Digital transformation is one of those programmes that doesn't, at first, sound like a marketing initiative.

In some ways, it seems like IT should own it - it is 'digital' after all.

Upon a closer look, however, it is clear that marketing has a strong role to play. The reason is that as customers become more digital, it is marketing's responsibility to keep up, even if the rest of the company is lagging.

When marketers have a look at what digital transformation entails, though, it seems overwhelming.

Management needs to be convinced, new technology has to be purchased, and the whole organisation needs to be restructured. How can marketing alone get this process started?

At a recent Digital Cream roundtable discussion in Sydney, we asked marketers to come up with a few ideas on this topic. Below is a summary of seven ways marketers can get digital transformation started in the new year.

1) Take ownership

The first step to getting a digital transformation programme started is to take ownership of the process. This means becoming familiar with what digital transformation will mean to the company as well as understanding how other organisations have approached it.

Econsultancy offers several resources to help those just starting out, but a good place to start is to review Neil Perkin's presentation Organisational Resourcing and Digital Leadership from the Festival of Marketing.

In it you will find numerous charts and graphs which will both help clarify ideas about why digital transformation is important as well as collatoral for presenting this information to others.

Here is an example of a chart from the deck which shows the stages many companies go through during a digital transformation programme.

2) Work from the bottom up

Once marketing has a solid grasp of the task ahead, it is tempting to think that the next step must be a detailed presentation to a management committee to secure top-level buy-in.

Not so, said participants. Instead, marketers should aim to convince a single executive of the benefits of digital transformation before attempting to address management as a whole.

To do so, the marketing team should get support for a digital project from a single manager and then regularly share small success stories with them. Once they have a few successful digital initiatives, marketers will then have a good story for a wider audience.

This soft and iterative approach, according to attendees, is much more effective than trying to get a committee to sign-off on a big idea at the start.

3) Make mistakes

Facebook famously told its developers to 'move fast and break things' meaning that failing and learning is preferred over a more conservative approach to change.

Attendees felt that this was also an appropriate attitude for marketers who want to get digital transformation underway.

All agreed, however, that working with this attitude is not easy as most organisations reward success and discourage failure. What is required, then, is a shift in mindset so that risky projects, and the invetable failures, are celebrated instead.

Participants acknowledged that such a change would not happen quickly throughout a company, but a marketing team looking to get digital transformation underway could be the first to start.

4) Get physical

Another interesting idea which came up during the discussion was that marketers should make their digital transformation programme as 'physical' as possible.

That is, instead of only using digital collaboration tools for the initiative, marketers should hold visible meetings, have open brainstorming sections, and cover whiteboards with drawings and post-it notes.

Other suggestions included putting up posters of key performance indicators (KPIs) and marketing goals to make it abundantly clear what the team was working on.

The purpose of the spectacle is to draw attention to the changes that marketing was leading in hopes of attracting interest from other departments and management.

5) Keep learning

All delegates agreed that digital transformation was first and foremost about people. If the people in the organisation are committed to change then digital transformation will most likely be successful.

To make this happen, though, marketers need to be ready to educate others within the organisation. Without having digital expertise, one participant noted, this is unlikely to happen.

So to encourage cross-departmental knowledge sharing, marketers need to keep learning about digital technology and how best to apply it to their business.

One suggestion for doing so was to hold regular 'lunch and learn' sessions where team members presented to each other about their projects or other innovations.

6) Choose technology carefully

New technology is always necessary for digital transformation and, as mentioned previously, marketers must keep up with technology developments if they aim to start a digital transformation programme.

One participant said that the problem they encountered during the transformation process was that their company had too much technology.

With dozens of platforms in use, it was nearly impossible for the team to monitor the systems, much less suggest how other departments could use them.

One suggestion was that marketers should first integrate the basics - web, email, and CRM - and then add new channels slowly and carefully. Doing so will allow marketers to concentrate on applying existing systems in ways which matter most to the business.

7) Outsource when you can

Finally, participants indicated that no matter how big the marketing or digital transformation teams are, they will always have limited resources.

Instead of overloading team members with the wide variety of technologies and digital services necessary for transformation, attendees felt it was best practice for the team to agree on what they could realistically achieve with the team members.

For items outside the team's expertise, all agreed that finding the right partners was time well-spent.

This can be particularly problematic when new channels, particularly video-based ones, are being considered as the time and resources necessary to produce high-quality material may end up being very time-consuming.  

As one delegate noted, marketers trying to get digital transformation on the agenda at their company should invest their time in what they know best - the company's business and how to improve it digitally.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank all of the marketers who participated on the day and especially our 'Digital Transformation - People, Process & Technology' moderator, Mona Pradella, B2B Marketing Manager, YourTutor.

We hope to see you all at future Sydney Econsultancy events!

Jeff Rajeck

Published 22 December, 2016 by Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck is the APAC Research Analyst for Econsultancy . You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.  

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Comments (3)

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Steve Plummer, Operations Director at Dog Digital

One of the key challenges I've found is that Digital Transformation is everyone and no-one's responsibility. Often our clients are looking for that One Person to just get it done.

If done properly Digital Transformation encompasses every department adn requires a top down adn a bottom up approach with key objectives and a cross-departmental team to lead and implement.

It sounds daunting, but as with all major change, once it's road mapped and broken down into bite-sized chunks it becomes pretty accessible and frankly a lot of fun.

Every long journey starts with the first step.

6 months ago

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Roger Alderson, Group Marketing at Aperius Consulting

At Accelent Consulting, we just completed a study of CMOs that looked into digital agility in marketing. Our findings completely support this article and point to the importance of the CMO taking charge of digital strategy for the entire organisation (if nobody else is doing it). In our study, 50% of CMO respondents said that they were responsible for digital strategy for the entire organisation - not just marketing. We found that the CDO is still an emerging role, and only 27% of respondents cited a CDO as having overall responsibility for organisational digital strategy.

6 months ago

Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck, Research Analyst at EconsultancySmall Business

Great points, thanks for the additional information.

It's easy to forget that these sorts of projects can be fun as well as challenging!

6 months ago

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