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

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.