In this opinion piece, B&T regular, former boss of Big Mobile and digital innovator, Graham Christie (pictured below), argues, try as they may, most Aussie companies and marketers have (a) lost control of their technology and (B) are starting to fall behind…
Australia is further falling behind more advanced markets due to short-term target setting, overly transactional relationships with agency partners, and too passive an attitude to technology.
The first two elements are common in most advanced markets. The relentless hamster wheel of quarterly earnings noise has screwed with the tempo of strategic planning for years as we all know, with agencies horizons being trained earthwards as a consequence. But it’s the third element, the passive attitude to technology, that I think sets the Australian market adrift.
The thing is, far too few CEOs and senior marketers have a natural interest in enterprise technology as it affects the whole customer experience. This may be generational to a degree I realise, but it’s far more to do with inertia, the “that’s not how it’s done here” or “I better not be the one to stuff up the brand” type syndrome. Keeping to the familiar and popular is comforting after all, heck, but sameness is really a toxin that eats away at a company’s market competitiveness. In the end, if you’re not moving as quickly into the future as your consumer, by definition, you’re falling behind.
Too many mistakenly believe they are digitally savvy if their organisations, use search and social media heavily, and are migrating offline ad spend to online. Another popular error is to spend too much money on mobile apps with little concern for their welfare after they’ve hit the app stores. And perhaps the worse delusion of all is an over emphasis on whatever the new shiny digital tech sugar-hit is. On this, a look at the latest Gartner Hype Cycle is a good input on when to speculate and experiment with some technologies, versus scale and drive productivity with others.
So, how can organisations become more active and more intentional about technology that puts them in control and helps them thrive? For me, it starts with critical thinking and ends with rebalancing the organisation around the end consumer. Critical thinking that asks the uncomfortable questions that cut through inertia and the inevitable silos that exist cross-functionally. For instance, who is making technology decisions, and on what, and how well that maps to the needs of the business?
Recent research by Data Xu across six markets concludes that whilst there’s actually no right answer to this, it’s obvious there’s too much ambiguity within the marketing department itself, and further between CDO’s, and CIO’s for instance. Interestingly, that research surfaces evidence that the position of CMT (chief marketing technologist) is taking hold. The full Report (Transforming Marketing Through Technology And Analytics) is worth a look.
In terms of rebalancing and placing the consumer back at the heart of the business, most executives impulsively say they do this already. In reality though, the consumer is often bent right around the organisation. I really like the thinking out of the Social Science Network in the U.S. (ssrn.com), and what they’ve coined Digital Dexterity.
Primarily, this is about acting across four dimensions in the business, they even have a nifty acronym for it, M-PWR. The ‘M’ stands for a digital-first Mindset and a willingness to seek out digital solutions, (i.e. not follow or copy). The ‘P’ relates to Practices, a way of working across operations, collaborative learning, and data driven decisions. The ‘W’ talks to Workforce in its broadest sense, so across not just employees, but commercial partners, alliances, and vendors, really getting to grips with actual technical experience, distributed knowledge, and where the problem solving talent is. And lastly ‘R’, which stands for Resources, specifically real-time customer and operations data, and the tools that bring it all together. What I think is practical here is that it’s not about the how high or low a single ‘dexterity’ scores, it’s how in-balance they are collectively.
This approach, and similar others, are a real challenge of course, that’s one of the reasons it seems so many organisations are avoiding it, and instead tinkering at the edges.
But whether you feel, as some do, that marketing is about to enter a new golden age, or conversely that it’s hastening it’s own demise, surely if the current crop of leaders simply just kick the can down the road to make engagement in marketing technologies the next persons problem, we’ll have digital thinking in the same lane as our broadband speeds.