WARNING: There Are NO Shortcuts To Being A Digitally Plugged-In Agency

WARNING: There Are NO Shortcuts To Being A Digitally Plugged-In Agency

In this opinion piece, The White Agency’s experience design director, Davy Rennie (pictured below), agrees tech is changing every facet of an agency’s world but, he warns, there are no quick solutions for those looking for the quickest route… 

It’s coming. Faster than you could imagine. A completely new world that a lot of people aren’t aware of, or think they are but don’t have it together. Keeping abreast of the latest developments and trends in technology, requires businesses to proactively evolve and improve their practices and digital infrastructure on a day-to-day (if not minute-to-minute) basis.



We hear buzzwords and acronyms like AI, VR, and AR on a daily basis, but do we fully understand them and are we really ready? For the majority of businesses out there, the answer is a resounding ‘No’. The thing is, however, there are no short cuts to being digitally up-to-date or “plugged-in” so if your business attempts to jump ahead without first building the appropriate groundwork, it will simply fall into a chasm of digital dysfunction. Whilst ‘slow and steady’ may not win the race in the current digital climate, it will at least bring you up to speed so that (in due course) you can run against the best.

Whilst my view is not gospel (though one can dream), it is one that I have formed over a sustained career working in both small and large companies across Australia and South East Asia.

The Common Problems:

Fractured Ownership

IT owns something. Marketing owns something. Innovation owns another thing, and so on it goes in every department of every sizeable company. This cluster-f of ownership is killing businesses. Without a single point of ownership, there is no single challenge statement, and no unified goal or mission. Broken ownership encourages a culture of infighting, resentment, and contributes to overspending and poor execution, leaving your company in an ill-fated state.

Siloed Data

Linked to the issue of fractured ownership is the problem of siloed data. Businesses want to get freaky with some fancy Machine learning and AI, but their data sets are a mess, their platforms are a shit show, and the Machine doesn’t learn because it’s only pointed at one silo. An incredibly smart individual once told me, “Data acquisition is trivial. It’s what you do with it that counts.”

No Customer

1 + 2 = 3. The aforementioned issues inhibit your business from forming a single view of your customer. Public sector organisations like health and tax are constantly fighting to discern a clearer picture of the populations they interact with and cater to. Knowing the customer you’re serving is the single most important thing ANY and EVERY organization should understand.

Old Talent. Old Tricks

Organisations expect change to happen to them, but what they often don’t realise is that they need to mandate change within their existing structure and culture. A fast food shop couldn’t transform into a Michelin restaurant without a completely new kitchen and team, so why would a traditional organisation transform into a progressive, innovative organisation without a corresponding revamp in its existing structure and culture?

Focusing On The Present

Even though you talk about tomorrow, you focus on today and how you are currently performing. KPIs for today. Revenue for today. Results for today. You don’t want to shake that tree of uncertainty, but you need to. Sure, a few unexpected pine cones might fall out and hit you, but ultimately you’ll emerge stronger and more prepared for the future. Adobe is a prime example of this. They suffered through a few horrible years, but look at them now #killingit

Just The Tip

You dip the tip of your toe into transformation. It’s a side project. Something you do because you have to. If it works it works. If it doesn’t, you’ll try something else.

Being half-dedicated about anything simply does. not. work. Period.

How To Combat These Issues:

Take Ownership

Having specialized teams is unavoidable. Having corresponding siloes is also unavoidable BUT if you have ownership from the top-down, with unified goals and strategies, you can bring those teams together to deliver real value and innovation.

Get Your Shit Together

Data is your most valuable commodity. Treat it like the prized gem it is. Clean it up. Segment it into appropriate categories. Purge any irrelevant or old data. Store it somewhere safe. Investing your time and resources into extracting, maintaining and organizing your data will eventually produce lucrative outputs, which will more than compensate for your efforts.

Shake It Up

Bring in a new team, or upskill your current team, to meet the digital demands of your organisation. If that means putting a few foxes between the hens to ruffle some feathers, do it. If you want to innovate successfully, bring in people who can break up your existing culture and bring in genuine change.

Focus On Your Customer

It’s simple: get their data-> build their profile-> know their challenges-> solve them.

Take A Hit

No one likes change (particularly corporate boards), but sometimes you need to take a hit in order to change direction and fight disruption. It will be uncomfortable- painful even- but ultimately it’s the right course of action. Just ask Microsoft. Or Abobe. Or Apple… You get the point.

All In

You cannot half-ass evolution. You have to put skin in the game, and commit to the journey. All the aforementioned steps require your full attention. Transformation isn’t a side project- it’s an organisational strategy that needs to be committed to, and executed.

This is easy for me to say. I run a team in an organisation that delivers innovation on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it seems impossible, but if you focus your efforts on change, innovation, and your customers, you are already 90 per cent of the way there.


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