This article appears in the Summer 2019 digital issue of DOCUMENT Strategy. Subscribe.

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Digital transformation has seized the imagination of virtually every C-suite. It promises to radically enhance customer engagement and loyalty across all business functions while improving competitiveness, increasing value, driving productivity, and managing risk.

Organizations usually define transformation through one of two lenses: customer experience (CX) or operational excellence. However, digital transformation should address both perspectives, combining a rich mix of business experience, technology expertise, marketing insights, and the deep skills of both customer experience and operational excellence practitioners.
  • Customer experience experts improve, reinvent, and transform customer-facing, customer-centric activities, processes, and channels. They identify customer touchpoints, transform digital channels, and identify moments of truth for the customer. CX practitioners have an outward, front-office focus.
  • Operational excellence specialists focus on those business operations somewhat removed from the customer. However, operations can be vastly improved when team members adopt a customer mindset. Many operational excellence practitioners acknowledge that Lean is firmly rooted in creating customer value. As a result, they excel at Lean, Six Sigma, total quality management, and other DMAIC methodologies. These practitioners have an inward, back-office focus.
These two groups live in different worlds; they work independently and know little about their counterparts’ efforts, skills, or processes. Often, a gaping abyss separates them, which introduces problems when launching wide-ranging, cross-functional digital transformation initiatives. Any company launching an effort that spans the front, middle, and back offices must leverage the skills, expertise, approaches, methodologies, and insights of both groups.

All digital transformation projects need a customer-centric slant, even if the focus of the initiative is internal. To do that, organizations need a cross-functional, multi-disciplinary team with a mix of skills from the business, information technology (IT), business process, and customer experience.

You can start by:
  • Scheduling periodic meetings where CX and operational excellence practitioners share their insights, methodologies, and experiences. It's essential to do this no matter the timetable for the project.
  • Having your operations staff observe customer journey mapping sessions or CX practitioners participating in process reviews. Remember, this type of training isn't just isolated to your digital transformation initiatives but other technology projects too.
  • Assigning employees to work on teams that are outside their skillsets. For example, select a back-office project that impacts the customer for the CX staffer or a front-office process requiring Six Sigma for the operational excellence practitioner.
  • Certifying one or two practitioners in methodologies outside of their experiences. This builds confidence and creates champions for these new approaches.
  • Fostering collaboration between CX and operations specialists by working together across functional areas, such as customer journey mapping through front- and back-office functions.
  • Forming multi-disciplinary teams that work on digital transformation. Create several parallel projects and cross-train staff at the same time. If you haven't launched your initiative yet, consider matching team leaders from their established domains with junior personnel from a different area of the business.
With these steps, you’ll be ready for a digital transformation effort that looks at the business from outside in and inside out.

Connie Moore is the Vice President and Principal Analyst at Deep Analysis, a research advisory firm focused on emerging technologies. Her research spans many facets of content and process management, from customer experience to business automation. Contact her at or follow her on Twitter at @cmooreclarity.
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