Authority Magazine - How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company to the Next Level

April 08, 2021

This interview originally appeared on Authority Magazine.

As part of their series on “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company to the Next Level,” Jason Hartman from Authority Magazine interviewed Dave Duke, MetaCX Co-Founder and CCO.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory” and how you got started?

I’m a born and bred Hoosier originally from Muncie, Indiana. I went to school at Indiana University, and I’ve been in Indianapolis ever since. I initially set off to pursue a career in sports marketing and management, but I luckily found my way into the software industry when I landed my first gig at ExactTarget as an account manager. At ExactTarget (acquired by Salesforce in 2013), I took a strong interest in customer success and experience, and it set the tone for my career path. I have since stepped into the startup world as I joined Sigstr (acquired by Terminus) in 2015 and went on to be a co-founder of MetaCX, my current company and project.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or takeaways you learned from that?

In my first corporate job, one day I found myself in the notorious “reply all” group of employees who too quickly respond to a group email without thinking about the consequences of hitting send. It was more embarrassing than funny, and it was a quick lesson in the importance of measuring twice and cutting once. To this day every time I write an email, I think about what would happen if I sent it to the wrong person or group of people. While initially a lesson in office etiquette, it has served me well in thinking about the importance of being thorough and disciplined.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful toward who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I think about several people as I reflect on my career journey. My first manager at ExactTarget was a leader named Shelly Griffin, and we went on to work together side-by-side for several years. I always will be grateful for the opportunities she presented to me and her mentorship along the way. One of the things that I’ve taken away with me from Shelly is the importance of celebrating team successes. We often did contests as a team, and while it’s nice to win a bonus or some new perk, the key takeaway was the importance of encouraging teammates to set big goals and work tirelessly to hit those goals together for the betterment of the team.

Is there a particular book, podcast or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

One of my favorite books is “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. The book focuses on the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset, and it’s really changed the way I think about my personal and professional growth. The most successful people are those that embrace a growth mindset; they have an appetite for learning and embrace the roller coaster ride of challenges, setbacks and achievement along the way. We are always learning and growing, and the best way to work through the ups and downs is to understand that every experience is a step toward improvement. I highly recommend it.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

We at MetaCX believe there are better ways to serve and manage business relationships. We are challenging the market and our team to think differently about how we approach the management of business relationships (customers, suppliers, partners) to stay focused on what matters most to the people on the other side. We believe that if we can shift our focus to value creation and delivery over the life of a business relationship, all parties can be served better. We are focused on helping companies create win-win relationships within their ecosystem so everyone can find success.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Yes, I have recently launched a new podcast called Revenue Revolutionaries. With the podcast, I’m on a quest to learn from today’s best revenue and customer leaders. I’m talking to chief revenue, chief customer and chief operating officers and other big thinkers, experts and thought leaders about what it takes to build world-class revenue and customer teams. We also talk a lot about what it means to create shared success through the co-creation of value. My goal is to help those managing business relationships learn, grow and innovate. The link for listeners is here.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about digital transformation. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly digital transformation means? On a practical level, what does it look like to engage in a digital transformation?

Digital transformation is a loaded term and topic and very exciting at the same time. Digital transformation is the adoption of technology within a business to transform processes and culture to improve what was in place before. It is finding new ways of working to better manage a business and its stakeholders across a company’s ecosystem.

Practically speaking, I believe it is an understanding that there are new and better ways to serve employees and customers in order to ensure that a company is remaining relevant and competitive in the market. Innovation is necessary to win and grow, and with this in mind, digital transformation is foundational to making this happen. Digital transformation is also cross-functional. Every department within a business has the opportunity to think differently about how their side of the business can benefit from the application of technology. We have seen massive change with the proliferation of new technologies over the past several years, and that adoption will continue as the technologies get stronger and the people behind the technology get savvier with the applications alongside the use cases.

Which companies can most benefit from a digital transformation?

I believe all companies can benefit from digital transformation because it’s the only way to stay competitive in this day and age. More specifically, I would suggest that there are leaders and laggards within the spectrum of transformation. Those companies that are falling behind from an employee retention and revenue growth standpoint must pick up the pace when it comes to digital transformation.

We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with digital transformation. In your experience, how has digital transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.

