Transform or die --a mantra that rules the day in our technology- and experience-driven business environment. Business leaders know they must adapt to the ever-evolving needs of their customers, but technology and the social web have completely changed their behavior and organizations are struggling to keep up.

What's the solution? What shifts need to occur for brands to keep pace with, or better yet, get ahead of, the rate of change?

In short, it will require a departure from legacy systems used to market to, and communicate with, customers. Organizations must transform digitally and learn how to put the customer at the center of every decision.

Why digital transformation matters

Many of us can remember a time when there was no WiFi, no tablets (of the digital variety), no Twitter, no Facebook, and the list goes. But there is a generation who doesn't know life without digital. And that is completely reframing the way these individuals find and engage with brands.

As this segment of the audience continues to grow and digital power strengthens, marketers and organizations as a whole will need to rethink the way they approach transformation. They will need to step up their digital sense.

"Digital sense is the skill that allows you, and your organization, to move rapidly, and yet sensibly, in a unified direction in a digital world," said Chris J Snook, brand humanizer at Tallwave and author of Digital Sense.

Digital savvy isn't just about your team's technology stack, it's how they operate in lockstep, using that tech to understand, engage with, and reshape the customer experience. It's the convergence of customer experience, social business strategy and marketing technologies.

In Digital Sense, the authors reference futurist Gerd Leonhard who has gone on record saying, "humanity will change more in the next 20 years than the previous 300." This is a result of rapidly evolving technology and the digital-first world it has bred. While that may be alarming, there are ways companies can prepare. It's just a matter of changing some "old school" practices.

Missing the mark

While most marketers, and companies as a whole, are not lacking in the strategy or digital department, there are a few key areas that could be making them ineffective.

"The most common areas we see organizations missing the mark is that they do not involve cross-functional working groups in the discussion when setting a strategy to put the customer in the center of their business," Snook said.

When this occurs, various departments within the organization continue to operate in silos, which results in an imbalance. This can be detrimental to internal and external operations, and ultimately, the customer experience.

"Quite often we'll see overly astute and developed front ends of the business in this regard (marketing and sales) with laggard and disconnected legacy backends and leadership (infrastructure and operations)," Snook added.

In this scenario, organizations tend to add unnecessary technologies to their technology stack, each department operating on their own accord without a unified vision. The solution is to work collaboratively, across all departments, to architect the future of the company and the social business strategy.

Stepping up your digital game

The most important thing any organization can do to step up their digital sense is to get everyone united under one vision and aligned on the responses to, "What do we do?" and "Who do we help?".

The answers to these will help you define your value proposition and customer segments. Once that's achieved, it's a matter of creating an organizational chart that details who is responsible for what in carrying out the vision. This will also dictate which pieces of the customer experience puzzle each person on the team is responsible for.

"This is the fundamental skill and asset to develop before you can digitally transform your organization and stay competitive," said Snook.

Before creating the organizational chart, you'll want to assemble the team to dig into various layers of the customer experience, starting with gaining insight into the customer segment. How do they prefer to engage? How will you reach them?

With this data, you can begin to shape your customer-centric digital strategy, which will further inform your organizational chart. And finally, with these elements in place, you can begin executing on it.

Gaining company-wide buy-in

Of course, one common roadblock to implementing a digital strategy is getting company-wide buy-in. How do you convey the urgency and importance of a more personalized, contextually relevant approach to the team?

"Point to data," Snook said. "Things like lost market share on high-margin products to smaller competitors who are nibbling at core lines of your business, or recruitment challenges of young and experienced talent --these are key indicators that your business, inside and out, is not personalized and relevant to the needs of today's workforce and consumer."

For companies to stay relevant, evolving digitally is no longer an option, it will be a necessity. And this is not just in the context of adding the latest and greatest app to your technology stack, it's engaging with your customers and prospects digitally, and doing so in a way that provides value and relevance to them.