Focusing on employees: 5 factors of success for a digital transformation in destinations

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There is hardly any other topic that moves the world of tourism planning as much as the digital transformation. A lot is already happening on national as well as federal state level and recently the topic of Open Data has also reached the tourism industry.  Discussions about the requirements that the semantic web brings with it and the needs of customers, who want to receive relevant and up to date data all the time, are topic of podium discussions, during bar camps and in everyday lives of destination managers.   The necessary platform and corresponding software is provided by technical suppliers. Regional tourism associations are working – sometimes faster, sometimes slower – on appropriate strategies to ensure that the guests receive the most relevant, up-to-date and high quality data possible. Be it as a marketing measure or as a practical orientation aid on site.

However, despite all the progress and strategic consideration, there are a number of important actors that currently receive too little attention: the local and regional level, employees in tourist informations, managers of medium-sized and small tourism associations and tourism service providers .- i.e. all those who ultimately have to obtain, process, evaluate and provide the data. In other words: the operative level has hardly been involved so far and is now facing a huge structural change.

According to a current study by BTE & DTV concerned with the overview of the situation of digitalization in German destinations, more than 55% of DMOs and TIs and more than 45% of DMOs without TIs feel “rather bad” to “very bad” concerning digitization and digitalization. In addition the study found out that 57% lack of know-how and 45% lack of inadequate content quality, which are two of the biggest obstacles towards digital transformation. Therefore there is a great need to take action at the operational level!

1. Listening and Analyzing

At the beginning it is generally totally unclear which data is available in which quality, form and structure, how these are updated, scrutinized and processed.

It is necessary to begin with a detailed inventory and to document the results in a structured way.  Any relevant data such as texts, images, path, points of Interest (POIs), municipal data, restaurants and accommodations need to be considered and examined. At the same time it is the task to name the associated quality criteria and to check to what extent they have already been met or where there is a need for improvement.

It is compulsory to involve the actors that need to carry out precisely this work. This is where the transformation process begins and it can only be successful if there is an intensive exchange with the employees, listening to them, asking the right questions and complains about the rapid change are accepted sometimes.

Time is an important factor here. It needs to be clear to all, that such a process takes time. Realistically this first step is not feasible in less than 3 month.

 2. Solve Problems and use chances

A range of problems will arise during inventory. Thus it will be questioned over and over again, which use the whole digital transformation actually has, what the future tasks of the DMOs will look like and whether there aren’t simpler ways.

At this point, all questions need to be clarified precisely. However, it is essential to not act “top down” and from an expert perceptive, but to provide information, ask questions and help the actors to find their own answers and solutions through active coaching.

It is necessary on the one hand, to communicate that there are no alternatives for DMOs to worry about data management in future rather than about operational marketing.  On the other hand, it needs to be possible to identify the opportunities with the actors and to work out perspectives for the respective functional areas. This step offers a great opportunity and shows weather the transformation process will be successful.

With appropriate support, those involved will quite quickly realize that new fields of work will open up while other existing task will disappear. It is important to get involved directly and ask for personal perspectives and wishes. It will become apparent that many employees have great competences for the transformation and the subsequent operative work.

A clear objective, structured problem handling strategy, the clear definition of measures and a precise timetable should be minimum components of this work step, for which another 3 month should be taken into consideration. 

1. Listening and Analyzing

At the beginning it is generally totally unclear which data is available in which quality, form and structure, how these are updated, scrutinized and processed.

It is necessary to begin with a detailed inventory and to document the results in a structured way.  Any relevant data such as texts, images, path, points of Interest (POIs), municipal data, restaurants and accommodations need to be considered and examined. At the same time it is the task to name the associated quality criteria and to check to what extent they have already been met or where there is a need for improvement.

It is compulsory to involve the actors that need to carry out precisely this work. This is where the transformation process begins and it can only be successful if there is an intensive exchange with the employees, listening to them, asking the right questions and complains about the rapid change are accepted sometimes.

Time is an important factor here. It needs to be clear to all, that such a process takes time. Realistically this first step is not feasible in less than 3 month.

 2. Solve Problems and use chances

A range of problems will arise during inventory. Thus it will be questioned over and over again, which use the whole digital transformation actually has, what the future tasks of the DMOs will look like and whether there aren’t simpler ways.

