Digital transformation and the importance of customer experience were the most-discussed business topics of 2015, but the conversations were almost universally phrased in strategic terms. While the strategic view is vital, implementation of change presents severe challenges and huge opportunities at a tactical and operational level.
That was a key insight from The Adobe Design Advantage Forum, held in London in last November, which took as its central themes transformation, mobile, and the competitive advantage provided by design.
Most implementation case studies show that a top-down stance is essential for the successful delivery of new business structures, products or innovation. But transformation and CX programmes can create tensions within the marketing delivery teams within a business. The Design Advantage Forum made it clear that the delivery of design, content, and production processes should become a focus for those undertaking change.
Challenges For Designers And Content Producers
It’s easy to lose sight of the importance of good design in helping drive good customer experience in a welter of technology or structural issues. But it’s clear that it does.
Great design has a huge impact, whether it’s a design consistency that drives “comfortable recognition” in the customer or the use of appealing imagery and iconography. At the Forum Jon Hunter, head of design at Transport for London (TfL), talked about how design is at the core of functionality and being able to deliver services. For TfL, design and customer experience are inextricably linked.
“Everything we do has been designed and we use that sense of design to insert a sense of customer care,” he said. And he explained that, for TfL, design leads the behaviours of both the customers and the staff.
John Travis, head of marketing EMEA for Adobe, spoke about “always-on” marketing and how businesses need to be having proper conversations with their audiences 24/7. He believes that the pace and volume of content production dictated by an always-on approach dictates a change of culture for marketing teams. In the modern world they must adopt a testing mentality and be prepared for their content to fail.
Ashley Still, VP creative cloud for enterprise at Adobe, added to this thinking. She spoke about how personalisation is essential to delivering customer experience and that, in turn, personalisation is driven by having enough good-quality content. She summed up the challenge to the design, copy and marketing teams in terms of content velocity; more and more content needs to be produced and designed, faster and faster. In her view content velocity can be achieved through a combination of rapid iteration and collaboration. Businesses need to insert the ability to scale (and flex) into the content chain.
Indeed, companies can no longer plan for predictable linear flows of communication. They have to be ready to cope with and adapt to a chaotic environment.
There is no doubt that a top-down approach to delivering both transformation and CX is essential, but the Forum also showed that there are vital components of these activities to be found at a tactical or operational level.
David Butler, VP innovation and entrepreneurship at Coca-Cola, added two fascinating aspects to the conversation. In the first place his career trajectory offers a vital insight. He moved from a global design role in Coca-Cola to a transformation role which then morphed into one around innovation. As such he is the living embodiment of the link between design and business change. That a company of this size has recognised that design is not only a product of process but a guiding principle is a crucial insight. But what he revealed about how Coca-Cola embeds design throughout its thinking was even more interesting.
From the outset Coca-Cola has linked design with growth. Its global ecosystem is a complex mixture of different types of business, of different sizes, operating in widely varying environments. From Coke’s point of view, growth for the smaller parts of the business is about scale, whereas for the larger units it becomes driven by agility. The whole system is driven by a process approach to design which delivers simplification, standardisation and integration across widely varying products and logistics systems. In many ways Butler underwrote Still’s earlier demand for the “frictionless creation and deployment of design and content.”
Matching Strategy With Tactics
What came out of the Forum (and indeed the wider conversation in 2015) was that strategic decisions about both transformation and the delivery of customer experience have to be matched with a focus on developing new ways of working at a tactical level. This might be be summed up as follows:
- Create processes, tools and structures to cope with the new reality: Content velocity demands that organisations are able to create, manage, and deploy more content than ever before. Design has to be at the heart of this process.
- Establish mixed-skill teams: Companies no longer have the luxury of working in drawn-out linear processes. It becomes essential that all the creative elements of a team work together in parallel to deliver the communications and products that underwrite CX and transformation.
- Be able to react to a chaotic environment: Agility and flexibility at a strategic level must be matched at an operational level.
In one sense none of this is news. But the importance of creating these tactical capabilities should not be lost within the more headline-grabbing strategic conversations. It’s vitally important to get the delivery of design and communication right. Despite the sense of everything changing, Travis reminded the Forum that “brand still matters--the fundamentals hold true.” Businesses need to make sure that they are still offering their audiences content that drives trust and relevance.
CMO.com also interviewed some of the delegates at the Symposium to get their views on design, mobile and digital transformation. Watch the videos below.
Does your organisation use design to give it a competitive advantage?
Is mobile a particular focus for your business?
Is digital transformation a strategic imperative for your organisation?