SAN MATEO, CA: Companies and brands are entering an era of digital transformation that will make them more human by integrating and improving the customer experience, a new study has said.

The Altimeter Group's Digital Transformation report was based on in-depth interviews with 20 digital strategists and executives at organisations undergoing digital transformation efforts. It concluded that social, mobile, real-time, and other disruptive technologies were aligning in such a way that bigger changes than initially anticipated were now needed.

Digital transformation, it argued, was not just about bolting on various new technologies as they came along in order to solve problems, but was rather about changing entire organisations from the inside out to meet customer expectations that have been totally reshaped by social and mobile.

Nor was it simply an end goal. Digital transformation is a continuous journey, said Altimeter, describing it as "the result of learning more about the relationship between technology and customer behaviour to earn relevance among them".

But internal company structures tended to operate in such a way as to make the development of a seamless customer journey even more difficult than it already was.

As one interviewee who worked for a large pharma company explained: "Business units concentrate on their own priorities when they don't have a holistic view of enterprise goals. Unfortunately, when individual agendas conflict with the company agenda, theirs wins out every time."

Altimeter further observed that the expertise required to lead successful digital engagements was often distributed across the organisation. Mobile, for example, was "strewn across multiple teams and not centralised to produce an integrated approach or experience".

The existence of multiple customer touchpoints also made it difficult to allocate resources effectively. "To earn executive support requires someone to make the business case for funding," said the report. "But, information to make the business case to map the journey is often elusive."

What was need more than anything was a champion who was able to think about the entire digital customer journey and educate executives on what needed to be done and why.

Data sourced from Altimeter; additional content by Warc staff