There is a lot of advice about digital transformation available these days.
A quick Google search turns up endless articles from blue-chip technology companies and consultancies, offering trend data, solutions and thought leadership.
What is much harder to find, though, is information about the real issues marketers face when trying to launch digital transformation and how they have handled them.
To find out more on this topic, Econsultancy recently invited dozens of marketers to discuss the topic at Digital Cream Sydney.
Through roundtable discussions on Digital Transformation hosted by Damien Cummings, CEO of Peoplewave and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Econsultancy, marketers revealed three issues they often face with digital transformation and how they can be overcome.
1) Defining digital transformation
One of the first things mentioned by marketers on the day was that the term ‘digital transformation’ means many things, depending on who you ask.
To some, digital transformation is a product strategy and involves transforming an entire company. To others, it is a marketing strategy which aims to move advertising and customer engagement from traditional to digital.
Because of this lack of agreement on what digital transformation is, marketers felt that it was difficult to even start discussing a digital transformation project with potential stakeholders.
Other delegates offered advice from their experience about this concern.
First off, marketers should first form a clear definition of digital transformation in their own minds, before trying to get other departments on board.
The way to do this, they added, was to self-educate on the topic.
One way marketers can learn about digital transformation is to attend conferences. Dreamforce, The Festival of Marketing and Econsultancy’s many events were all listed as ones which attendees found useful.
Also, those who are interested in the cutting edge of digital transformation could visit a startup who is looking to transform your industry or even one of the many incubators which have sprung up over the past few years.
Finally, they can read the aforementioned thought leadership documents or take advantage of the many resources Econsultancy provides on the subject such as:
- Advice on how to get started
- Recent case studies (Travelex, The Met Office)
- Or one of the many best practice guides
2) Devising a digital transformation strategy
Once digital transformation is understood, marketers face the tasks of coming up with a strategy.
Most event attendees confessed that they did not have a digital transformation strategy or, if they did, it wasn’t one that was understood or adopted by the whole organisation.
Marketers who had successfully written a digital transformation problem said that the most important thing to do is think clearly about what they are looking to change and trying to achieve. They need to talk in the language of the company and avoid using terms people do not understand, like ‘digital transformation’ and ‘agile’.
Also, the strategy should include a ‘big vision’ of what success looks like so that the efforts both initially inspire people and keep them motivated for change over time.
Finally, another delegate added, marketers can be the linchpin of launching a DT strategy, but they need to get ‘C level’ sponsorship in order for their approach to be adopted by other departments.
This may include reverse mentoring the CEO or encouraging top management to visit startups or companies who are ahead of local businesses, like those in Silicon Valley.
3) Engaging stakeholders on an ongoing basis
While the ‘big vision’ was good to get digital transformation started, marketers said they found it difficult to keep colleagues engaged over time.
Other delegates said that they faced other obstacles with stakeholders such as:
- Slow reaction to change management,
- Lack of agreement on objectives, and
- Low or no budget for digital transformation initiatives.
Nearly everyone who had tried digital transformation had found it difficult to engage stakeholders and other departments.
One attendee suggested that marketers should avoid talking too much about digital transformation itself and instead talk about the problems their colleagues and stakeholders face and how they could be solved digitally.
Such an approach could involve regular education sessions such as:
- Digital days with training sessions and digital tool try-out sessions
- Holding company-wide events with technology providers and agency
- Monthly events with speakers who had led digital transformation or a digitally-focused startup
Finally, delegates spoke about getting the structure right in order to keep the organisational momentum going.
One suggested that setting up an innovation unit with a 2-3 year lifespan really helped keeping initiatives alive. Others advised avoiding outsourcing digital transformation to agency partners and instead using them for faster execution.
And finally, the delegates all agreed that the trend is for companies to in-house digital transformation resources, so the future looks bright for those who can upskill on digital transformation and get a programme started at their organisation.
A word of thanks
Econsultancy would like to thank all of the moderators and marketers who participated on the day and especially our Digital Transformation table moderator, Damien Cummings, CEO of Peoplewave and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Econsultancy.
We hope to see you all at future Sydney Econsultancy events!