Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

As seen in marketing week
Over the past few months we’ve been gathering some illuminating research through our Digital Transformation Survey, the findings of which have been used in Marketing Week’s latest issue and feature piece ‘What does ‘digital transformation’ really mean?’.
We surveyed 111 digital and marketing professionals from a variety of organisations to gauge their view of the digital landscape. We asked where are we now and what changes we can expect to see in the future. Here is a summary of some of the insights we gleaned.

People Vs. Tech: Culture & ways of working

As we discussed in our article Focus on what’s important for success it is the needs of the user that inform all technological progress. Respondents felt a transformation in culture through changes in working practices contributed significantly to the successful digital transformation of the business. Organic founder, James Moffat, says, ‘Digital transformation is not the ‘next big thing’ or another technology topic like search, social or automation. Rather, Digital Transformation is the result of how converging technologies have enabled users to reorganise their lives, socially, commercially and economically.’
People Vs. Tech: Culture & ways of working

Millennials Vs. Senior Management: Who drives digital transformation?

Although millennials are seen as the driving force behind Digital Transformation, many still think decisions and projects should sit with senior management. We explored what the emergence of digital natives into the workplace means for businesses in our article Is your workplace ready for the new normal? Overwhelmingly respondents felt millennials were the catalyst behind change. Our research revealed that antiquated models are no longer fit for purpose in the digital age. James Moffat remarks upon how businesses that follow 19th and 20th century structures are ‘no longer the most efficient route forward in a connected educated economy’.Millennials Vs. Senior Management: Who drives digital transformation?

Potential for growth

With the vast majority of organisations intending to recruit or already having recruited a Digital Transformation lead, it’s clear Digital Transformation as a business function continues to grow, as does the intention to invest further. In our article The Awakening: the difficult merging of different worlds,  we discussed how changing the climate of the work place is critical to making the investment in people worthwhile. 72% felt the shift was worth the investment but agreed or strongly agreed with the statement ‘Major disruption to your marketplace or revenues is necessary before most firms will invest in digital transformation’. Certainly technology doesn’t change behaviours. Rather the data and insight we gather through digital allows us to see how people really connect, communicate and cooperate to reorganise in new and more efficient ways.
Potential for growth

What are the biggest barriers to digital transformation?

Innovation can come from a variety of sources. Our findings revealed that ‘lack of leadership’ and ‘perceived need’ are two of the biggest barriers businesses must overcome for a successful Digital Transformation to take place. In our article Can the c-suite still innovate? we explore some of the obstacles that emerge over the course of digital transformation. James Moffat describes how technology effectively reduces barriers to new behaviours. He says that by embracing technical innovation ‘Cost is vastly reduced and technology is democratised by combining the cost of a camera, mobile phone, EPOS system, messaging network, word processor, user computer and dozens of other technologies that would have cost millions a couple of decades ago. The differentiator in any market now is not what you do but in the operational execution – how you do it.’
What are the biggest barriers to digital transformation?

How important are different departments in digital transformation?

We heard how HR and IT departments are not perceived to be as relevant to Digital Transformation as marketing and customer services. We approach the importance of integration of digital across departments in our article The Awakening: the difficult merging of different worlds. 

Digital Transformation isn’t something you do…

…Neither is it something you do well or badly. Rather Digital Transformation is a process of change towards occupying a place of maturity. Business success is consolidated through building a capability that is not just good at any one thing. The critical success factor depends upon being receptive to change and responding to changing customer behaviors, rather than by dictating change to customers. Change is the only constant; therefore businesses and brands need to be agile and responsive to accommodate an ever-shifting digital terrain.
Digital Transformation isn't something you do...
If you want to know more about Digital Transformation contact us today for a chat, or send us a message.

What does your content strategy look like?

Have you glanced at it lately? Is it flourishing, spritely and healthy? Or is there nothing in particular to glance at? If you think you have a strategy, but it is unexamined, then arguably there is no strategy.

Content rules

There’s some debate about the term ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ (or just SEO) and the fact that it is, essentially, a bit of a misnomer – after all, does your content actually ‘optimise’ search engines? We still call the process of improving our websites for search engines SEO, but actually the days when you could bung a bunch of keyword-loaded content onto your site in the hopes of hitting high rankings on Google are long gone. Comparing search engine crawlers today to the ones 15 years ago is like comparing a big old zeppelin with the Millennium Falcon; today content is indexed with the speed and elegance of warp technology rather than the quaint manual coding of yesteryear.
So where does content fit into today’s universe of data? Mike Grehan, CMO & Managing Director at Acronym Media, says, ‘For a while content was king. Now data is king, and content is the kingdom.’* Essentially, Grehan observes that content is not a commodity that can be shipped in wholesale and scattered decoratively around a website; rather, user behavior should dictate the nature of the content that evolves out of it. Google now discerns intent and what drives users to visit a site and to return. Keywords are indeed an aspect of what underpins ‘successful’ content, but search engines now decode billions of ‘intentions’ to determine the value of a site in relation to what a user is searching for.

