June 27, 2016

Marketers Are Halfway to Digital Maturity: Now What?

As a former teacher, I would sometimes tell my students, who would often complain about doing so-called “hard” tasks: “You can do hard things.” Fellow marketers: We, too, can do hard things, and one of those things currently presenting a challenge for many of us is harnessing the power of all things digital to generate meaningful data and use it to drive impactful change.

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According to a 2016 report published jointly by Econsultancy and Adobe, “The Pursuit of Data-Driven Maturity,” most organizations view themselves as being “halfway there” on the road to digital maturity, with a large number that say they’re “just getting started.” But as the report notes, nearly a quarter of respondents don’t have a formal strategy outlined at all, and only a little more than half is working toward a strategic approach. When it’s done right, however, the results are well worth the effort. Forrester’s Digital Maturity Model 4.0 notes that the most digitally mature firms are almost three times as likely to experience double-digit revenue growth than organizations on the low end of the maturity scale.

Data-driven marketing is the key to reaching digital maturity, yet it’s difficult to restructure entire sales and service processes around data. But taking risks is becoming a way of life in the business world, and more leaders are using every tool at their disposal to gain a competitive advantage—even if it means reimagining the company’s core processes, thereby transforming the business entirely. Within this transformation lies digital maturity.

If the heart of your digital strategy relies heavily on the use of technology, you may be missing the mark. Businesses that rely on technology to make a real impact are usually focused on making operational changes—like improving efficiency and customer service processes—which won’t be transformative enough to truly change the business. Similarly, businesses that try to implement data-driven changes and neglect to foster a culture of change among employees are also likely to fall short. It only makes sense that real change can’t happen without a change in mindset as well.

Maturing companies use data and technology to drive new innovations and change the way their people work. For example, McDonald’s had a broad goal to become a more agile and collaborative business, and used digital technologies and data-mining to make this happen. As part of its “Create Your Taste” initiative, customers in Europe can now order customized burgers from in-store kiosks without even going to the counter—a fundamental change in the way the business works.

McDonald’s also revamped its communication and operational processes solely for a Super Bowl promotion that entailed giving away an item related to every commercial that aired during the game. The company’s ability to monitor and quickly analyze social media messages enabled it to make quick decisions about what products to give away. Not only was the promotion a success, but the company was well on its way to achieving its greater goal.

Collaboration in the workplace is also a significant factor on the road to digital maturity. An MIT Sloan Management Review research report shows that 80 percent of respondents from digitally mature organizations agree or strongly agree that their workplace environments are collaborative compared to their competitors. Cross-functional teams coming together to brainstorm and experiment with social media and analytics will, every time, produce better ideas than leaving the task in the hands of a few separate individuals tasked with preparing a report on the matter. Collaborators don’t need to be technology experts, either—sufficient understanding and a good grasp of the larger goal is usually enough to be successful.

It isn’t enough to merely gather data. Achieving true digital maturity depends on using that data in a deeper and more meaningful way, using business goals as a road map. Such a strategy is not for the faint of heart, and businesses that are open to transformational change must be willing to fail in order to achieve it.

Is your business ready to engage in the risky business of digital maturity? As the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

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