Digital Transformation - a partner or not?

Choose a partner or do it yourself


Digital Transformation will continue to be an important theme for many organisations in the coming year. 

Consumers won’t ever let go of Digital opportunities, and new players are applying even more pressure for an optimal customer experience at the lowest possible price. 

That’s why Digital isn’t a one-off project (the realisation of a website or new app), but rather it’s – apparently – an unending organisational change process. Will you travel the road alone, or are you looking for a partner to help you with the changes along the way?

Digitale Strategie | Mirabeau

Type of partners 

In the late ‘90s, the market was still new. Companies had to dig deeply to find out their options for a partner. They visited crowded events like ‘Internet in Business’ at the Jaarbeurs, engaged in great conversations at the luxuriously built stands, and afterwards, sent their briefing to a few of the people they spoke to. Mirabeau didn’t exist then, but in the Netherlands agencies like Info.nl, Twinspark, Netcast, Lost Boys and Tam Tam were available for the bigger projects.

In the last few years, growth has been rapid and it’s gotten mighty crowded with service providers in the Digital playground. In addition to Internet companies (now called Digital Agencies), the large advertising networks (Publicis, WPP, Omnicom) are now active in Digital through a large number of acquisitions. They focus on activation and online campaigns.

On the other side of the spectrum, we see System/IT Integrators. They’re looking for new projects after the rapid reduction in profits from their ‘classic’ IT work (SAP, ERP). Lastly, in the past two years, many small- and large consulting firms have entered the arena. Some IT and consulting companies build their own practice (e.g. Deloitte Digital, VODW Digital). Others choose to acquire a 100%-Digital club (e.g. the Frog acquisition by Accenture and the Lunar acquisition by McKinsey).

Digitale strategie model | Mirabeau

Two different approaches

For each of the aforementioned types of partners, it’s therefore interesting to examine the way they work, how their workforce has been constructed, and whether they have the right ‘click’ with your own people.

The IT integrators excel, like no others, at process optimisation and automation. Experienced consultants offer analyses, data and thinking power that your company can take on board. But… in addition to change, Digital is mostly about ‘Doing’. Organisational strategy is often dynamic. Every day, your company learns more from the data collected from a new service and from user behaviour. That’s why it’s essential to quickly realise working prototypes, together with the end-user. New technologies unveiled today will be mainstream within two years. Short, swift development cycles give companies the opportunity to learn quickly from their mistakes and from end-user feedback.

Since the ‘90s, Digital Agencies have possessed a unique set of ‘Doing’ skills. They have a drive to continuously work on the most optimal UX. They’re accustomed to getting things ‘live’ in short timeframes, working together in multidisciplinary teams, getting up close and personal with new technology, applying insights from various sectors, and most of all, ensuring that they have the right, passionate Digital boys and girls available to truly make a difference.

Do it yourself?

Want to do it on our own? Ultimately, every company should have the Digital skills in-house, and at least one ambitious, tenacious driving force who leads the charge. This Digital Transformer has a difficult job (breaking down patterns and silos), but the rewards will be tremendous if the organisation is able to make the change. 

The strategic importance of the change is too great (and too permanent) to place it entirely in the hands of externals. Organisations like Booking.com, BOL and Coolblue – often defined by their online success – but also ING and Transavia, are well aware of this reality. They recruit Digital talents and build their own Digital teams. Still, these success stories like to work together with strategic partners. Setting aside the cumbersome IT roadblocks and internal bureaucracy to create and test a working prototype instead of an 80-slide presentation infuses energy and can convince the Board more quickly to make the next Digital investment. 

To truly remain an agile organisation, companies who use Digital successfully shouldn’t shut themselves away from the outside world. Experiences from other sectors, insights from new people, opportunities to absorb fluctuations in capacity, and certainly the focus created by working with external parties all contribute to a new, open and agile organisation. 

Open selection process

A one-way request-for-proposals process is definitely not the way to eventually make the right selection. Formal processes and offers in sealed envelopes do not create dialogue and shared creative passion. You’ll want to engage in conversations with the people with whom you may be working, experience where the energy comes from, and actively discuss your issues and Digital ambitions. The process should be open and personal.

A winning team!

It’s remarkable to see how successful comapnies – after selecting their strategic partners – actively build successful Digital teams. They realise that choosing a good partner is merely the first step. At the end of the day, it’s the people (both internal and external) that will make it happen.

If the organisation can connect with – and retain – the very best, it will have a major impact on Digital success. At the team/personal level, these organisations often don’t make a distinction between their own employees and key external players. Leadership readily joins the Get-ready sessions, knows what motivates the team and invites externals to join internal social gatherings, events and strategic meetings. From strategic collaboration to successful teams to Digital success!