May 15, 2019

Is Your Company Due for a Digital Transformation?


Michael W. Kahn

Michael W. Kahn


ORLANDO, Fla.—“What would your company look like if you created it today?” Tom Goodwin asked that question to make a point. 

“It’s much easier to build something from scratch than it is to destroy and change what you have,” said Goodwin, head of innovation at Zenith Media and author of “Digital Darwinism.” But in his keynote at Smarter. Faster. Payments 2019, he made clear that business as usual won’t cut it. And he suggested it might be time for a “digital transformation.”

Tom Goodwin“If you’d never created your company, knowing what you know now, how would you create it?” asked Goodwin. 

Amazon, Google and Uber “built themselves for this era. They have understood the need for simplicity, they have understood the need to be customer centric, and the technology is lurking in the background to make things really easy,” said Goodwin.

But for companies started in another era, Goodwin acknowledged that “you probably have to turn your company into the thing that you would have built.”

He likened it to businesses that used steam engines having to convert to electric motors.

“These are the companies that have done things well for a long time. They know what they’re doing. They have expertise. And they now need to rethink,” said Goodwin. He knows it’s not easy, but he offered some guidance.

“There is an extent to which the skills and the processes and the attitudes that you now need to have are a little bit different,” said Goodwin. “We don’t need to forget everything we know, but we do need to build on it and change slightly.”

He encouraged established firms to “leverage what you have.” Goodwin said many new, high profile companies are “envious” of some of those assets.

“Trust is a huge one. To be able to earn trust, to have brand recognition, to have people that know how to deal with regulations, to have a track record of changing over time,” said Goodwin. “I’d be very confident in what you have, as well as being keen to learn from the environment that’s out there.” 

By that he means not just competitors, but also unrelated companies. As Goodwin noted, people now “compare an airline experience not just with other airlines, but with a car rental company, every hotel experience, every dating app.” Today’s payment experiences, he said, are similarly compared.

Goodwin also said to be mindful of competitors of all sizes. “You see companies like HotelTonight that have completely changed our booking experience. This now means that every company that’s not making it easy to book a hotel for that evening is suffering in ways they can’t imagine, because they’re not getting the growth that companies like this are getting.”

And whatever you do, Goodwin said, don’t stay stagnant. 

“The cost of doing nothing,” he said, “is much larger than we think.”