Article

Kevin Adema
Kevin Adema 12 October 2017

Digitally fit yet organizationally fat

If as an organization, consumer knowledge is not your #1 key priority, all your digital transformation, technological and operational efforts are going to still yield marginal results. Remember, consumers don’t care about your operations or your technology or your processes. They care about how relevant you are to them in context of their digital world.

Digitally fit, yet organizationally fat? If so, you’re still going to lose the game. 

In CMO.com’s recent piece: Experience takes shape: The 4 Core Pillars of ‘Digital Fitness’, author, Giselle Abramovich deftly speaks to how organizations globally are still aggressively on the quest for “digital maturity”. Astutely, Abramovich starts the piece with:

“yet what that phrase – digital maturity – actually means and how to get there still have many bending over backward to understand."

I couldn’t agree more and with loose definitions running rampant, organizations everywhere are clamoring to join the “digital gym” but maybe…just maybe…organizations looking at it backwards.

Allow a few simplistic, yet critical, calibration points:

Q:       Why are you as an organization wanting to “get digitally fit”

A:        Because the world is digital and consumers have gone digital and if we’re not digital, we’re irrelevant 

Correct.

Q:       What will being or becoming digitally fit allow you to do that you’re not doing now? 

A:        Touch more customers, reach them better, be more “in the game” of digital

Correct.

Q:       What do you think you should focus on as an organization to become more digitally fit?

A:        Our structure, Our people, our processes, our technology, more data-usage

Wrong.

Consider for a moment what digital transformation is or moreover, what it’s trying to accomplish: 

Digital Transformation is an organization’s strategically focused efforts to maximize its outputs and outcomes in context of today’s digital-first world. 

But there’s more – way more – and this is where organizations are getting it wrong – way wrong. 

Digital transformation is not about technology! (yep, I just said that)

Digital transformation is about how you now have to behave in todays’ world because of technology

Said differently, digital transformation is not about how to increase efficiencies by weaving digital into existing operations or into existing marketing or into existing process or, (fill in your own blank). These are internally focused efforts. Rather, digital transformation is a process that completely overhauls and reshapes operations in context of a digital-first world. That’s outward focused.

Granted, I understand that the critics will quickly balk at what was just said and claim that operational execution is done so that customers can be known and served better. But, consider again CMO.com’s article where they speak about “the key things" organizations must focus on to “get digitally fit”.

Look closely at what they’re focused on: operational elements such as structure, people, process, better leadership, focusing on creating a data-driven culture, utilizing more data-driven marketing and facilitating a corporate-wide investment in the “whole customer view” (data-capabilities to monitor, track and measure each digital engagement of each consumer). 

Those things are NOT the key things at all. The KEY thing is the consumer. After all, who controls the digital-first world? 

Consumers.

If as an organization, consumer knowledge is not your #1 key priority, all your digital transformation, technological and operational efforts are going to still yield marginal results. Remember, consumers don’t care about your operations or your technology or your processes. They care about how relevant you are to them in context of their digital world.

“In marketing, we claimed to be customer centric but that was based on our version of what we wanted the customer to think of us. It had nothing to do with the customer’s actual reality, thoughts or impressions…marketers have been trained to promote and drive sales; they need to start being trained on how to engage.” - Derek Lackey, President, Canadian Direct Marketing Association

Sadly, data shows that again, businesses aren’t getting it and are focused on the wrong things:

  • Average Facebook brand engagement scores have fallen over 20% since January (Buzzsumo)
  • Twitter, Instagram, Google+ brand engagement scores are down between 10 and 50% (Forrester)

Why? Because brands are not heeding Lackey’s advice: stop promoting and start engaging. Will throwing more technology, processes or operational enhancements fix this downward trend of non-engagement? Not a chance.

In the recently released work: Digital’s BIG short, it addresses the KEY THING by empirically showing that the digital transformation is exactly what Malcolm Gladwell proves in his renowned work, The Tipping Point: whenever a radical change in a market happens (pre-digital market changing into a digital market), there is always a massive underlying change in human behavior

With the onset and unprecedented adoption of digital into human life, a permanent sociological change has occurred and it’s yielding profound consequences. Consumer expectations have changed, behaviors have changed, desires have changed: we shop online, bank online, connect online, etc.

Digital consumers completely reject non-digital, non-customer-first business behavior and unless organizations start figuring this out quickly, millions (if not billions) in revenue potential will be lost.

Unless brands seriously overhaul established normatives and practices – and begin to understand the sociological drivers of human-centric digital actions – they cannot properly calibrate internal processes and moreover, will not convert and deliver real consumer engagement (ROI) in today’s digital world. 

Invest in digital transformation action? Absolutely.

But stop wasting your money and prioritizing efforts on “digital gym”, technology-focused investments and start with what’s the real key to success:

Know thy consumer.

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