The most common pitfalls in digitisation and how to avoid them

6 avril 2023

In the beginning of this year, we launched the Opportunity report 2023. A collection of visions and insights from our experts to help you get the most out of the new year. On the 9th of March during the Opportunity online live event we brought these insights live to an interested audience to speak and discuss how to ‘Accelerate your business in 2023’. In this article, we’ll share the key takeaways of the presentation of Digital Strategist Tom van Mierlo with you.

Innovation in digital is one way of staying ahead of the herd. Yet it can be disastrous if you get it wrong – with examples of companies’ online mistakes found all over the modern-day internet and across a myriad of failed projects and shabby digital transformations. 

On March 10, iO’s Tom van Mierlo shared his personal pick of the pitfalls he encountered most often with brands trying to succeed digitally.

Falling for shiny new things

‘So, our CEO wants an app,..’

‘How about an AI-powered chatbot of our own?’

‘Let’s get to work on building that platform we read about this morning.’ 

It might be tempting to just go ahead and implement new technology straight away in order to claim the title of digital front-runner. However, if you are not on the forefront of specific innovations, implementing them in early maturity phases is often hard and costly.

However, communication value might just be sitting there, waiting – provided you interact with it on a micro level. A good way to look at this is to use the framework below:​

  1. Processing: what is needed for the user to​ proceed to the next step?​

  2. Service: what can we do to help the user to succeed/proceed?​

  3. Experience: how do we want the user to feel?

Make no mistake, all effort put into experience is useless when processing and service are not up to par.​

Fixing anything with technology

‘Oh – you want centralised product information, we’re gonna need a PIM for that.’​

​‘Oh – you want centralised user data, we’re going to need a CRM.​’

The business often hands these projects into the loving care of IT departments, but at the same time the implementation is usually of a purely technical nature. ​The thought process often goes: let’s set up a PIM system first, inject all data we have, without looking at why we might need that data for our customers. 

So, first envision what the user experience will be before working your way towards requirements and technology, not the other way around.​

Also, this is often the point where a lot of companies underestimate the impact of their own human resources in terms of; for example, good product management. Are you busy making a business case for a certain capability, be sure to take the human factor into account as well.

Thinking in rigid patterns

When projects are not driven by shiny new things, they’re often done so by what competitors do. Are your competitors working hard on building an e-commerce platform, product application or customer zone? Then surely you should be doing so as well? 

First off, you are not your competitor. You may be part of the same industry, face the same struggles or use the same technology, your story is always unique. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon, consider asking yourself: “What are the hurdles that are holding people from doing business with us?​”

Whatever it is, you need to identify just that before you can start thinking of a solution. And no, this doesn’t always mean you need to “build something” in the end.

Instead, try being authentic. Embed the DNA of your organisation into your digital experiences. Focus on facilitating the value transfer that already happens in your ecosystem. In other words: how can digital add value to those existing relationships? 

Digital transformation does not always need to be disruptive. ​Consider focusing on what is already in place, reinforcing that before crossing into uncharted territory.

Unmanaged services

In the early phases of digital maturity, there often comes one in which different departments or business units are busy launching different digital experiences, unaligned and unmanaged. Think: a website under development by HR, a webshop being built by Marketing, a customer portal, an app, etc.​

With all of these projects coming from the same brand, prepare for a multitude of inconsistencies and inefficiencies. Expect, for example, to come across the same functionalities in an app and a web customer portal. Or varying descriptions of your brand’s history. 

While you might achieve individual small successes in terms of transformation or digitisation, to really create value, a holistic approach is key – starting from the brand values, aligned across all siloes.

Always start by designing and aligning on what the user experience should be, first and foremost, tied to a clear channel strategy. What are we offering on which channel; what is the core experience for this channel and how are the channels interacting with each other?​ 

This is something that needs to be governed on a constant basis; not something done just once.

Seeing it as ‘just a project’

Lesson one: a digital transformation is not a project, but a mindset​. A project sounds like something you only need to do once: “make a digital transformation happen” – but this description doesn’t do justice to the process. It’s something that needs to be embedded in the organisation.

With a mindset, everyone considers themselves to be experts. “I use web platforms every day, so I am a real expert. Let’s design one!”​ This happens quite often and while there is nothing wrong with designing a platform, make sure that design is based on research – not just the gut feeling of a user turned expert.

In the end: it’s not just about designing and building. It’s about defining why you need to design a solution first – understanding the problem and coming up with a strategy to fix it. Also, don’t be afraid of acknowledging you don’t know everything up front. You’ll learn as you go. Start small, try stuff, and iterate.

Paralysing perfectionism

For some reason, we’re taught that perfectionism is a must-have trait – one to be admired by all. Although ambition surely is to be strived for, there’s a downside to perfectionism. 

Striving for perfectionism is OK, but it can make organisations unsure and unable to move quickly. Make sure digital experiences run smoothly, but don’t be afraid to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them.

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Tom van Mierlo - iO
About the expert
Tom Van Mierlo
Strategy Director

Senior digital strategist and partner at iO, Tom Van Mierlo's professional journey started more than 15 years ago at Intracto. Expanding his enthusiasm and experience since Intracto reshaped into iO at the end of 2021. Skilled in business development and growth, he specialises in turning strategic challenges into detailed digital plans to grow your business. An avid trendwatcher, but more importantly a trend implementor.

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