What makes good content?

Consider first what the aim of your content is. If you want to tell your visitor about something then a video might be a good way to communicate information succinctly and visually – particularly on mobiles. However, if you’re talking a user through a shopping list that needs to be downloaded and/or printed, it would be better to present this as text and as a download. Making the users journey easier.
Organic SEO Strategist, Kaled Miah, says: ‘A search engine’s primary objective is to deliver relevant content to the customer. Google and other search engines aren’t trying to trick you; their job is to ensure content is served to the right person at the right time, ensuring too that content is timely and of high quality. The more popular content is, the more likely it is to be more relevant.’
The best way to determine what’s appropriate is to consider your own online experience and what works for you and what hinders your intentions. Search engines scrutinise the visitor’s intent – and whether their intention is informational, navigational or transactional. The other significant challenge is that content competition comes from all quarters: your natural competitors, publishers (who are already all about the content) as well as the content of individuals. We are saturated by content, but there are steps we can take to increase the chances of reaching our target audience and helping them to find us.
Link power
Though links remain a significant page-ranking factor, editorially driven content must be worthy of linking to be rewarded by search engines. No one likes a link farmer who liberally scatters links around their site like manure. In fact, Google’s manual warnings for unnatural backlinks resulted in a permanent change in how links are built. Instead, brands becoming publishers has been a hot topic for many years, with people like Media Innovations Director Andrew Girdwood, of digital agency LBi, promoting this idea at events and forums. Brands that one might not immediately associate with editorial content often have significant online presence because of it. The Sharpie blog, for instance, supplies the perfect canvas for users to engage with exactly what the product is capable of by showcasing and discussing users’ creations in inspired contexts. Furthermore, high-quality links to your site from high-ranking sources assist search engines in rating your site. Links shouldn’t be garnered through paying bloggers to link to you, Google doesn’t like paid links and if your content is good enough then the more sophisticated approach is to write content that attracts bloggers and influencers who will want to link to your site organically. The question, then, is: how do you stand out from the web noise?
Content is about the concepts
Privilege ideas over formats by making sure there’s a story behind your message that resonates with real people. Use infographics to illustrate your narrative rather than allowing them to exist in lieu of one. Make content something people will want to share with others and revisit for fresh updates to continue their engagement in the story you’ve created and in the relationship that you have built with them. Here, content secured by a firm understanding of your target audience underpins any marketing, the search volume around related terms and competitor content pieces, and previous success from your own site.
Deal with reality
Content should be agile and responsive, which means being prepared to respond in real time to what’s going on in the physical world. That means using your social channels to respond ‘live’ to real events. Consider carefully what is ok to say and what might land you in trouble. Engaging in what is unfolding in the real world and relating this to your message or identity in the right way can ensure your brand is relevant not only to people but to search engines too.
Prepare to be spontaneous
If there’s a relevant big cultural event coming up, for example, you will want to have a library of content at hand to respond to it. That might mean infographics, articles, jokes, videos, games, quizzes, quotes – anything that gives your audience value and serves to expand on the perception of your brand’s generosity and to enhance user engagement with your brand.

Content pitfalls

Image is everything
You might have produced the most profound piece of editorial on the product or service you are offering, but if this is something that users wouldn’t want to be seen to be engaging with (think medical, for instance) then that content isn’t going to go anywhere. Few would want their Facebook friends to know they have a problematic and embarrassing medical condition. However, supplying a useful bank of reliable information that your suffering visitor might benefit from is likely to engage users covertly. They may even feel compelled to direct other sufferers there to benefit from your product or service.
Old news
Writing articles is an art and your pages need to include rich, fresh data that users can return to. Duplicated or antique content is, therefore, something to be avoided. In a world in which data can be continually refreshed and developed there can be no excuses for out-of-date references and supplying information that is defunct or irrelevant.

What next?

There are always exciting and new ‘next steps’ to take in the ever-evolving world of Content Analytics; the trick is to keep abreast of them. There are a number of platforms that allow you to analyse your content and identify what users are engaging with now, what they look at on your site and where they are in the buying cycle. This can give you a genuine insight into what is and isn’t working for you. Dive into the data and work out how your content is active in your sales funnel. Beyond data, of course, is a real human being, who has the same needs online that they do offline; therefore, supplying high-quality content that caters for these needs is paramount in the perception, progress and success of your brand.
Sources: *White paper SEONOW2015

From The Shop Floor: Can Scrum Really Work For Marketers?

