Plan, execute, analyse and adjust.
For marketers these were the four distinct steps of their campaigns. Nowadays though, the market and customers are far more fickle and if you don’t move quickly it’s too late. There’s always a newer, cooler and more agile business that is ready to take your customers.
In response to this, marketers are looking to change their approach through digital transformation; taking a more evidence and data-driven approach to marketing strategy that would allow them to become more agile rather than stick rigidly to campaign cycles.
The destination is understood but how to get there, unfortunately, is not.
A survey we conducted earlier this year found that fears around digital transformations are commonplace; 96% of business leaders consider digital transformation as important yet 62% say their organisation is in denial about it.
The need for urgent action is clear too, with 86% of those surveyed saying they need to make inroads on digitalisation projects within the next two years or face financial and competitive losses. 59% feared they were already too late.
These stats paint a picture of both frustration and confusion – businesses want to digitise but they don’t know where to start. With this in mind, we brought together experts from all parts of the value chain to help make some sense of this digital conundrum.
Myself and Progress CIO, Vassil Terziev were joined by Martin Gill of analyst house Forrester; Mark Lusted of digital agency and financial services specialists, Dock9; Richard Adams who has been responsible for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s digital transformation; and Lynette Styler who has overseen a similar project at specialist motor insurance company, Tradex.
What we found were some very interesting shared insights into what is driving this wave of digitalisation, the common barriers which are holding businesses and marketing departments back, and how these have been overcome.
What is digital transformation?
The million dollar question. It’s understandable that implementing a digital transformation strategy would be difficult if you’re not sure what it is.
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t a simple one. Martin Gill of Forrester captures this perfectly, commenting: “Digital transformation isn’t one-size-fits-all; it means different things to different people, regardless of size, industry or vertical.” It isn’t a single process that can be captured and replicated simply. What works for you won’t necessarily work for me.
Gill elaborates that digital transformation is united by a “common theme of moving from a siloed ‘inside out’ approach to one that is data-driven and customer-centric.”
This sentiment is supported by Tradex’s Lynette Styler who said that for her business digitalisation had been about “turning customers into fans.”
Digital transformation is more about a shift in internal ideology than anything else. Largely a response to changing market conditions and growing competition, Digital transformation means putting renewed focus on your customers, through insight derived from actionable data.
For marketers this means highly personalised marketing campaigns based on accurate yet dynamic customer personas. This means more effective actions and better customer engagement.
Digital doesn’t mean more technology
In many ways you’d be forgiven for thinking this is true but it’s not. While digital transformation has in part been driven by technology – mobile has played a huge role in changing consumer behaviours, for instance – over-emphasis on tech is missing the point.
“Too often technology is being pushed head of the business – it should be something that follows,” says Progress’ Vassil Terziev.
There is a tendency to think that throwing money at new tech is a shortcut to digitalisation but that is far from the case.
Likewise, making analogue processes digital won’t work. “Digitalisation isn’t just the computerisation of existing processes – it can’t work by simply trying to shoehorn it with existing systems,” adds Martin Gill.
For a digital transformation to be successful it needs a more considered approach says Mark Lusted of Dock9: “Most vendors – I would hope – wouldn’t recommend buying software for the sake of it.
There are lessons to be learnt everywhere about how marketers can help push digital transformation in their own businesses
Digital transformation is something personal and should be bespoke.” Technology solutions need to be carefully selected to meet the marketer’s specific needs and nothing else.
Don’t just throw money at a new CMS and expect all your problems to be solved. If they drive the experience you aim to deliver great; if they don’t, they’re not for you.
Collaborate for success
As the stats I pulled out earlier show, there appears to be a lack of joined-up thinking in many businesses. Digital transformation is like any other project in that it needs buy in understanding from all relevant stakeholders. The challenge comes from the fact that digitalisation affects your whole business.
It might be the CMO driving a digital transformation project but transformation doesn’t happen in silos. If IT and sales aren’t along for the ride, marketing isn’t going anywhere either.
While marketers may have their own aims for these projects, they need to help everyone else understand the benefits and get their buy-in. Marketers shouldn’t look at themselves as separate from other teams and instead view themselves as one function in the wider business
Developing an understanding of what such a project entails and getting all parties pulling in one direction is perhaps the biggest challenge any business faces.
“Digital isn’t something new – digital technology has been around for some time. A de-siloing approach to business functions hasn’t though,” explains Vassil Terziev.
Most organisations are set up in such a way that departments – marketing, sales, IT – are separate. This lack of transparency into what each team is working makes it difficult to implement a digital transformation project.
Richard Adams of the Royal Shakespeare Company explains how he overcame this: “Taking an iterative approach helped the rest of the business understand what we were doing – they could see clear ROI as things happened and feed in to the process regularly.”
Collaboration across teams and business functions is the key to success. It fosters a greater understanding of all of a business’s goals and unique challenges.
Digitise your brand
There are lessons to be learnt everywhere about how marketers can help push digital transformation in their own businesses. One thing to remember though is that that transformation is not an add-on; it’s a fundamental shift to how your business works.
“You don’t need a digital strategy; just digitise your business strategy,” advises Vassil Terziev. This is something forgotten all too often.
Digital transformation is all or nothing. First, understand your goals and your individual brand’s aims. From there, it’s all about organisational change. Bring together every department and job function so that they can contribute and understand the value of the project.
When it comes to digital transformation, the biggest risk isn’t choosing the wrong software – it’s actually a lack of internal alignment.
And finally, remember the customer, because that’s what this is all about: “Process in business shouldn’t be for the sake of process itself; it needs to be done with customer value in mind,” suggests Martin Gill.