We help our customers transform by strategizing around the foundational idea of delivering value to customers and suppliers in a company’s ecosystem. We are re-imaging the way two companies come together to manage their relationship to ensure that value delivery is the focal point of relationship management. We introduce the opportunity to build outcome-based shared success plans backed by live performance data. This empowers the relationship in new ways and ensures that the customer’s desired outcomes are understood and that they are positioned as the context for the management of the relationship. This change puts both sides in a better position to develop a long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship.

We are working with one company that has been diligently focused on figuring out the best way to implement and operationalize an outcome-based customer management strategy. We helped them align technology to their strategy in order to elevate their customer experience. This effort is putting their team in a better position to serve and manage customers in order to achieve greater levels of retention and growth and, more importantly, help customers realize the potential of their investment and supplier relationship.

Has integrating digital transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?

Change is hard no matter what the endeavor, and digital transformation is no exception. The best way to overcome the obstacles is to create and maintain a vision for the future. I recommend that the work be grounded in a set of goals that provide a solid foundation from which the organization can develop strategies and tactics. You need to understand why you’re pursuing a better future state for the business. I would suggest that progress is the goal. The work is never really done, so progress alongside meaningful milestones is the best way to think about changing the business for the better.

Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It to the Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Do more for employees. One of the greatest advantages of committing to digital transformation initiatives is to use it to enhance the workplace. The company goes as the employee base goes, and if employees don’t have a world-class set of tools and technologies to support their work and the customer base they serve, they will be at a disadvantage when interacting with the market. One example here is to leverage a collaboration application like Slack or Microsoft Teams to make it easier to work together internally with colleagues. Internal collaboration tools have emerged as being mission-critical to ensure work is moving forward.
  2. Become more customer-centric. Digital transformation has the power to make an organization more customer-centric. Customer centricity begins with leadership, but leadership can empower an organization to use technology to make it easier for the business to serve and manage customers. One of the primary opportunities is to elevate the customer experience. One of the best ways to think about this is to consider the ways in which a company can unify customer touchpoints. In other words, create one place for customers to manage their relationship with a supplier. The last thing you want to do is make it hard for a customer to manage their relationship with you. Technology can simplify and unify the customer experience to make it easier for a customer to find and share information and data, provide feedback, communicate with an account team, work a shared success plan, and go through training exercises.
  3. Deliver more value to customers. Another aspect of being more customer-centric is to seize opportunities to deliver more value to customers. Digital transformation efforts that align directly to customer management can explore new opportunities to position and deliver value to customers by helping companies stay focused on what matters most to their customers while also tracking the progress of a relationship across the customer lifecycle. One example of this in the software industry is aligning a software product tightly to the goals of the customer. The customer should fully understand why they are using the technology they are using to achieve their goals. The future is very bright when it comes to better definition and documentation of customer outcomes alongside the data that supports the work and the ultimate determination of success.
  4. Become more competitive. Innovative companies are ultimately the winners in the market. Look no further than the now well-circulated example of Blockbuster vs. Netflix. Blockbuster failed to embrace innovation, and it led to the demise of the company. It’s a lesson in not only staying competitive but also casting a vision for the future of your industry. Embracing digital transformation and thinking about how it will redefine a given industry in the next 10–20 years is key to staying relevant and ahead of the competition.
  5. Unify systems to reduce cost and create new efficiencies. One of the biggest opportunities that digital transformation presents is the opportunity to consolidate systems and processes to make a business more efficient. More than ever, it’s possible to manage multiple use cases in one piece of technology, and through the power of integration, it’s more possible than ever to have disparate systems working together to centralize work and data which inevitably leads to cost reduction opportunities. For example, instead of asking your employees to manage their HR needs (pay, benefits, equity, etc.) across multiple systems, bring it all together in one place to make it easier for employees to find what they need when they need it.

In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?

There are always ways to improve, and that’s the essence of innovation for me. A culture of innovation requires leaders to embrace and champion change within an organization. They must create space for employees to present and own ideas that translate into projects that push the organization forward. It is also paramount that a safe environment is created to accept failure. Failure is how learning occurs, and innovation can only happen through learning.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite quotes is, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” via Wayne Gretzky. I think it speaks to the opportunity we all have to invest in ourselves and place bets on our potential to achieve great things. You can’t be successful without pushing yourself to realize your potential.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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