At this point, all questions need to be clarified precisely. However, it is essential to not act “top down” and from an expert perceptive, but to provide information, ask questions and help the actors to find their own answers and solutions through active coaching.

It is necessary on the one hand, to communicate that there are no alternatives for DMOs to worry about data management in future rather than about operational marketing.  On the other hand, it needs to be possible to identify the opportunities with the actors and to work out perspectives for the respective functional areas. This step offers a great opportunity and shows weather the transformation process will be successful.

With appropriate support, those involved will quite quickly realize that new fields of work will open up while other existing task will disappear. It is important to get involved directly and ask for personal perspectives and wishes. It will become apparent that many employees have great competences for the transformation and the subsequent operative work.

A clear objective, structured problem handling strategy, the clear definition of measures and a precise timetable should be minimum components of this work step, for which another 3 month should be taken into consideration. 

3. Inspire and Mobilize

Now the implementation phase begins. At this point it should be clear which work structure will be used. The selection is manifold and will not be further focused on. The chosen system determines which input masked will be used in future and what the specific quality standards look like (for images, texts, POIs etc.). First test runs and technical trainings will point out challenges again but also clarify the potential of digitization.

First small success stories can be used productively. As soon it becomes visible that the work is a success, that e.g. communication tools are used which haven’t been used before, that the quality of the external presentation is significantly improved or that positive comments are received from guests, the reorganization of the DMO structures can be worked on. Since the questions of principle have already been clarified, new tasks can now be distributed – at best in close cooperation with the neighboring regions or the high-level tourism association.

4. Learning and developing together

But it’s not done yet. New processes and task must be defined in the team. It has to be clarified how the data is kept up-to-date, how new and time-limited offers can be entered, how partners can be integrated and how private management can be supported. In addition there must be a solution how – and whether – print products will be created in future and what the marketing work as a whole will look like.

New task profiles are created, job description change and extended competences are needed. For sure this step is not possible without further training. Therefore it is necessary to work out which skills are still missing and where training still needs to be carried out.

The development of standards is of central importance here – both for internal work steps as well as for external cooperation. This makes sure that everyone knows what needs to be done at all times.

Permanent improvement should be the principle applied in this step. This means that in all work steps it needs to be where problems occurred, how they can be solved and how processes can be optimized in future.

5. Developing a new team spirit and new structures

Ultimately after the successful process support, it will become clear that there are great opportunities for all those involved. Exciting stories can easily be told this way and with little effort distributed digitally. Guests interaction increases, feedback can be immediately recognized and processed and overall the employees will spend more time on exciting tasks that contribute to profiling of the destination. Clear structures ensure less friction in communication and the time required to maintain data is drastically reduced.

In future, destination managers will have to fulfill other tasks – not the promotion of the region through the known marketing measures will be in the foreground, but the management of the data, which then will be automatically found by potential customers.

Focusing on employees

In course of the digital transformation there are massive changes in the destinations, in which the perceived competence of each individual play an important role. The process shown below can be accelerated by intensive process support from coaches.

Own representation based on: Kostka, C. & Mönch A. (2009). Change Management: 7 Methoden für die Gestaltung von Veränderungsprozessen. Hanser Verlag.

COMPASS GmbH supports and accompanies you competently through the entire process starting with the development through to the implementation of the tourism digitalization strategy. The five central success factors are the main focus of the digital transformation.

Author: Stefan Staub

Schon als Kind war ich sehr gerne mit meinen Eltern im Wohnmobil unterwegs. Dabei hatte ich immer einen Atlas oder eine Karte auf meinem Schoß. Das Reisen und die bunten Karten gefielen mir so, dass ich später beschloss Geographie zu studieren. Hierbei entdeckte ich, dass auch die sozialen Aspekte des menschlichen Zusammenlebens äußerst spannend und eine Reise für sich sind. So habe ich meinen Schwerpunkt auf die Kulturgeographie und Soziologie gelegt. Heute arbeite ich als Senior Consultant bei COMPASS und freue mich darüber, dass ich all meine Leidenschaften ausleben und weitere für mich entdecken kann.

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