Circle Opinion

Lessons learned: how three major organisations used challenges to drive digital change

James Maw

According to research by BCG, 70% of digital transformation programmes fall short of their objectives. One reason for this is that organisations often see technology as a ‘silver bullet’ – and end up creating more problems than they set out to solve.

That’s why it’s essential to know exactly what factors should help you drive change. And who better to learn from than some of the UK’s top brands?

We took the opportunity to look at some of our clients’ most successful digital transformation challenges. And we found three key strategies that have helped shape their success over the past year.


Customer demands are one of the biggest driving forces behind changing industry trends.

Responding to those demands effectively is critical. Failing to meet them can reduce customer satisfaction, and you risk losing customers to competitors who are offering what they want.

At the very least, you might miss out on new revenue opportunities that, if executed correctly, could accelerate your organisation’s growth and brand reputation.

Our relationship with UK hospitality giant Mitchells & Butlers has always centred around meeting changing customer demands. We helped them to introduce innovative new applications to serve their customers better.

For example, we worked closely with the client’s own team to develop an order-at-table app that delivered both real-time item availability and flexibility for their customers at each stage of ordering. It is a simple, straightforward solution putting customers in control.


Understanding your customers – and market trends – goes a long way to helping you take a more proactive approach.

For a long time, we have been helping Waitrose & Partners to adapt to more of its business moving online, and to deliver the exceptional experiences its loyal customers expect across a wider range of channels.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, few could have predicted the knock-on effects of a nationwide lockdown on customer habits. When retailers were hit with sudden panic buying, they had to react fast.

For Waitrose & Partners, this meant putting controls in place to ensure its customers could still buy the wide range of products they expect, while also limiting the nationwide impact on supermarket essentials.

Together, we applied product capping techniques to limit bulk buying. By using volume testing to introduce sensible limits on key products, and stopping promotions in line with trading standards law (while starting new ones on uncapped products), the retailer ensured its customers could get what they needed, still safe in the knowledge there were offers to be had.

Once we were confident panic buying was under control, we made changes to stock control systems to help spread the supply of in-demand products across all sites.

Meanwhile, we were also working with the retailer on its Brexit planning contingencies – helping to ensure perishable product disruption is kept to a minimum by adapting sources to within the UK or unaffected countries.

You can find out more about our proactive client work in the second blog in this series.


The number of online orders retailers receive is increasing year on year. So, being able to scale as and when you need to is critical. While some peak trading periods – such as Easter, Black Friday, and Christmas – can be plotted on a calendar and are relatively easy to plan for, what happens when the retail landscape changes overnight?

This was the problem faced by Argos when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. While nationwide lockdown restrictions forced its physical stores to close, its online and click-and-collect orders surged to around 90% of its total sales – putting huge pressure on its digital infrastructure.

We’ve been working with Argos for decades, so both teams knew what was required to help the company adapt. Our programme of works took shape in two phases. The first was at store level, where we shifted the focus to optimising stock and picking systems for home delivery and enabling items to be ready for click and collect. This allowed Argos to keep stock disruption to a minimum.

We then worked with the company’s development team to streamline its nationwide distribution network and accelerate system testing – helping Argos to sustainably manage stock around its sites in the long term.


These examples show how with the right approach – and the right partner – you can unlock new levels of digital change to improve your customer experience and foster further innovation in turn.

By taking a consultative approach that strikes the right balance between making proactive changes and reacting to customer demands, you can make better decisions that will help you maintain a competitive edge.

If you’d like to explore the topic of proactivity a little further, you’re in luck. Read the next blog in the series to discover three ways our clients turned their biggest challenges into their biggest proactive opportunities.

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James Maw