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  • Writer's pictureMarc Warburton

The Myth of Digital Transformation

I think even the headline stat above is a generous 'alternative fact' when it comes to Digital Transformation (DT) in FMCG. To be completely honest with you, I have yet to hear about a single DT initiative that was 'worked' in any meaningful way at all. But why is this?

DT, after all, sounds grrrrrrrrreat. I mean what business, stuck in the triumvirate quagmire of slowing/ negative growth rates, haemorrhaging brand loyalty and inefficient systems doesn't fancy a quick swig of DT Kool-Aid? Terms and Conditions blah blah blah, tick; six, seven or even eight (aaargh!!) ficure Big Name Consultant (BNC) investment kitty, kerching; shareholder update action plan, phew; off we skip to the digital sunset/ sunrise, oops. Major, major OOPS.

Hats off though to the BNCs who have successfully lifted and dropped their DT programmes that worked so well in other verticals onto their BCFs (Best C-suite Friends) in our wonderful world of FMCG. Even bigger hats off to those businesses that have successfully resisted the temptation to engage with DT at all (and we know for a fact that there is thankfully at least one of these out there as we were chatting to them at Amazon about it just last month!).

I think it is a genuine travesty that so much money has been squandered on failed/ failing DT programmes when it could have been invested much more usefully on things influencing the omnichannel shopper and growing sales; or maybe even just kept in the bank for another rainy day. I know that is a bitter pill to swallow for some but it is reality. So wo/man up, swallow it down and move on.

But hang on a minute I hear you cry in disbelief!!!

Surely we need to make the most of all this digital stuff to be fit for the future, better engage our consumers/ shoppers and gain competitive advantage, don't we?

'Course you do.

But our business doesn't 'get digital', is a bit clunky and needs a bit of a digitally inspired rocket up it to jolt it out of the aforementioned quagmire so we need the BNC help, right?

'Course you don't.

What we think you might need is Digital Simplification, not Digital Transformation at all; and even better news is that this can be yours for significantly less than the six, seven or butt clenching eight figure BNC bitcoin investment that I ranted a bit about above.

If you want to fold Digital Simplification into a digital transformation ticket then that it is ok: just make sure you use lower case first letters on the latter and upper case on the former (so no need to worry if Digital Transformation is in your job title you're still covered/ needed!).

Having been leader, follower and clean up crew for a number of DT initiatives, I believe we can speak from a platform of experience v-à-v making 'Digital' work in your business. Granted you might need some new whistles and bells here and there, and you can probably get more from your data too, but it is highly possible that your business will not benefit in a transformational way at all from a major DT initiative.

Why not instead think about helping some of your Senior Leaders feel more comfortable with the digital world that they didn't grow up with? Why not divert some money to a proper Test & Learn programme with your retail partners? Why not start off by gaining genuine consensus in your business about what it can, and cannot, realistically achieve on a digital ticket before reaching too sincerely for the electronic chequebook? etc etc.

Ok, ok makes sense, but how do we actually do that? where do we start?

One line answer: Integrate a simple framework such as 'The 5Ps of Online Success' into your business's DNA*.

This is a tried and tested Digital Simplification framework that actually works, and will deliver all the things that your business needs to make the most of all that wonderful digital stuff around us. Orientate your business around the handful of things it needs to bring order to the digital chaos, and you will prosper; try and orientate your business around a programme that it doesn't need and your will flounder. Guaranteed.

And if nothing else, then please just agree to think very, very carefully before deciding that Digital Transformation is what your business actually needs in the first place...

*See Chapter 2 of my book Decoding d-Commerce if you have an appetite for a bit more detail. Or just drop me a line and I'll probably offer to send you a copy.

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