A Forrester study called ‘Mind the Gap’ discovered that one of the biggest challenges facing businesses in realising their digital strategy aspirations are the “…huge political battles between IT organisations and businesses”.
If this sounds familiar, and I assure you it’s common, then it’s worth exploring ways to minimise the risk of implementing a digital strategy. In our experience at W3 Digital, a successful digital strategy is driven by three key principles: leadership to create alignment; the use of analytics and sharing of information; and creating a customer-obsessed culture.
Leadership to create alignment
Sales and marketing teams are not getting what they need from IT, so they’re going elsewhere to find it - hiring their own technical specialists and outsourcing. This creates inefficiencies and political infighting.
Leadership to address this challenge means welding these teams back into a unified whole. Developing KPIs that show each team how it impacts the customer experience helps to quickly create alignment. Making the customer metrics transparent and visible across the organisation will help start conversations and team-work.
Spend time finding out where disconnects are happening. Our organisation has consulted with many companies which have allowed disconnects between marketing and IT teams to develop unchecked. This creates an adversarial culture which is at odds with delivering an outstanding customer experience.
It is much better to deal with communication issues and frictions as they arise rather than trying to re-engineer a broken model at a later date.
Use analytics and share the insights and information
The delivery of a digital initiative is not an end point in the digital strategy process, it’s a waypoint in a journey of continual improvement.
Developing a centralised view of analytics across your business creates dialogue and collaboration. The sports drink brand Gatorade famously pioneered the NASA style “Mission Control” analytics suite as part of a digital transformation project. According to its then senior marketing director Carla Hassan, Gatorade aimed to “take the largest sports brand in the world and turn it into largest participatory brand in the world.”
We recommend that those directly involved in digital initiatives – marketing, customer service and IT functions – share analytics and insights. But we go a step further. We urge our clients to create a set of shared customer experience dashboards. We call this process the creation of the ‘customer command centre’. It is best practice for everyone to see how any and all digital activities impact the overall customer experience.
Develop a 'customer-obsessed' culture
This doesn’t need to be a complex process. Training and consulting advice will help. The key element in achieving this culture is for the organisation to be constantly asking itself “How will this impact our customers?” That simple question, asked over and over, will focus everyone on why most digital strategies have been developed in the first place – to create outstanding customer experiences that deliver a sustainable competitive advantage.
The most notable example of a customer-obsessed company is Amazon. In fact the first ‘Leadership Principle’ it lists on its corporate website is ‘customer obsession’. The site goes on to say “Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”
So if your organisation is struggling to see a measurable return from a digital strategy, by all means examine the technical and communications resources and ensure you have the right skills in place. But ultimately success will come from leadership which aligns resources, the sharing of quality analytics and a culture that is relentlessly focused on the impact of every initiative on your customers.
Mark Cameron is a founder of digital innovation and customer experience consultancy W3 Digital.