Digital Transformation in an Ever Changing World

Melissa Douros, Director of Digital Product Management, Great Wolf Resorts
Melissa Douros, Director of Digital Product Management, Great Wolf Resorts

Melissa Douros, Director of Digital Product Management, Great Wolf Resorts

Companies looking to sustain themselves must be continually transforming and shifting their focus to be forward thinkers. The digital product team at Great Wolf set out on a mission to do this by laddering up to our goal of “enable our guests using smart technology.” For us, smart technology is the ability to solve a problem for you – whether you know you have a problem or not. Companies have always needed to adapt and change to grow, but new technologies are enabling us to move at a much quicker speed. We are often able to solve issues that people were unaware that they have; hailing a taxi was not a problem until Uber identified all the pain points involved in the customer journey, solved them with a creative solution and service blueprint, thus disrupting the entire landscape.

One of the most vulnerable parts of a company that can pave the way for disruption is that they can be swimming in data, but not able to create actionable insights or execute on those actions. Had the taxi companies reinvented themselves, using the painful parts of their own customers’ journey, they could have created their own service blueprint and shifted ahead.

It’s not a mobile viewport or a mobile app – it’s mobility.

  ‚ÄčThe key to introducing a time committing and more often than not, very expensive, new digital technology is to determine what it will solve 

When digital emerged, people were sitting in front of their desktop at an actual desk and performed a search for a product or service that they wanted. Then we introduced smartphones and mweb and mobile apps (for smartphones, the apps that we have come to know and love were actually introduced for the palm pilot and many before) and you could be out of the home with a digital behavior. Now, we are ubiquitously consuming and interacting with digital content.

In order for a company to survive, you have to know where your customers are (or can be) while shopping for you. They are in the line at the bank, at a kid’s basketball practice, walking to a meeting at work—even semi-actively engaged in a conversation with someone—all while looking for and at you. Digital at scale is mobility, and mobility means that you can capture an audience everywhere they are.

Now, instead of passively waiting for someone to show up to your website or mobile app, you can be where they are. User messaging you on Facebook Messenger? Show them an ad in the channel. Have a population that is utilizing your chat feature? Invest in chatbot / AI technology. Be where they are; not where you are waiting for them to go.

The problems that can be solved with digital technology— not the other way around.

I used to joke a few years ago that I felt like I was in multiple meetings a week where someone would just yell out “AI! Chatbot!” and others would smile and nod, thinking that we needed to get one of those. I would always ask them, what problem are we solving?

As human beings, we tend to jump right to the solution before breaking down the aspects of a problem, cutting off any alternate suggestions that may solve a problem with more efficiency and ROI, however, the thought of a shiny, new technology can be much more appealing. The problem with that is that it doesn’t get down to the core of the systemic issue and you end up with a shiny new object, discarded like last year’s birthday gift.

The key to introducing a time committing and more often than not, very expensive, new digital technology is to determine what it will solve. Instead of leading with a solution, determine the problem, the sum of all the parts, a few proposed solutions and then create the use cases and business cases. If your data supports the implementation, and you can do with your 80% MVP (or better yet, MDP, Minimum Desired Product) and have an iterative roadmap with clear KPI’s, then you have the right digital technology, it can still be the shiny new object.

Looking three years down the road with current technology and the ability to pivot.

Working in digital product and emerging technologies often means teams are implementing solutions from within, but also act as a support role for other key stakeholders with their company. I love to joke with business partners that if they are sharing their high-level digital vision to Product Managers and they are staring off into space, it is because they are thinking about three key elements of your roadmap. First, how to implement your vision with today’s technology, second, be able to account for where they know the changes are heading and lastly, keep in mind how to pivot when something disrupts the market.

Only a few short years ago, Augmented Reality was a lesser known technology, but after the explosion of Pokemon Go, almost every publication is asking if you have thought about your Augmented Reality strategy.

And don’t be afraid to fail. Google Glass may have made a splash and then subsequent dive back down underwater, but primarily because the world was not ready for the technology. Failure needn’t be a negative thing; from it comes learning, potential to pivot and the opportunity to re-introduce when the time is right.

Digital transformation is still the beginning.

Much like Jeff Bezos’s Day One approach, digital transformation needs to always remain a day one strategy. From desktop to laptop to smartphone, to virtual reality; shifting and transforming is not about knowing what to do today, it’s about seeing where to go in the future.

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