It’s one thing to launch a business, but a different issue to change how a business operates to fit a major shift in the marketplace. That “but” is at the heart of success or failure of a business. Businesses recognize that they are in a customer-centric environment. But what should an operation that is customer-centric look like to be effective?
One book that strives to answer that question is Transform – A Rebel’s Guide for Digital Transformation  by Gerry McGovern. The book covers a digital agency and the building of a business culture around it. McGovern knows the challenges well — having written 6 books on the subject. McGovern has been a web consultant since 1994, working in over 30 countries for organizations such as Microsoft Cisco and the European Union. McGovern is the founder and CEO of Customer Care Words, a research company focused on understanding customer behavior.
I discovered the book a while back at a conference and was impressed with the emphasis on culture McGovern brings to explain the value of digital transformation.
What Is Transform About?
Transform is meant to outline the steps involved in creating operations and processes that align organizations to customer activity. Throughout the book, McGovern advocates monitoring how balanced resources are among management, employee and customer. He believes that “a new management model” will lead to customer-centric organizations.
McGovern outlines how businesses that do not work to establish better operations risk losing the customer. He also shares commentary about empathy and how fleeting online attention impacts campaigns.
“The challenge is that as we need to become more empathetic, the opportunities to develop empathy  are declining.”
What I Liked About Transform
I liked that serious thoughts aim the reader towards simplifying processes. The ideas are timely, given that many long time conglomerates like General Electric are exploring similar operations to stay competitive. A mention about how complexity creates distrust is a timely example.
“Every time you do something that makes things simpler and easier for your customers you build trust. That’s why your job is critical to customer trust building,” McGovern said.
McGovern writes that consumers are turning to online options for researching products and services and for purchases. That trend puts customers in the driver’s seat, demanding that businesses fully enable those digital paths to purchase. Each chapter provides insights into how to create an organization to deliver on those demands and how to adjust marketing to be more transparent and honest.
A nice touch is how McGovern expands the importance of trust to other institutions businesses typically encounter. In fact, McGovern states clearly that much of the book speaks to culture and history, and he does a good job of making his points with this approach. He recounts the experience of Dimitrius, a small business owner in Greece who has paid “about a fifth of his revenue in bribes to tax collectors, health inspectors, police and other officials.” Dimitrius notes how small firms are obligated to conduct business this way because of the legal barriers.
McGovern also notes the faux posturing of working long hours — a sign of inefficiency. He calls upon professionals to find purposeful tasks in their work. He writes, “New model organizations will focus on creating the simplest, fastest and most useful possible environment for the knowledge worker.”
That leads to another aspect I appreciate about the book — its tidy size. The book’s 16 chapters are a quick read, coming to just under 200 pages. Yet the ideas are explained in a ready to implement fashion. Chapter 10 offers a map for a digital workplace, while Chapter 13, The Business Case for Self-Service, explores the impact of self-service processes where digital media and data are involved.
What Could Have Been Done Differently?
While the book focused on establishing digital workplaces, Chapter 13 does not delve too deeply into emerging data influences, such as data science and regulatory use of data. These things can get overwhelming. I’ll admit you could write several books on Amazon and Google separate of the open source cloud products. But a few further treatments could spark imaginations. (I also should note, Chapter 12 shares companies that have done well with their data to service customers).
Moreover, McGovern does rightly advise throughout the book how “organizations use to have all the power…not anymore.” And reading the given examples, such as Cisco’s Task Performance Indicator, may inspire a few ideas on how to develop metrics that monitor progress on an organizational transformation.
Transform is a good read for a manager who is not looking for a heavy-handed textbook but needs reminders of why his or her workplace must incorporate aspects of web culture into its operations. If you have managers that adore the status quo for status quo’s sake, have them read Transform to begin their own transformation to be competitive in a digital world and to be a better provider of customer experience.