5 essentials for leading digital transformation

Jacki James

Jacki James is a Strategic Planner with digital strategy specialist, Zuni, and moonlights as a digital marketing lecturer for ADMA. She blogs for Zuni at zuni.com.au and you can follow her on Twitter @JackiJames.

The modern day CMO is expected to have a strong digital marketing skillset and in many cases, to lead the charge towards becoming customer-centric.

With most Australian organisations only in the infancy of their digital revolution journeys, few local CMOs can cite experience in digital transformation. But while each business will have a unique digital transformation agenda, there are five essentials every CMO can pick up and excel at to ensure a smooth transformation.

1. Assess and embrace the opportunity

Organisations embark on digital transformation for all sorts of reasons and are moving forward at varying paces. Whatever the impetus, digital transformation is likely to represent the single biggest opportunity for enterprise level change.

CMOs should evaluate everything from brand strategy, customer experience, operational process, and new business models. Remember, technology is merely the enabler for something bigger.

2. Develop a tangible roadmap

Digital transformation is a journey over a long period of time and should be planned for accordingly. Success requires alignment and collaboration across an entire organisation, with many inter-departmental dependencies and competing priorities. Many are daunted by the sheer enormity of the challenge, and few know where to start.

A good plan should be structured into different work streams – typically customers, content, business intelligence, people and operations. Identify quick wins, then each work stream can be further broken down into key stages of progression and evolution.

Breaking down the plan into bite-size chunks that can be tackled simultaneously will make the journey more conceivably achievable.

3. Allocate resources

Every digital transformation journey requires a champion to drive and prioritise the program of work and make key decisions. An entire team of enthusiastic c-suite executives will talk a lot about digital transformation yet progress very little without one of them owning the champion role.

According to Altimeter research CMOs champion digital transformation efforts more than any other executive.

It’s equally important to assign accountability. In some instances this may be beyond the capacity of a CMO or other internal resources in terms of competing with business as usual, or skill set of the incumbent. For many organisations, it makes sense to engage external expertise tasked with stewardship of digital transformation.

A well as an all-encompassing digital transformation owner, assign a lead to each of the different work streams. Then project managers to each of the projects within each work stream.

It’s inevitable that digital transformation will involve recruitment of new skillsets at some stage. However, it is critical to take the team on the transformation journey wherever possible. Invest in training to upskill them, redistribute workloads so that the additional responsibilities are not unfairly competing with business as usual.

4. Make stuff happen

Start with the quick wins. These are usually discrete projects that can be done among the status quo while budgets, resources and the planning for the bigger transformation journey are being defined.

Every transformation journey will benefit from good project management. Develop timelines and project plans for each of the work streams and the projects within them. Establish a governance framework for cross-functional communication and status reporting.

Motivate employees towards digital transformation goals by setting KPIs and performance objectives aligned to project milestones and outcomes. This is particularly pertinent when there is a shift from a sales focus to customer experience delivery.

5. Communicate with stakeholders

Digital transformation is business transformation, and that typically brings about cultural change. Employees are undoubtedly the most important piece of the puzzle and engaging them along the journey is critical to success.

Digital transformation is an iterative process of change. Communicate the vision and the end goal, and report on progress along the way. Frame it in terms of impact to the customer experience and business goals. Celebrate the milestones, and keep people informed of next steps.

Digital transformation is an enterprise-wide collaborative effort. Every digital transformation journey has a foundation in the adoption of technology thus IT will have a significant role to play. As too will other customer facing and operational departments. Let each area play to its strengths, bringing their unique expertise to the table.

As CMOs are most likely to lead digital transformation efforts, they will need to think beyond their typical marketing remit to champion the opportunity. It’s an enormous undertaking for the uninitiated, but actively driving the five principles above will position you for progress and long-term success.

Tags: leadership, digital strategy, CMO role, digital marketing

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