Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What to do when the C Suite doesn't engage with Digital

Does your organisation have an executive board that fails to grasp the changing tide of digital transformation? Do the senior people at the top of your organisation still either ignore or just pay lip-service to the need to evolve people and processes into the 21st Century? (Note: It is much harder to get buy-in from a company board who think they are already implementing online technologies and practices, when in reality what they are actually doing is bolting digital onto what they currently do or just "updating our website")

If your C Suite isn't fully engaged with Digital, here's some suggestions to help move things forward and into the 21st Century.

  1. Deliver quick wins Nothing impresses like delivering upon a promise you have made. No matter how small the actual task (a microsite that taps into a new market, an online marketing campaign that builds acquisition in a novel way, a website change that your Finance Director has wanted for ages) they all go a long way to showing just how little things can mean a lot. 
  2. Have an implementation plan It's one thing to have a 'wishlist', it's another to have a 'roadmap' of when these things will eventually move online and it's a different matter entirely to have a plan of when these different initiatives will be delivered. Even if things change (e.g. other dependent project don't land when they should) you should still keep your digital implementation plan up to date. 
  3. Understand how much it costs and what benefits you want to achieve It may be that you need to build a value model for the complete Digital business transformation, or it could be that you just need to build one or more business cases for the roadmap of major improvements you want to deliver. Either way, work out the cost and the return that digital change will bring to your organisation. 
  4. Be clear on what you want from your execs Whether you need wider business direction, clarification on key deliverables or feedback on your ideas, get the input of the senior team. After all, they haven't just been put there, they probably earned their position through effort, innovation or understanding of what to do next. You may find that a few clear explanations on what you want and how you plan to improve things may be sufficient to get the buy-in you need.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Are you a digital driver or just a passenger?

Are you the person leading the digital change in your organisation, or are you just along for the ride?
I've now seen enough digital transformation initiatives to know who is driving from the front and who is not. It becomes quite clear after a while (especially if you are frequently involved with similar types or style of programmes) to identify the leaders and passengers in online change initiatives.
So here are my tips on how to recognise these two types

Digital Leaders:
Typically these people have the vision or initiative to start the digital revolution within an organisation. They may be the technical person that creates the overall enterprise solution that enables a shift away from analogue processes to online ones, or the executive who drives forward the business case or rationale for sweeping channel shift. They may also have a number of different roles across a project, either stepping into different positions where necessary or act as the project manager in the absence of any other leadership.

Digital Passengers:
These are the people that try to align themselves to a digital change project without actually having any responsibility (yet will be first to claim all the credit when change does start taking place). They will understand that 'digital is the next big thing' but will not have had any real experience and yet claim to be knowledgeable when stakeholders or executive sponsors are in the room.They are also most easiest to identify by their repetition of a small number of key facts they have picked-up along the course of the transformation, possibly even getting them wrong over time.
Or put more esoterically... Just because a person is standing in the direction of movement,  it doesn't mean they are actually going that way.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Put your business in beta

Do you want your organisation to succeed?  Do you want your company to survive the constant digital wave of transformation?
For quite a few years now I've been steadily preaching the mantra "test and learn" (in reality its a kinder and more palatable way of saying "change or die"), which in some sort of simple Darwinian way highlights to my consulting clients some key points:
  1. It is OK to make mistakes
  2. It is fine to experiment on a regular basis
  3. You need to measure what works
  4. You have to ignore what doesn't
This is typified by a business that sees the advantage of releasing functionality and features in ways that make a difference, whilst setting user expectations that things will change. In other words, a business needs to embrace a Beta delivery approach.

Beta, named after the second letter of the Greek alphabet, is typically the software release that is complete in functionality... but may still have significant bugs or issues. However, it is also usually the first accepted release version that can be presented to a limited set of users or customers.

But why do organisations succeed when they adopt Beta releases? (Especially when compared with the professional and stable delivery of a considered and considerably tested set of functionality.)
Perhaps it is because a public Beta release gives a lot of quick and useful feedback on what does and doesn't work for your target audience. Perhaps it is because those companies that are prepared to take the risk of an online beta release are also more likely to be innovative. And perhaps it is because any organisation that can even consider  Beta release better understands the digital landscape and the possible ways of finding success in the modern economy.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Are we too reliant upon Google?

In my posting at the beginning of this year I wrote Never bet against Google in 2014, I explained that despite the search giant’s mantra of “Don’t be evil”, its very size and might in the online world meant it was highly disruptive in anything it did.

I also stated that:
What this means is that betting against Google in anything it decides to do is an unwise move. 
A year on I still stand by this comment and furthermore have started to ask myself the question of whether digital marketing and online business as a whole has now become too dependent upon Google.

To paint the picture of its huge role, here’s some typical examples of its use in my life:

  1. Search
    The current industry figures state that Google has an approximately 90% share of the search market in the UK. For me, that’s a lot closer to 100%.
  2. Gmail
    Now the biggest global email service, I use Gmail for all my work emails. 
  3. Android
    The open source mobile operating system runs my phone and integrates with my Gmail, calendar and contacts.
  4. Analytics
    This free service helps my consultancy’s clients (and me) track a range of visitor, usage and conversion statistics. Even to the point of being able to provide inferred insight about user demographics and preferences.
  5. AdWords
    Provides a (mostly) cost effective means of raising awareness, building traffic and re-marketing to your target audience. If someone is searching for something, then it stands to reason that they might be receptive to seeing an advert about something associated with that term. The fact that advertisers only pay when a prospect clicks on an ad means it is possible to quickly identify interest, track budgets and optimise promotions to get the best ‘bang for your buck’.
  6. Maps
    I use this service more than I initially realised. From looking up locations, to finding directions on my mobile phone and also as when used as a ‘mash up’ (when a map is integrated with other data services) on any number of other sites, such as a store locator on a multichannel retailer’s site. I bet most of us use Google Maps a fair bit more than we realise.

Overall for me there is one reason why I have adopted these products … it is because they are so useful. And therefore any new entrant to any of the areas that Google has a dominance in will not just have to provide them for free (obviously with the exception of AdWords, which is free to the person clicking on the ads, but costs the advertiser) but will have to provide a better user experience somehow…

But all these services have not just become second-nature in my use of them, they have also pushed out other products or services (anyone remember: Freeserve, PalmOS, mapquest.com , etc ?). The list of dotcom and technology casualties caused by ‘The Big G’ are proof that this company doesn't just enter a sector, it tends to own it… with perhaps the exception of Social Media, which Google has never really cracked, despite the different tools it has released over the last few years. Orkut, Waves and even G+ haven’t really reached the tipping point that they were hoped to achieve, despite being popular in specific user groups or even countries.

So are we really too reliant upon Google now?

In my opinion we are. However, I personally don’t have a problem with this right now, because on top of the usefulness argument:

  • I don’t have to pay for a lot of things I would have done I the past
  • The products and services provided work (the robustness of their service is only noticeable when there is very seldom outage)
  • They work at scale (10 Million visits a day is the current free limit in Google Analytics. A figure only breached by the biggest of sites)

And based on these factors… I’m happy to be a reliant and supportive customer.