Much like Nokia’s Connecting People or Apple’s Think Different slogans, digital transformation has a slogan, but it’s not pretty: “Digital Transformation: Do It Now If You Want to Survive.”

After delivering projects to thousands of customers over the years, this is my advice to you. Forget about going through digital transformation “just to survive”; forget about mandates and following trends. If you really want to accelerate and overtake the competition, what you need to do is innovate—constantly. You need to lead, to blaze trails, to go off the beaten track. And not just be a follower.

There are several ways to kick your digital transformation into high gear, but there are a few tried-and-true methods that I’ve found work better than others. In my time as Director of Digital Transformation for OutSystems, I saw many a project come to fruition and I’ve learned how to identify the patterns for success through sheer experience. 

Here are the top 5 ways to accelerate your company's digital transformation:

1. Designing Customer Journey Maps

Everyone keeps harping about journeys these days. But these are different, key, essential. From the first interaction right down to the last, your customers are indeed on a journey, side-by-side with you. They're led by your endeavor, so you need to make sure they don't get lost. And, you need to make sure they feel safe, accomplished, that they are going to reach their goals with your help.

Sometimes, all you have to do is give them a little nudge. But, there’ll be other times when you will need to be proactive—act before you need to react, to make sure their journey is successful.

Customer journeys are visual representations of each customer's relationship with you, as an organization, brand, product, and service. These journeys are mapped over time and across channels. They provide a detailed understanding of your target audience and envision the customer experience as a whole.

You need to capture a breadth of valuable insights from a customer: emotions, feelings, and impact. When considered, these insights can lead to success in meeting their expectations and needs.

As you walk your audience through their processes, they reveal complex behavior and pain points. When you discover your audience, you will uncover insights about your business you never knew had an impact on the customer.

You need to understand this fact, though: at the end of the day, the business functions to serve the consumer and meet your business goals. But take care not to equate business processes to customer experience. Customer journey maps need to be based on customer actions.

Therefore, you need to establish a clear understanding of your audience: empathizing with their emotions, which will reveal their motivations, wants, and needs.

Here's a quick template on how to map your customer journeys:

  1. Capture project goals.
  2. Gather context with user research.
  3. List all touchpoints or moments and channels of interaction.
  4. Capture the emotions.
  5. Collaborate and consider the possibilities.
  6. Envision and design the journey.
  7. Show and tell.

2. Creating Clickable Prototypes

Everyone involved in a digital journey—from the CIO to the developer—has their own preconceived ideas of the what, how, and where your project should be going. They talk, share suggestions and ideas, but in the end, they’re just abstract concepts—and one cannot sell abstract ideas easily. That's why clickable prototypes are so special.

You can look at them as “fake apps”: a bunch of high-fidelity screens where you can click and actually experience how the app will look and behave. So, instead of concepts you draw on napkins, you present something tangible that can be tested, iterated, and validated—not only from the users’ perspective but also from the business value. You can immediately perceive if it contributes to the goals you set at the beginning of your project. The cool part about this is that you reduce the risk of not doing the right thing and, thus, speed up the understanding of where it should be going.

Sometimes these prototypes look so real that I've seen some people request to have those “applications” installed immediately. But, in reality, they’re just interactive screens, but with no true logic implemented. They will nonetheless allow you to gather feedback from business and users before overloading your IT team.

Now, we deliver fast. Super fast. Even so, creating an app takes time. The good thing is that turning that prototype into an application is something we can deliver faster than anyone else on the planet.

3. Building Multi-Disciplinary Teams

Do you know Jeff Bezos’s two-pizza team rule? It says that teams shouldn’t be larger than what two pizzas can feed. What does this have to do with digital transformation? Everything. It’s not a big team that will help you accelerate your journey; it’s the diversity of that team.

Though each organization has its own unique structure, there are common functions involved in the delivery of software that can be broken down into six different areas of expertise:

  • Business
  • Demand and governance
  • Development
  • Architecture
  • User experience
  • Operations

It’s the work of all of these teams that will lead to the success or failure of your project. Business users know the market and customer mindset like no one else, while the development and architecture teams know how to design an app-level architecture, control code quality with peer code reviews, and understand how technical features map to business requirements. User experience ensures the needs of the customer are being considered and that the result exceeds their expectations. And operations close the loop by delivering excellent service as part of the roll-out of a new customer solution.

And where does the pizza stand in all of these? Besides being the fuel of development, according to Bezos, the two pizzas create teams that communicate more efficiently. How many times have you been in group dinners or even weddings and, all of a sudden, people are chatting in smaller groups? So, the smaller the team, the better is the communication, autonomy, and innovation.

4. Organizing a Hackathon

Yes, you read it right. Coding marathons are a great way to speed up innovation. Just imagine it this way: you gather the people that know your business the best—IT leaders, managers—with people with skills to bring ideas to life—developers. Can you picture a better environment to brainstorm?

The thing is, one of the main challenges of digital transformation—and you’ll know if you’re dealing with one—is the scarcity of time and resources. And that’s exactly what hackathons are all about: they’re intense, sprint-like sessions that can last from a few hours to a few days. They can act as true innovation labs to accelerate your business and make it more efficient, no matter if you’re a financial service company, a storied retail giant, a government institution, or an online fashion company, for example.

And don’t worry if you don’t know where to start; we wrote a full guide about how to organize one.

5. Getting Your Digital Transformation Playbook

Finally, if you really want to innovate, get inspiration from our Digital Transformation Playbook, a step-by-step action guide written to help your business scale and embrace an innovation mindset. Based on real experiences of OutSystems customers, this playbook introduces you to a new methodology called the low-code digital factory that you can apply in your digital journey from beginning to end.

Download your own copy and get ready to innovate even faster.