Expert Insights

Going digital: a golden opportunity

We’ve all seen how digital has transformed the consumer experience. But what about in the B2B world? Henry Boyden specialises in helping organisations capitalise on the potential of digital business. He tells us how B2Bs who haven’t undertaken significant digital transformation, are in danger of leaving it too late.


It’s easy to feel alienated by digital buzzwords. But there’s one phrase in particular that B2B companies need to be aware of right now: omni-channel transformation. In short, it’s the eliminating of traditional channel boundaries and delivering one, unified customer experience across all channels: including branch, web, mobile and call centre.

Some B2C companies are doing this well. There are two signs of those B2B companies that are also starting to realise the commercial benefits of digital: First they are providing a best in class omnichannel experience to their trade or distributor customers. Secondly they recognise the need, via their own digital presence, to help customers drive brand awareness and sell their products to their customers. Engagement through social channels, rich case studies, striking inspiration by demonstration of product applications are some examples of how this may be achieved.

Whatever you do, don’t do nothing

Digital strategy = business strategy

Business leaders who don’t really understand digital sometimes hand it over to an ‘expert’ or firm of external consultants. But Henry warns that although experts, internal and external, are usually very important, the key is that every executive and key stakeholder must understand and own the digital business strategy for themselves. In short, every function is affected by digital transformation.

“For example, if you wish to make a new promise on your web and mobile channels to deliver products in less time than before, that’s not a digital challenge per se, it’s primarily one for the supply chain and other aspects of the organisation”, he says. “Yes, you need a solid digital strategy, great digital customer experience and the right technology, but the key is in organisational and business process change”.

Whatever you do, don’t do nothing. As Henry says: “You might be making strong profits now, but they could be flattering your situation. There are businesses – in music and publishing for example – who were making huge profits, put their heads in the sand when it came to digital and the rest is history.

Avoid killing profitability during transformation

Of course transformation isn’t easy. Typically it takes several years and demands significant investment. So how do you avoid killing profitability or return on capital in the meantime?

Henry is clear, “Customer insight is vital, as that will dictate the pace of your transformation. Also it is often sensible to create a roadmap that isn’t too radical in the first instance. And as with any investment the business case must be watertight, with clear returns on investment identified at each and every milestone so that you are not in danger of endlessly chasing a pot of digital gold at the end of the rainbow”.

Constant innovation while transforming

Good governance and strong business sponsorship is important along the sometimes bumpy road to successful transformation. But digital also provides fantastic opportunities for quick, relatively inexpensive innovations – via mobile and other apps, for example. These can bring meaningful efficiencies to traditional businesses, as well as help maintain the mandate at all levels for the multiyear transformation. The increasingly discussed Internet of Things is providing many of these opportunities for traditional businesses.

It’s another buzz-phrase, but the Internet of Things refers to physical objects having a digital connection. For example, any kind of stock in your warehouse can be digitally counted and tracked in real time and without human intervention, or the components you make can be fitted with sensors to alert you when they might need servicing.

“Even just three or four years ago, execs leading industrial and other traditional businesses would often just fold their arms and say: ‘What’s Facebook got to do with my business?’. That was what digital meant to them. But now I can normally give them five real life examples in five minutes of how digital is making an increasingly material commercial difference to businesses like theirs.”


  • Digital strategy and business strategy are indivisible.
  • You can’t implement digital strategy without simultaneously transforming the whole business.
  • The pace of change should be driven by customer insight.
  • Don’t rest on your laurels. Invest today or be behind very soon.

Henry Boyden

Henry Boyden specialises in digital and technology transformation work in large global businesses and turnaround and restructuring work in smaller digital, technology and media businesses. He has worked for plc, private, venture-backed and private-equity-funded enterprises.

Williams Bain

Williams Bain is a leading interim manager provider. We’re trusted by some of the UK’s largest organisations to support the implementation of complex strategies that accelerate results and lead to definitive, positive and measurable change.