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How Do We Stay Relevant to Our Customers?

Looking at today’s digital market, it is in fast transition, as usual – and luckily for that, it forces agencies like us to stay on our toes regarding both competences and the way we deliver services.

More specifically, three trends have changed the game for us as digital suppliers:

  • Digital as a central business driver is no longer something that only resonates at the enterprise level – it has become a crucial part of basically any business strategy today – that goes for both large as well as small companies - across all industries.

  • The digital landscape has become both wider and deeper. Wider in that sense that new areas and disciplines keep evolving, while at the same time some of our traditional service offers are becoming irrelevant, as they turn into trivial commodities our clients easily can handle themselves with new smart tools. The days of customers requesting simple site builds are over.Deeper in the sense that the market simultaneously becomes more complex and specialized and thereby demands heavy expert knowledge to utilize and navigate through the numerous new technologies. In short, it is not only about doing things right but also about doing the right things.

  • Most likely as a consequence of the trends described above, we experience that our customers increasingly choose to build parts of this knowledge and competences in their own digital organizations. Let’s call this “inhousification”. Exactly as it happened within traditional IT back in the late 80ies or 90ies, where companies like Maersk and Novo Nordisk built giant IT-departments. They began as operational departments supporting companies’ core business but quickly began creating value themselves and consequently grew into independent IT companies with incredibly strong domain knowledge. Good examples of this in today’s digital market are companies like Danske Bank and COOP that both have chosen to build large digital departments internally and even separate these into independent companies and business entities.

Common for these trends is that they raise new demands to how we deliver our services and how we organize ourselves internally with respect to our customers. I am convinced that the agencies who fail to adapt will eventually fail in their attempts to create value for their customers.

Three areas of change

Specifically, (at least) three areas of change are worth keeping an eye on in order to succeed with this transformation:

  1. The ability to be able and willing to cooperate – more ping pong: The time, where projects were something customers ordered from us and got delivered as a finished package at the doorstep three months later, is probably coming to an end. Today, more than ever before, we need to be team players across the centerline between us and our customers. Being a digital consultant requires an ability and willingness to not only be a professional but also a social part of our customers’ teams. We even need to accept that we are not always the smartest and that all tasks in a given project are not necessarily made by us. The strongest solution is a collaborative product across customer and supplier. In this ping pong process, we should not be reluctant to challenge our customers’ ideas and strategies – but certainly also expect the same in return. In other words - it takes more than hard skills and meaty buzz words to succeed as a digital consultant today – soft skills are as crucial when working with our customers.  Even the toughest .net developer will fail if she is not open-minded, self-confident and responsive.

  2. The ability to act as a true digital expert: We are problem solvers – we help our customers navigate in a still more complex market and make the right decisions. As good consultants, we need to be able to spot the holes in our customers’ competences and fill them with expert knowledge solving true business-critical problems that the customers do not feel confident handling themselves. In that way, I see inhousification more like an upgrade of our cooperation with our customers leveraging a number of new opportunities to deliver true value – rather than an actual threat to our core business. Additionally, as a side effect, it means that we can focus on real problems, challenging ourselves instead of wasting our time on tedious production, that no one wants to do nor pay for.

  3. Minimizing the gap between talking about it and doing it: As mentioned, today, digital is a central strategic driver in pretty much any company and organization. However, we should not forget that true value lies in the execution and setting out the shortest way between talking about it and doing it, is crucial. Or like we say in Kruso: “Get it right and get it done”. This is an approach where we in recent years have seen several of the traditional management consultancies fail, in their attempts to embrace the digital market. They get stuck in heavy strategy processes without any real digital understanding. Most often, it results in endless power points and many megabyte heavy PDF reports, instead of actual agile, digital execution, based on iterative processes and fast time-to-market. A good digital strategy is important – of course – but most importantly the digital strategy needs to be closely connected to execution and rooted in true and lived digital understanding, in order to be relevant for our customers.

Commoditization, toolification, and inhousification – or what else we choose to call the development we are seeing at the moment, are not trends we should be sceptical towards. On the contrary, they hold huge potential to build far more qualified and relevant relations to our customers than previously. All it takes is the courage to embrace it and trust all the skilled and talented people in our customers' organizations in order to create the next era of our digital world together.