I’ve, recently, had the opportunity of listening to Lazar Džamić talking about digital transformation. Talking about changing companies from a traditional into a digital company, he said that people often ask him how to transform their companies to become like Google. The answer to them is: you start from the beginning and act like Google, or start hiring people in a way the Google does it.
I would say that the choice of people that is leading the company from traditional to digital is essential. What you, most probably, need is people who are digital natives. Trying to make a shift from traditional to digital with the same people might be lengthy, expensive and inefficient endeavor.
Let’s assume that you have a retail business that you want to make digital. You have several shops in which you sell products that you know quite well. Also, customer behavior, once they are in your shops is well known, their profile, needs and habits as well.
With all this you might assume that copying your business to digital will be a routine task.
There are, however, significant differences.
Once in your shop, customers have, most probably, done at least a part of their research and now are making decision for purchase. On the other hand while on your web premises they are still in exploration and consideration phase. So in a completely different mind-set.
In your shop their full attention, well at least as much as it is possible, is granted to your sales personnel. On the web their attention is split not only between multiple websites they are observing (comparing your product and prices with your competition), but also between different screens they are using at the same time (most probably checking on your products while waiting for for commercial block to end and continue watching their favorite TV show), and different activities they are performing online (checking social networks while browsing your catalogue for example).
Another thing worth considering is complexity of your product. While designing it you might have been relying heavily on the fact that sales personnel will explain the product and its benefits to customers. However, in digital arena, there’s virtually no possibility for explaining complex product in details. Once online, the product should be self-explanatory so that customers can easily make a purchasing decision.
Having these differences in mind, assuming that your existing team will be capable of turning your company from traditional to digital might be a stretch for the whole organization and the team.
This is why hiring people who already have experience in digital arena is beneficial on multiple levels. Firstly, as stated, they are bringing understanding of online customer behavior. Secondly, coming from outside of your company or industry, they are able to challenge established way of doing things. And thirdly, they are bringing the digital spirit to your company helping you redesign established mindset in your company.
For them not having knowledge on your industry or products is not a handicap as your organization already has a lot of people very experienced in the industry, however knowledge in digital is what you most probably are lacking.
At the end I would make an addendum to the advice from the beginning of this text. In order to become digital you have to start engaging people who understand and have experience in digital.