Josie Klafkowska
Josie Klafkowska 22 October 2018

Embrace the permanence of change to get real value from your technology investment

As brand purveyors, today’s marketers are facing exponential change. Two key catalysts stand out of the crowd as front-runners of this wave; technology and consumer expectation. Josie Klafkowska of Cognifide looks at how in order to obtain real value from your investments, businesses must embrace the permanence of change.

Technology has revolutionised consumer thinking around brands. Once upon a time, a good product became a successful brand thanks to some clever thinking about why consumers would buy it and an ad campaign - possibly multimedia - that would help form these favourable perceptions. Consumers were passive, generally well-behaved and responsive. Interaction with the brand was infrequent. 

Today the hottest brands start life as a piece of code, all that actually exists of these brands is the customer experience. Consumers expect constant engagement, 24/7 access, seamless transitions across multiple devices and often play their part in the brand’s ecosystem - sharing their car, opening up their house, walking someone’s dog or charging scooters. Consumers are also influencers, publicly airing their views on brands, courting their favour or damning them forever.

The gap between the brand and the consumer has narrowed to a tiny crevice and marketers must arm themselves with the right technology, mindset, team and operating model to remain agile in this space.

Today’s disruptors are driven by technology. They are platform-first businesses. Decisions are driven by data and response times are short thanks to an agile mentality. More traditional businesses are responding by arming themselves with the technology platforms that they need to turn data into meaningful action but often think that change will be a net result of technology investment.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Teams that have been working with campaign cycles of months will need fundamental reorganisation and a mindset shift to move them from a waterfall to an agile mentality in order to make the most of their platform. The old marketing mantra, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, still drives behaviours in teams that should be looking to their software developing peers in search of a ‘fail fast’ attitude that delivers 24/7 content, MVPs and product enhancements on an almost weekly basis. 

In a global Future Ready study by our WPP sister agency, Wunderman, 59% of senior business decision makers claimed that they were not satisfied with their current marketing investment. The research revealed a huge gap between recognising the challenges and fixing them, with 70% saying that they still struggle to sacrifice short-term gains for longer-term benefits.

However, change does not just happen. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said: “There is nothing permanent except change”. At a recent roundtable event, I sat with digital leaders from some of the best-known UK and international brands discussing what needs to happen in parallel with a technology investment to really reap the value and make an organisation Future Ready. Here are five key drivers of success that emerged from that conversation:

Establish what value the investment will deliver

Value delivery can generally be categorised into four areas: topline revenue growth, brand equity, customer loyalty and internal efficiency. Once that value goal is established, the fundamental question should be, what are you doing today that you want to do differently tomorrow in order to achieve it. 

Define your objectives and know exactly what your KPIs are. A KPI for Facebook in the early days was to get all their users to over seven friends. A strange thought now but the theory was that if you had more than seven friends, you’d stay on Facebook. A simple, clear KPI.

Build a roadmap

Your roadmap should have two dimensions, platform capabilities and operating model capabilities. The former comprises the technology - tools, hardware and software - that you will need to drive business value and the data and analysis that you will need to deliver relevant, personalised experiences to your customers.

Operating model capabilities are all about your people and processes. Here you’ll focus on skills, mindset, organisation and processes that include managing your technology, introducing new ways of working, creating and publishing content, analysing data and turning that into action.

The roadmap is crucial because it’s your weapon against the barriers to change. It will help you to argue the case for investment. And once you’ve done that, a roadmap means that you can show people where you are going and demonstrate that path to change. If you can’t take people on the journey, you won’t change.

Think big but start small

Digital transformation implies a big bet. If you transform something, you radically change its state. Everyone’s looking for invention. However, the reality is that transformation is usually much more about renovation and innovation.

Renovation is where it starts - because we all start with something. We have baggage. Usually in the form of a legacy platform. This calls for renovation, more subtle platform changes, system upgrades. Then we can look at plugging innovation in. Blue sky thinking is great but make the innovation incremental, then it’s achievable. Think of it in terms of percentage change, rather than a big bang. I’m told that the new Tesla features around 7,000 small improvements that together constitute a big win. Start small, think big.

Be ready to adapt very quickly

Today business moves quickly and waits for no one. Strategy lives in execution. So planning has to be done on the move. The waterfall cycles of a big idea - big launch - finish are gone for good and the proof that you are on the right track lies in an MVP that is then tried, tested and improved. Agile used to be an IT process. Today it’s a marketing process and the hard work starts when the product or campaign is launched.

Sell it in at the outset and then walk the talk

A well-thought-out roadmap will help you to speak the language of the Boardroom and sell your project in. A truly transformational project will require a mindset shift from the top and that’s not always easy, but it’s critical. You have to get C-Suite buy-in and they have to walk the talk.

According to Forbes, 84% of digital transformation projects fail. Don’t let yours become another statistic! 

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