Jonathan Saipe

6 Key Steps To Aid Digital Transformation

8 November 2016, Jonathan Saipe

Digital transformation
Digital transformation may be a buzzword, but on this occasion, this buzzword is real and deadly serious.

We train over 2,000 brands and employees each year, including 45 of the FTSE 100, as well as many government departments, NGOs, charities, and universities. I personally also speak to a lot of digital professionals, marketing teams, HR and L&D teams. Digital transformation is at the heart of what we do, and quite honestly, it pains me to see the missed opportunities out there. I see organisations that could be on the cutting-edge of digital – but aren’t. And I see very clever, talented and driven employees unable to make an impact, due to lack of internal digital buy-in.

It would therefore be appropriate to list typical behaviours adopted by digitally mature organisations as a set of best practices. So here goes:

1. Get Senior Buy-In

In an ideal world, digital should pervade throughout organisations, preferably top-down. A digitally-savvy board or senior management team will not only free up budget and resource allocated to digital, but they will have an appreciation of the opportunities and challenges present.

They will see the vision of embedding organisational or commercial goals within a comprehensive digital strategy. And also, they will have realistic expectations of their investment in digital.

It saddens me how many times I have been approached by young, enthusiastic course attendees who tell me they’ve met a brick wall when trying to “sell digital” into their own organisation; the typical reaction being “well I don’t use social media so why should we?”. If your organisation has digital leaders, digital transformation will follow.

2. Improve Your Data Maturity

It may well be common parlance that “data is the new oil”. It is indeed oil, but it ain’t new. Google Analytics, for example, is coming up to its 12th birthday after Google purchased Urchin back in 2005. Ever since then, Google Analytics has become an enterprise tool, utterly indispensable and extremely ubiquitous.

Of course, nowadays there is a huge range of analytics vendors and tools for conversion optimisation, tagging, social listening, competitor analysis, content marketing, the list goes on.

But data maturity isn’t just about using the data tools. It’s about using data to measure an organisation’s goals and KPIs, and integrate a continuous improvement process using data.

In the immortal words of digital analyst, Jim Sterne: “Try it, measure it, tweak it”.

3. Don’t Create Digital Silos

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if you could have a conversation with a brand’s social media team – perhaps via a channel like Twitter – after which you ring their customer support department, who have logged the entire conversation and can provide instant support or updates. Alas, this is not a frequent occurrence.

One brand to call out for best practice in this area is Screwfix, who have a more joined-up approach to the online and offline customer experience. Digital silos are not healthy. They are a barrier to internal communication, they prevent knowledge transfer and they most certainly don’t aid digital transformation.

Of course, if you’re a very small organisation, inevitably you will have one or two members of staff whose role is to run digital activity. But in larger organisations, by all means employ digital specialists, but adopt a level of integration – both people and systems – that breaks down silos.

4. Nurture Your Resource

If you scan the job boards, you’ll notice how job descriptions for digital roles are asking candidates for an almost unattainable breadth of skills. Equally, I am seeing more and more digital professionals who are being put under huge pressure to fulfil multiple roles. Digital project managers are expected to be data analysts, UX designers, conversion specialists as well as project managers.

Google expects its employees to be T-shaped: a great breadth of knowledge combined with a specific specialism. And that’s great. But I see less digitally-aware organisations expecting far too much of their digital employees, due to either little understanding of their role and responsibilities, or cost-cutting.

Digitally transformed organisations will nurture their employees, not burn them out.

5. Strategy Before Tactics

One of the most frequent issues I come across is marketers jumping straight into tactics before considering their objectives and strategy: “I set up a Facebook page and I can’t understand why no one likes my stuff”; “I’ve written all this ‘SEO content’ but I don’t know whether it’s working”; “I broadcast emails all the time but my engagement is really poor”. Tactics are very tempting because they are tangible, they’re sometimes quick to execute, and often relatively easy to do.

Whether you’re digital or not, the tactics first issue is common. Ask traditional marketers and they’ll say the problem also exists in their world. But because digital tactics are literally a click away, it is now a perennial problem.

Digitally transformed organisations execute digital activity based on a set of objectives and resulting KPIs. Much like decorating your house, painting your walls is the final step after significant planning and preparation.

6. Have The Right Systems

I have a good friend who is the CIO of one of the largest agencies in the world. He is responsible for the information technology and computer systems that support the organisation’s goals.

A decade ago, his job didn’t exist. But now, it is one of the most critical roles, not only to keep the organisation running, but to allow it to function efficiently, reactively and profitably.

Whether you’re white hot at marketing automation, or your sales and marketing teams need a closed-loop reporting system, or your project managers need a dashboard to monitor the progress of their multifarious digital projects, digitally mature organisations will adopt the right systems to facilitate this. In doing so, their teams will function effectively, the organisation will embed a data-driven culture and the working environment will benefit too.