizations implement new digital technologies with the intent of creating additional value and enhancing the customer experience. But, as we have seen in recent digital transformation and ERP failures, many organizations are forgetting about – and in some cases, completely undermining – their customer experiences.

The problem: digital transformations focus on the wrong things

There is no single cause for why digital transformations are increasing, but it’s an indisputable fact. While technologies are improving at breakneck speeds, our ways of implementing them seem to be regressing. Revlon’s recent SAP failure is one such example. Then there is the Lidl SAP failure, an ERP failure at Haribo, and most recently, Hertz’s digital transformation failure and lawsuit against Accenture.

There seems to be a common theme emerging from these more recent failures: lack of focus on the customer experience. Instead of using this as the foundation for the implementation, executives and project teams at these failures seem to be deferring too much to the technology and their system integrators.

Root cause: vendors and systems integrators are incentivized to lead you astray

The root cause of these challenges are the vendors and ERP systems integrators have economic incentives that bias them. Most industry incumbents make more money when they convince you to buy more software before you need it and start implementing before you are ready. This was my experience as a recovering Big 5 ERP consultant years ago, and this trend continues today.

Not coincidentally, this is why we started Third Stage Consulting. Projects can benefit from independent ERP and digital transformation support beginning during software selection and continuing through the transformation lifecycle. Companies need at least one unbiased – but extremely knowledgeable – team of resources to draw from.

The solution: customer experience is the foundation for your transformation blueprint

Instead of a technology-first mindset, customer experience should dictate your digital transformation. It should be the beginning, middle, and end of your initiative. It should be the #1 input into your business blueprint.

The problem is that vendors and systems integrators claim to provide “business blueprints” when they are in actuality providing blueprints to simply design their software. Although less experienced folks may not recognize it, these are two subtle but very different things.

For example, when building a house, an electrician has his schematics for how he will install the wiring throughout the house. But the general contractor and architect should have creating a blueprint for the overall house, which the electrician’s schematic drawings need to adhere to.

In the case of system integrators, they come in hot leading with the electrician’s schematic with no overarching customer experience-based blueprint in mind. This is an all-too-common problem in the industry and a recipe for disaster. As mentioned above, your customer experience business processes should be defined and documented in a way that provides a technology-agnostic “blueprint” for what you want to be when you grow up.

Don’t forget about the internal customer experience

In addition to business processes related to your external customer experience, you should also incorporate your internal “customer” experience into your blueprint. This is not only true when implementing Workday, SAP SuccessFactors, or other HCM software, but also when implementing ERP, CRM, and other digital technologies.

For example, in the National Grid v. Wipro SAP lawsuit, National Grid claims that they increased their time to close the books from 4 days to 43 days. In addition, their transformation led to 15,000 unpaid supplier invoices. These are not positive customer experiences for internal customers and employees.

Modern ERP technology can be easier for employees to use – at least in theory – but only when the business processes are deployed in a way that enhances the employee experience. It’s easy for organizations to forget about this important group of stakeholders.

Conclusion: be a rebel and begin your transformation with the customer experience

You can be another case study in digital transformation failure and do what your software vendor and system integrator want you to do: cliff dive straight into your transformation before you are ready. They may make more money that way, but it’s not the path most likely to lead you to success.

Alternatively, you can optimize your chances for success by defining your future state customer experience prior to jumping straight into your implementation. In other words, you should define your customer experience-based blueprint for how technology will be deployed. This will save you time, money, and create more value in the long-term.

Feel free to contact me with questions or to brainstorm ideas as you embark on your digital transformation. I am happy to be a sounding board as you define how customer experience will factor into your digital transformation journey!

Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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