Enabling the right business structure for digital transformation

Marketing and IT leaders debate their role in digital strategy and accountability and their impact on the customer

From left: Deakin University's Trisca Scott-Branagan, Australian Museum's Jason Wong, Vision Australia's Cameron Smith, ANZ's Amanda Gome and CMO and CIO magazine editor, Nadia Cameron
From left: Deakin University's Trisca Scott-Branagan, Australian Museum's Jason Wong, Vision Australia's Cameron Smith, ANZ's Amanda Gome and CMO and CIO magazine editor, Nadia Cameron

Defining what digital means to your organisation, as well as having guiding principles on the accountability of marketing and IT, are key to digital transformation, according to panellists at the CMO, CIO and ADMA’s Executive Connections event in Melbourne.

At Deakin University, digital was put firmly in the spotlight after the vice-chancellor mandated that every course must have at least one unit online, executive director of marketing, Trisca Scott-Branagan, told attendees at the event.

Professors are now supported by a ‘cloud mobile’ team, which helps provide education, training and services around teaching and doing things in a digital context. More recently, the university launched Deakin Digital, a separate entity designed tasked with disrupting the way the institution innovates around digital.

In terms of the marketing function, Scott-Branagan said digital transformation was initially about gaining appropriate skillsets, initially through contractors and agencies.

“We used them to help us build up certain capabilities in our team, then we could transfer their skillsets into our team and hire people around those to help enable us to become more digital,” she said.

Setting transformation in motion requires one or both of two things, Scott-Branagan claimed: A burning aspiration, or a burning platform.

“In our sector, the burning platform is the potential threat of deregulation, and the burning aspiration is that our organisation wants to mean something in the sector,” she added.

At the Australian Museum, digital, ICT and online manager, Jason Wong, quickly realised he needed to position IT as an enabler of innovation. Wong has expanded his remit in recent years from IT manager to overseeing the Web team (rebadged to digital experience), and gained a seat at the executive table.

“One of my first challenges was defining what digital means for the Australian Museum,” Wong said. “We basically summed it up as this: Digital is a dimension of everything we do, which is essentially the innovative use of technology in every part of the organisation.”

At Vision Australia, CIO, Cameron Smith, said getting digital buy-in was firstly about better articulating the customer experience.

“The digital side came about once we developed that customer journey mapping and how we need to engage with clients, and what opportunities we have to better manage those experiences,” he said.

To get the wheels in motion, Smith conspired with the marketing and fundraising GM to talk through the customer journey and then bring cross-functional teams together to map that out.

“We then took executives through that journey, talking about how we could use digital in the context of what the client experience looks like,” he explained. “We had to paint the picture and talk through the journey, get people to challenge it, and have that one thing you can talk to. It’s also something I also use to talk to the technology team about how that piece of technology fits into that client experience.”

Digital also lies at the heart of every business unit across ANZ, said head of digital and social insights, Amanda Gome.

“There is no digital ‘hub’; there are innovation labs, there’s a whole lot of activity happening every week around digital, and it’s resulted in great things like new apps that improve the banking and customer experience,” she said. “That has been driven very much from the top and wanting to be the leading digital and social bank.

“We also see social as very much a part of the digital revolution and that’s been a huge issue and evolution. We had been a silent bank – we didn’t have access to social media on our desktops, it was frowned upon and people were scared about it. When our CEO, Mike Smith, came back from Silicon Valley and said we’re going to be the leading social bank, people fell off their chairs.”

Getting business buy-in was a matter of training executives, Gome said.

“What I’m finding I need to be the pioneer of inside the organisation is educating people on the changing nature of marketing, of which digital marketing is at the forefront of,” Scott-Branagan continued. “It’s a lot of teaming together too, to make sure we’ve all bought into the same mission.

“I’ve had to work very hard with people across the organisation to understand that traditional marketing approaches are not going to change where we’re at today.”

For Wong, getting digital strategy right comes down to two perspectives. “From the IT perspective, there is not enough rigour around how we use it – there is a lot of just using technology for the sake of using technology,” he said. “Previously, the IT team wasn’t consulted about anything being used until it broke.”

