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Clients are placing too much emphasis on technology and IT when implementing their digital transformation initiatives, according to Publicis Sapient’s chief executive Nigel Vaz.

With Covid-19 now forcing brands to adopt digital at scale, Publicis Groupe's global lead for business transformation offered some insight into the biggest mistakes he sees from advertisers in their quest to retune their businesses for the modern age.

“[Internal transformation] can become an IT project,” he explained, saying brands often get too caught up in tech issues. “Yes, technology and understanding how to deliver it is a very big part of transformation, but it is not the entire emphasis.”

The first, and “biggest” challenge, Vaz said his agency comes up against is brands who don’t realise they will have to shift their entire mode of working if they want to compete.

“[Clients need to first ask themselves] how they’re actually changing their business models to reimagine their business in the context of a world that is entirely digital," he asserted. "What they don’t want to be doing is taking the exact same processes they had before and digitising them. That’s digitisation, it’s not transformation."

“Technology and IT used to be about risk and cost, in the context of transformation they have to be about value and differentiation,” he added.

Another hurdle brands fall at during the transformation process is failing to bring their employees along for the ride.

“Transformation should be about changing the experience within the organisation to deliver value to customers,” he added. 

Vaz cited Netflix as a key example of a brand that has successfully done both, having moved away from its origins as mail order service to a streaming platform, to what it is now — a studio and content creator in its own right.

How coronavirus is 'accelerating' existing trends

Publicis Sapient counts Walmart among the brands it services, and while Vaz didn’t name names he did admit that coronavirus had seen one large global retail client at least “double” its online business over the past month.

“We’ve seen numbers like you’ve never imagined, our systems have seen increases of between 300% to 600% order value and total transaction value across food and non-food [items] go through the roof. It’s because there are limitations, people cannot go into a store as easily as they can go online.”

He added: “In one sense, [the pandemic] has accelerated what was already a fast-growing trend.”

Vaz was taking as part of The Drum’s Digital Download series (part of the wider Digital Transformation Festival) which seeks to explore the experiences and viewpoints of digital leaders around the world as brands and consumers enter a new age of digital transformation.

You can watch the full interview here and view more content from The Drum's Digital Transformation Festival here.