Last week I was lucky enough to attend our Digital Transformation: Innovation and Agility Breakfast Briefing, chewing the fat (and some very tasty sausages) with various digital leaders about the actual business implications of digital transformation.
The conversation threw a fascinating light on the organisational challenges businesses are facing. While familiar concerns about technology were mentioned, the group was far more focussed on the day-to-day reality of implementation, looking at people and processes.
Here I’ve collated some of the major points.
A shortfall of digital talent
Despite the rise of a generation of digital natives, many felt that there was still a skills gap in the industry, and while younger workers were far more comfortable with being ‘always on’ and collaborating openly on projects, there was a lack of core business training and many of the soft skills required in the marketplace. .
Additionally, while our attendees agreed that there was no shortage of digital knowledge, many businesses limit themselves by continuing with seperate teams.
Some senior marketers may not be as at home with digital as they need to be to compete in a rapidly evolving marketplace, while many felt that staff who may have deep knowledge but may be working in departments outside of the marketing sphere weren’t able to properly communicate valuable ideas.
A need for formalised innovation
In order to combat this siloing of information, a number of attendees suggested that it was important to take ‘innovation time-outs’ where possible; putting aside specific time for multi-team members to communicate and share ideas.
Rather than simply enabling social interaction, these sessions should have certain set goals and foster an atmosphere where staff feel that their ideas are given proper consideration. A great idea can come from anywhere after all.
Internally, new roles often mean a shifting and broadening of responsibility, but while staff are happy to take on extra work, they often aren’t able to effectively collaborate because of existing structures meaning that initiatives simply become extra work in many cases, rather than a genuine opportunity for innovation.
What's in a name?
While it may seem an odd point, in many cases naming conventions foster this closed atmosphere. Seeing social, content, mobile or agile marketing as separate disciplines is ultimately harmful, creating silos where there is no need for them to exist.
Ultimately something like ‘social’ is simply a name given to practices in order to allow measurable monetization. In fact these new practices need to be deeply embedded within skillsets, with steering committees and broader, brand-focused best practices in place.
While there may be a specialist, these should be areas that all departments can contribute to, and processes need to be a way to avoid doubling up on work, rather than blocking collaboration.
The question ‘where does ‘digital’ sit?’ came up several times, with most agreeing that again, it should not be seen as somehow separate from existing practices and procedures.
Many felt that these problems arose from an overarching ‘campaign mindset’, meaning that many marketers still think of all of their work as having a defined beginning and end, rather than being an ongoing process that affects brand equity and may not have an easily measurable return.
Are we willing to lose control?
As mentioned, internal team conflict can be difficult to overcome. Many of us are still used to keeping close control of our departments and responsibilities (I know I am), with rewards (and punishment) doled out accordingly.
In order to combat this, it can be useful to decide certain KPI-level goals which can be shared across multiple teams, and base pay or bonuses around these goals. While it’s obviously important to recognize individual effort and ability, having a shared P&L can ensure that different teams are marching to the same beat.
Going back to the campaign mindset, there was a feeling that undue attention and investment was often given to the shiny and new, at the expense of less visually impressive changes.
While it’s certainly useful to have new products and innovative campaigns to focus attention, it shouldn’t be at the expense of more mundane practices. A lot of noise is made about user experience, but this often amounts to ‘making websites look pretty’.
In fact, user experience begins with the back end, and focus should not be entirely around service-orientated testing. It’s important to spend time considering the internal mechanics of sites, and how these affect employees’ ability to help customers.
Agility doesn't end with you
Taking this further, it’s important to consider how siloed job functions affect the overall customer experience. Businesses need to adopt an attitude where 'the company owns the customer', regardless of the point-of-purchase.
This can be difficult to achieve, especially if you are a business dealing with physical goods where third-party sellers and distributors are often a factor.
It’s clear that it is important to enable customers to choose their own points of purchase and interaction, but for now this is a long-term goal, with obvious barriers to adoption.
Similarly, in marketing we’re keen to innovate and become more agile, but it’s supremely important to remember the pressures this places on operations. It’s far too easy to overstretch capabilities and promise more than we can deliver (sometimes literally).
The future of marketing
Looking forward, many agreed with one of the tenets of our Modern Marketing Manifesto; that marketing should have a voice at board level.
In many ways this marks a return to an older marketing position, supplying pure strategy and customer insight. Ultimately many felt that different departments would begin to amalgamate, and that ultimately customers would ‘become the marketing team’ in many ways.
Econsultancy currently has a range of services available that can help guide organisational change, business restructuring and digital transformation strategy.