Article

How to lead a digital transformation

Learn the importance of adjusting your organization to a digital-first world.

By Patrick Grieve, Contributing Writer

Published November 4, 2021
Last updated November 4, 2021

​​When the pandemic first disrupted business as usual, Zendesk was one of the earliest adopters of the new normal.

“I think we were one of the very first organizations to make the decision that all of our sales were going to be 100 percent remote indefinitely,” says Monica Telles, VP of Zendesk Sell. “And now, a lot of organizations have brought back some element of being back in the office, whereas Zendesk really leaned all in on embracing the digital-first idea.”

To successfully complete that digital transformation, Zendesk’s leaders had to find new tools and processes that empowered employees to thrive in a remote work environment. It required technical and cultural adjustments, with both shifts being led from the top-down.

What is digital business transformation?

Digital business transformation is a continual process of using digital technology and digital strategy to fundamentally change your organization’s culture, business and operating processes, and customer experience.

When most people talk about digital transformation, they mean moving to a fully or partially remote workspace. But the term can also incorporate many other processes, including:

  • IT modernization, such as cloud computing
  • Reskilling employees
  • Adopting AI and other automation tools, which give employees more time to focus on complex tasks
  • Using design thinking to identify and eliminate pain points in the customer journey

Why is digital transformation still essential?

During the height of coronavirus, the need for a socially distanced virtual office was obvious. But even in today’s safer, post-vaccine environment, there are still some compelling long-term reasons for permanently committing to digital transformation.

“I think it’s important to embrace a digital-first workspace because both employees and customers expect it now,” Telles says.

Ecommerce was already popular, but the pandemic sparked a huge surge in online retail shopping that has continued into 2021. Customers have also started using new, more flexible support channels to interact with brands, such as messaging and social media. And as for B2B clients, a recent McKinsey survey found that over 75 percent of buyers now prefer virtual sales meetings over face-to-face interactions.

People prefer to shop from home—and work there, too.

“You hear about companies that are starting to pull back into the office, and their employees are looking at other places now,” Telles explains. “Beforehand, so many people were struggling so hard with work-life balance, especially if they had kids and commutes. And a remote environment gives them more freedom now to work how they want to work.”

She feels that digital transformation ultimately creates a healthier work environment, even though some level of personal connection is inevitably lost in the process. And though there are always growing pains, a digital-first approach ultimately allows leaders to build more diverse cultures.

“It’s also given us a larger talent pool," Telles says. "I’m able to hire anywhere now because it’s allowed us to really look at candidates in areas where we would have never had the opportunity to hire before.”

A sales digital transformation

There are several challenges to overcome with a sales digital transformation. This includes customer alignment, cost, security, and organizational infrastructure, just to name a few. With consumers increasingly craving digital experiences—from online shopping to video conference sales calls to effortless mobile support interactions—it’s important to focus on improving the overall experience of not just your employees, but also your customers to create a successful sales digital transformation.

Your customers’ digital experiences can be documented and studied to identify areas of improvement. Sales executives have experience analyzing customer data, and they already spend time reviewing sales reports and other CRM analytics to gain insights into their customer base and sales strategy.

As a digital transformation leader, the sales executive can work closely with IT to develop and implement digital strategies and technologies, and then measure their impact on sales and CX—all while attempting to keep costs low and security and organizational infrastructure in a good place.

Internally, sales execs can also use their leadership position to get buy-in from their employees. The sales org needs to be clear on their overall strategy and what they expect from the transformation process, both internally and externally. It’s important to clearly communicate the new direction your company is headed, explain new organizational and procedural changes, and solicit feedback from employees on what’s working and what’s not.

Areas of focus when creating a sales digital transformation include:

  • Visibility of sales activity week to week
  • A centralized database
  • Insight into customer satisfaction
  • An efficient and affordable sales process.

Digital transformation disrupts the old way of doing things, which can cause considerable stress.
The sales exec should be well attuned to employee morale since they are in close contact with their teams and managers. When you lead a digital transformation, you have to continually take the pulse of your organization and strike the right balance.

CIO digital transformation

Chief Information Officers are still responsible for the technical side of things when it comes to a digital transformation.

It’s the CIO who has to own nearly every aspect of the process, from tech needs and software implementations to data protection strategies, IT skills assessments, data management strategies, and more. It’s a lot of responsibility—though CIOs may not have to bear it all for long.

The future of the CIO in a digital economy

As digital transformations become more frequent and comprehensive, many organizations are starting to delegate responsibilities.

Rather than filter everything through the CIO, some companies create digital leadership teams made up of multiple stakeholders. These teams might include a chief digital officer, a chief data officer, a chief experience officer, and a digital engineering lead, alongside a CSO and CTO. With more than just one person in charge of technology, these teams can tackle multiple IT projects at once, fueling rapid growth in a digital economy.

Similarly, the continued popularity and proliferation of SaaS solutions have enabled CIOs to move faster when adapting to the digital economy.

In the past, CIOs would have to wait for permission before moving forward with new technology. With so many SaaS options, however, they can now quickly test out a cloud-based service and then use the results as a proof of concept.

At this point, you can purchase a service to cover any portion of your business operation, whether it’s a sub-component of HR, finance, sales or marketing. In this relatively new API economy, you can get a cloud subscription to every solution you need. And at that point, the question for the CIO becomes, “How do all of these parts fit together?”

The ultimate C-Suite software to lead a digital transformation

Digital transformation is an ongoing process, which involves making continual adjustments and adopting new tools as necessary. The easiest way to start that process is by building on a single SaaS platform that will integrate with each and every software you may need.

The Zendesk CRM can serve as a holistic solution for both sales and support. Zendesk’s ticketing capabilities allow digital-first companies to interact with their customers through an endless variety of channels, including phone, email, text, messaging, and social media. Chatbots and other self-service options use automation to deflect common support requests, allowing agents to focus on more complex issues.

Meanwhile, Zendesk’s sales CRM gives reps a place to generate leads, communicate with prospects and clients, automate email campaigns, and more. The CRM tracks and records every interaction a rep has with a prospective or current client, capturing a wealth of data that can be analyzed for valuable insights and sales forecasting. It also enables everyone to see where each active deal is in the pipeline.

“We’ve had so many customers come to us and say, ‘We need something new because we used to have a very in-office culture, and now we don't have as much visibility into what our sellers are doing,’” Telles says.

Zendesk’s cloud-based software allows reps, managers, and executives to work together closely while being located all over the world. There’s even a Zendesk mobile selling app for iOS and Android, which allows traveling reps to access all the functionality of a full-fledged desktop CRM right from their phone.

Built on an open and flexible CRM platform, Zendesk can easily integrate with all kinds of additional tools, such as Slack, Mailchimp, and Google and Outlook products. No coding is required to add and customize apps—or even create your own.

Zendesk even offers a free trial period, so CMOs and CIOs can give the tech a test run to see how well it fits their business strategy. Find out how much our tools can transform your work environment as well as your customer experience.