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Experience is the new brand; brands are no longer defined by their products, but the full holistic experience they create for their customers across multiple touchpoints and channels.

B2B brands can create digital experiences that build strong customer relationships - something the pharmaceutical services company Clinigen discovered through its recent digital transformation journey, supported by the specialist B2B digital experience company, Omobono.

A digital experience that put the customer first and centred on understanding the buying journey enabled Clinigen to create a bigger business impact by getting to market quickly while working around legacy systems - but it wasn’t without a few challenges along the way. Simon Harper, VP of digital, Clinigen Group and Marcus Lambert, chief technology officer, Omobono discussed these challenges at The Drum’s Digital Transformation Festival to share three valuable lessons.

Given its global reach, Clinigen was clear from the outset that it had to be able to scale but to do that efficiently would require relying on technology and digital transformation. Being able to manage the end-to-end process, simplify, automate and drive the order journey as quickly as possible was a big priority. To deliver that experience for its customers, it needed to be multi-channel.

Look for progress, not perfection 

In starting any transformation journey, collating information together in one place can be an overwhelming place to begin. That’s why Lambert advised that it’s better to do things in increments. Digital transformations which have failed in the past have often taken a “big bang” approach to achieve everything in one go - but that’s not the best process.

“[With each step], the technology that needs to go in then has a knock on effect to the process, which then has a knock on effect to the people, and that can affect things culturally,” said Lambert. “By going top to bottom, in a slice, everyone then understands the effects the ripples have, rather than doing this big reveal at the end and realising you haven't got it. You should always look for progress and not perfection - that's the best way to really approach these things because it becomes more successful and allows you to adapt to the change. I don't think you could ever get it right in one go.”

Both Lambert and Harper agreed that there will always be points in transformation programmes where either budget or unexpected things creep out of the woodwork that need to be worked through. That’s why it’s important to test, learn, adapt and adjust.

“Especially in a digital transformation, you’re taking processes which might have been in a business for years that aren’t automated yet. Human beings have been covering up inconsistencies in data for years and that’s always the way it’s been done,” said Lambert. “Now, you’re exposing that to the client directly, so we need to make sure the data is absolutely perfect and fully automated. That then has ripple effects in changing processes and standard procedures that need to be looked at, after years of being brushed under the rug. There’s nowhere to hide when you expose it to the client.”

Businesses need to take a hard look in the mirror

In uncovering those inconsistencies, Harper noted that it’s a process of holding a mirror up - both internally when looking at processes, but especially when exposing anything publicly. 

“A digital transformation will hold a mirror up to your business and the whole business needs to be ready to have a good hard look and be prepared to make the changes that are required,” he said. “It drives a lot of self-reflection and the threshold for what is good enough is that much higher.”

One of the biggest wins for Clinigen has been in building country-specific regulations into its systems to automate customer online journeys. Yet Harper notes that some of the more mundane data can raise questions about architecture or the quality of it, when looking to start using it in new ways. Going through the transformation has driven data management up the agenda and is something it is investing significantly in “because it’s central to everything”.

Set the foundation blocks early on for the biggest wins

“When you embark on something like this, there’s legacy technology that’s in a particular state which you want to bring into a future state and they may not align,” added Lambert. “It’s about bringing things forward to put them in. Identity is a big challenge and introducing your customers to new information and syncing that across all systems into a single identity is a lot of work. Getting these foundation blocks early on are big wins because you get to learn the processes that come off the back of them and learn how to do new tasks efficiently.”

By combining the user-focus of an experience design company, the technology skills of a software consultancy and the creative thinking of an advertising agency, Omobono was able to help Clinigen with the digital experience they faced on their digital transformation journey. For B2B brands today, digital experiences hold the key to building strong customer relationships and should be an important element of the digital transformation journey.

Simon Harper, VP of digital, Clinigen Group and Marcus Lambert, chief technology officer, Omobono were talking to Lynn Lester, managing director, events, The Drum at The Drum’s Digital Transformation Festival. 

You can watch the full session here