The other perspective was building processes around audience research, testing, using agile methodologies, developing personas and profiles within the user design team.

“For me, the executives all want to own digital…we need that framework so we’re using digital and technology correctly,” Wong said.

Fostering IT and marketing collaboration

And this is where IT-marketing collaboration becomes crucial, CIO and marketing panellists agreed.

At Deakin, procuring marketing automation technology has highlighted the need for guiding principles so that IT and marketing both know their role in delivering and utilising business technology, as well as the timeframes acceptable for projects.

“The timeframe we are looking to work to is much faster than IT’s,” said Scott-Branagan. “On the website, we’re driving that through a very agile approach, with a scrum mentality. That is frustrating for our IT colleagues, who are used to have a clear roadmap of what’s going to happen, what dates and times.

“It’s a new world for all of us, and we don’t have the perfect answer, but we’re working through it to achieve clarity.”

Wong said one solution is to have customer-led project ownership, such as CRM, sitting with line-of-business.

“I’m pushing hard back on the business because they’re the stakeholders and sponsors,” he said. “It would have been scary if we’d got technology in straight away and we were making decisions based on what fits our IT environment better, as opposed to what meets our business requirements.”

Read more: CMO50 #16: Trisca Scott-Branagan, Deakin University

It is IT’s responsibility to make sure the platform is scalable, flexible and allows the business to grow. “But it’s the business that are going to be using it,” Wong said. “We’ve suffered from looking internally too much, or looking for something that fits our internal process, as opposed to stepping into the shoes of our education audiences and trying to understand what are they trying to do here and will the system meet that need.”

Clarity is essential around job functions to achieve this kind of constructive collaboration, Scott-Branagan continued.

“When we were looking at a business case for marketing automation, we asked IT what role they’d like to play. They didn’t really know, so they asked us to fit them in when we needed to,” she said. “So we did and thought we were doing the right thing. But when it came to signing off the document to procure the solution, suddenly IT said we hadn’t done this or that.

“People in IT didn’t understand their role because they’d never had marketing driving and owning something like this, so they didn’t know it was their place to step up when it came to certain things to do with technology, risk and compliance.”

Scott-Branaghan’s vision now is to work closely with IT to build in guiding principles around the roles and responsibilities.

“We come to the table and say ‘the role of marketing is to define what solution is going to suit our needs and project manage the implementation. IT, your role is to help make sure the technical, compliance and risk requirements are met,” she said. “We need to respect the wisdom IT has gained, and to respect some of the policies and procedures we sometimes what to leapfrog over.

“But as marketers, if we don’t position ourselves as peers to the technology conversation, we’re doing ourselves a disservice.”

Wong agreed structure is important and said collaboration is a given between IT and line-of-business.

“If you don’t put the necessary structures in place, you are relying on individual personalities of the people in those positions and that may not work,” he said. “By having that structure in place where my position is responsible for these digital areas, you make that an essential part of the role, as opposed to an optional one that people may take responsibility for or not.”

Wong is also driving a change in IT staff and recruitment to drive these new ways of working.

“I’m trying to outsource, use managed services or cloud for everything down the bottom of the technology stack, and which I can automate, then outsource things at the top to gain highly skilled expertise. What I’m left with is this middle ground, which means my IT people now have to be more like IT service brokers,” he said.

“This means they need enough technical background to have conversations with highly skilled people, but aren’t wasting their time doing log checks and monitoring. This frees them up to spend their time on business and understand what’s going on there, and what their needs are.”

Smith said governance and relationships are important, but that credibility is vital.

“If I’m working closely with marketing or the service delivery teams, I need to build credibility in understanding the needs of their business and what they have to do, in order for me to help them innovate,” he said.

“Do a small pilot, have the outcomes defined, get a small project up and running and develop your credibility that way. It’s the same on my side – if I’m doing IT projects, I need to get something small up and running to demonstrate value to that customer journey.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

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