Technology, simplicity and culture: Behind the scenes of Sensis’ digital transformation

Australian directory and marketing services business talks through its digital strategy and reveals a two-year technology transformation program to achieve it

John Allan, CEO, Sensis
John Allan, CEO, Sensis

Cultural transformation

The Sensis Digital Foundation program is not, however, purely an IT transformation initiative. It’s a business transformation and simplification program.

“It’s an opportunity to simplify, improve processes, take out inefficiencies and optimise at the same time,” Allan said. “There has been a big push in the lead in to the technology deployment on that.” Simplification was one of the core values presented in the brand relaunch in August.

“As Sensis grows up digitally, we have learnt a lot about what to do and not do. We need to ensure complexity doesn’t get carried for too far, and for too long,” Allan said. “The critical factor is engagement – the whole organisation, from the CEO to the receptionist, has to be on this simplification journey, otherwise we risk not achieving the levels of success we want.”

To help get there, all employees were put through a one-day training program to explain the new digital strategy and brand values. Importantly, half that time was spent explaining how Sensis planned to execute these.

“It was an incredible investment to get people aligned,” Allan continued. “That was a pivotal point in our transition, and the energy that’s come out of that is amazing.

“When I joined two years ago, the print business was going through challenges and the business was shocked at its status and what had occurred in a relatively short period of time. Getting the team reignited took a lot of work. And naturally, we need to bring in additional skills to the business, attracting top talent digitally.”

In addition, Sensis is working hard to keep innovation at the forefront of business. Allan said this was especially critical given the crowd of digital-first startups and competitors disrupting the directories and marketing services space.

In the last two years, the company has invested in new innovation skills and brought in design consultancy, IDEO, 18 months ago to kickstart a design thinking capability for some of its products. Today, Sensis is using design thinking in other areas of product development, drawing on both internal skills as well as external help as required. Allan said the ‘Skip’ product came out of that early work.

“The White Pages started in 1880 and has continued to innovate over its history,” Allan claimed. “We were the first online directory globally in 1994 with White Pages and Yellow Pages, and there’s always been that focus on innovation. We need to keep doing that, and having the right people join us is critical.”

A recent decision to decentralise marketing and give product managers in each division end-to-end responsibility, from product development through to deployment and marketing, has furthered this approach, according to Allan.

“Since we have made that change, we’ve seen terrific alignment and a cross-skilling of marketing people really understanding the product side, and product people understanding the marketing side,” he said.

“It is the right model for us, but it means you have to have very good and capable marketers. “

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, join us on Facebook:, or check us out on Google+:

Signup to CMO’s email newsletter to receive your weekly dose of targeted content for the modern marketing chief.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

Launch marketing council Episode 5: Retailer and supplier

In our fifth and final episode, we delve into the relationship between retailer and supplier and how it drives and influences launch marketing strategies and success. To do that, we’re joined by Campbell Davies, group general manager of Associated Retailers Limited, and Kristin Viccars, marketing director A/NZ, Apex Tool Group. Also featured are Five by Five Global managing director, Matt Lawton, and CMO’s Nadia Cameron.

More Videos

Great read. I agree that it should be a perfect balance between interacting with your customers and knowing your brand. As a business, yo...

Caroline Scott

7 ways CMOs can improve their customer engagement game

Read more

Very true. Team development helps improve collaboration among the team members. I was able to improve my team's collaboration skills by t...

Quent Sinder

Why empowering others can help make you a great leader

Read more

CRM is a very good software that can help you succeed in your business. In my company, this system has allowed me to improve customer rel...

Anna Janicka

Sensis rebrands to Thryv and brings business software to Australian SMBs

Read more

AI Leasing Assistants have finally arrived for the multifamily industry. With so many to choose from it can be hard to figure out which i...

Alice Labs Pte. Ltd.

CMO's top 8 martech stories for the week - 6 May 2021

Read more

Nowadays, when everything is being done online, it is good to know that someone is trying to make an improvement. As a company, you are o...


10 lessons Telstra has learnt through its T22 transformation

Read more

Blog Posts

Why if marketing is all you do, you’ll never be very good at it

OK, so you’re probably thinking: “Here comes another article to badger me about living in my bubble.” And also, “I bet this bubble-bashing piece will go on to explain how I can achieve better results through some heady dose of new life experiences, new routines and annoyingly different opinions on social media.”

Dane Smith and Toby Harrison

Ogilvy Australia

A leader’s role in rebuilding a culture of confidence

Every day, there are new predictions and studies on the future of work, the state of the economy and the unfolding global pandemic. All of which creates uncertainty and heightens the imperative of effective leadership.

Michelle Gibbings

Workplace expert, author

Confused About Your Customers?​

​I've worked in brand and marketing for more than 20 years. But there’s one area where I’ve found myself going around in circles and I must admit I'm becoming increasingly confused.

Rich Curtis

CEO, FutureBrand A/NZ

Sign in