How to Take a Realistic Approach to Digital Transformation

8/19/2020 Cynthia Bajana

How to Take a Realistic Approach to Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is top-of-mind — and a complex issue — for many traditional financial services and insurance firms. Keeping up with tech innovation and modern multichannel communications along with meeting regulatory compliance can be overwhelming. 

Some organizations have attempted to modernize workflows. But a full digital transformation? The cost, the time, the point of entry, all in the wake of a global pandemic — it’s a lot. 

A July 2020 report from TEKsystems titled “DX 2020: COVID-19 Edition State of Digital Transformation” revealed nearly 60% of U.S. business and technology decision-makers say digital transformation projects are experiencing delays in some shape or form due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

Nevertheless, U.S. corporate directors cite the “acceleration of digital transformation” as one of the top three biggest impacts on their post-coronavirus crisis recovery, according to the National Association of Corporate Directors’ “May 2020 COVID-19 Pulse Survey.” This priority to digitize may hit a few speed bumps, but the demand for it will only intensify.

But what do we mean when we say “digital transformation”?

Short answer: Digital transformation is a multichannel process tied to elevating customer experience. It is a journey — not just an IT project. It is a service, delivery, and transformation initiative that will impact the way your organization interacts with its customers.

Where to start?

In a “CIO COVID-19 Impact Study” by International Data Group, CEOs rank “leading digital business/digital transformation scenarios” as the top priority in helping their businesses persevere through the current disruption. 

Critical in nature, this journey will take time to complete, perhaps up to several years. Getting started requires some broad thinking. Consider the following six key components.

Align stakeholders

Stakeholder buy-in is essential for successful digital transformation. This includes your legal, compliance, marketing, operations, enterprise architecture, data analytics, and business intelligence teams. Alignment is critical to move forward on a full-scale digital transformation.

Have a multichannel mindset

Your strategy should involve all channels — print, email, mobile, online, cloud delivery, virtual assistants, and other digital platforms.

Map out a clear strategy (for your teams)

Creating milestones and achieving short-term wins can help your organization establish and maintain momentum.

Identify key people

A Constellation Research study published last year found only 5% of U.S. companies believe they’re staffed appropriately to implement successful digital transformation solutions. A digital transformation team might include the following key players:

  • Communications designers 
  • Customer engagement specialists 
  • Content engineers 
  • Data insights experts 
  • Solution architects 
  • Communication development team

Outline essential processes

This transformation project requires change management processes and proven approaches to help you transition from concept to execution. To be successful, you will need to implement multiple processes:

  • Assessment and road-mapping workshops to define and document the plan to take your organization from its current state to a future state of customer-centric communications.
  • Integration and configuration approaches to efficiently connect your existing technology ecosystem with the new technology platform. 
  • Organizational transformation processes to implement new customer engagement models and approaches.
  • Workflow operations training to drive change management and on-boarding prioritization.

Use a superior tech platform

A successful transformation requires an open, modularized customer communications (CCM) platform that allows you to integrate existing systems. An effective CCM platform should meet all your requirements with little to no intervention from your IT team.

Digital transformation choices

Buy, build or pay-as-you-go — you have options and opportunities to level up. 


What is the advantage of partnering with a CCM provider if you decide to buy? Primarily, leading CCM providers are constantly investing in their platforms, keeping up with best-in-class platform innovations. In our opinion, no single platform provides best-in-class features for every single function. Also keep in mind, platforms considered “best” a few years ago could be obsolete today.


Some organizations are very concerned about surrendering control, which can become a driving factor for their decision to build a CCM platform. However, the challenges associated with that undertaking are sizable and often include: long timelines, over-run budgets, and failure to deliver on business goals. 


An AppDirect “Digital Economy Report” released last year discovered the decision to build versus buy is something U.S. companies consider the number one challenge affecting their digital transformation efforts. 

In your decision to move forward with digital transformation, there is a third option worth weighing: a pay-as-you-go approach. It’s also known as “customer communications management platform as a service” (CCMaaS). With this option, you essentially eliminate risk, reap the benefits of having evolving best-in-class technologies, and enjoy a consultative experience with subject matter experts to address your business goals.

Determining your next first step(s)

Whether you build, buy, or choose the service route, make sure your approach includes three essential pillars: subject matter expertise, proven processes, and integrated technologies. As for what’s next, here’s some food for thought:

  1. Prepare to invest: Your digital transformation will most likely involve a significant financial investment in new technology. At RRD, for example, we have invested significantly in technology that digitizes all information on physical documents, which has allowed us to help companies looking to leapfrog into the world of digital distribution but are currently challenged with disparate legacy systems.
  2. Start small: All too often companies will take old technology, bring in a new software solution, and implement it in the same old way — losing the intended benefit. Test the waters. Take a small part of the business and do a trial run, experiment at low risk, and achieve some initial quick wins.
  3. Cater to customers: Communicating with consumers in the ways they prefer is critical. Embracing the convergence of two traditionally divided spaces — physical and digital communications —  is paramount to elevating the customer experience across its entire journey.

Remember, no matter where your organization is in its pursuit to digitally transform its communications, take solace in knowing the challenges you face have a solution.


Cynthia Bajana serves as a Vice President of Sales for RRD’s Business Communication Solutions division.

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