SOME CONTEXT

Marketing is broken – in fact, agencies are a little bit broken too.
Clients don’t know which agency to speak to anymore. At the same time that 1 in 5 consumers in the UK have installed ad blockers, half of us are watching catch-up TV and skipping the commercials.
Where, when and how your customer engages with you has already changed and is going to continue to change. Marketing needs to be able to adapt and adjust to the times; being good at one thing is no good any more.
We are designing a capability that has change as its core principle – always in beta and constantly being improved upon.

INDUSTRY SPEAK WARNING

Before you go any further I’d like to pre-warn you that I’m about to get a bit PM’y  – please take the opportunity to leave now if you’re not into that kind of thing. For all the people after my own heart – the lovers of process and order – read on!
Following on from my last article around Agile (in particular, Scrum) being too rigid for the likes of us marketers, I wanted to update you with some real-life accounts of how we are borrowing some Scrum principles very successfully within our dedicated client teams.
We’re currently testing whether the use of Scrums and simple Kanban style swimming lanes improves the communication and collaboration between our teams, and ultimately the timeliness and quality of our outputs.
It’s also worth mentioning that for the purposes of this article I am addressing ongoing business as usual activity only as we treat projects slightly differently – and that’s for another time.

CONSTANTS

For these trials we have a set number of constants, which all of our teams adhere to:
1. Use of Trello
We have found that the likes of Basecamp and traditional studio management software like Resource Guru aren’t quite right for managing day-to-day activities for our clients, regardless of what type of account it is. The reason being that one is more of a communications portal and the other a glorified calendar. Both have their place within the agency, but we were missing that extra element – the one that would enable us to effectively manage day-to-day iteration and change.
Therefore we are moving all task management for these clients to Trello, where we follow a set structure of Kanban style boards where we address:

  1. Everything that needs to be done
  2. What was done yesterday
  3. What needs to be done today
  4. What blockers we are facing

2. Multiple work streams under one client
We can have many work streams going on, for any one client at any one time, made up of both ongoing work and one-off projects.
So we’ve decided to create Trello boards that reflect those work streams.  We think this is a great, client-centric way of doing things and allows us to report back to stakeholders in a structure that’s familiar to them and that answers their questions quickly and effectively. For example; one of our clients has the following boards live at the moment:

  • SEO BAU
  • Social BAU
  • March Campaign
  • April campaign
  • Strategy & Planning

3. Backlog
All work streams have a backlog.  This is where all our planning and strategy work gets distilled into the actionable tasks that will actually get the job done.
Our Account and Project Managers, Strategists and Planners work with their teams to ensure the backlog captures everything – giving us a great view of what is ahead of us and invaluable transparency on where we might encounter bottlenecks. Trello’s filtering is great for this.
4. Fully integrated teams
Not all accounts are the same, but by-and-large our clients work with us across the marketing mix.
The real benefit of applying some of Scrum’s principles is that it encourages, some would say, forces, communication and collaboration between team members. So a prerequisite for our team is that we have experts from all areas represented.
5. Instant messaging groups
We have to be realistic. Our team are frequently out of the office and not available at the same time every day. Also, waiting until the next meeting of minds is sometimes not quick enough – immediate answers are often sought by the team so as not to delay progress.
So rather than resort to endless email threads or individual conversations where the whole team is left in the dark, we look to an extension of the Scrum in the form of instant messaging groups. For this we currently use Skype and we use it to remove blockers, quickly. Instant gratification is the name of the game.
We do however set rules around usage of instant messaging; it’s not the place for endless debate or detailed planning.

WHAT WE’RE DOING

TRIAL 1
For 2 clients we are subscribing to the standard daily Scrum scenario. However, the difference between what we do and what a software development house might do is pretty big.
Due to the speed at which we work and the frequency of change we have to accommodate, we cannot and do not “time box” work into set, lengthy sprints. Instead we commit to daily cycles of work that every team member confirms they can deliver.
With cycles being this short, we are never more than 24 hours away from putting the handbrake on a particular activity and changing tack completely.
Short bursts of work make it much easier for teams to prioritise what’s next. A lot can change in a day, but because our teams communicate so effectively it’s not just the Account Manager that has that knowledge – everyone has it, which means teams can help prioritise together, avoiding the need for an Account Management dictatorship (which no-one wants – not even the Account Manager!)
TRIAL 2
For another client we only Scrum twice a week.  We want to see how our process works with fewer face-to-face meetings and more online comms and collaboration.
Instead of the daily marketing cycles in trial 1, the week is broken into 2 cycles, splitting it in half.  The team then prioritise and commit to what they know they can deliver in the next upcoming cycle.
The team working with this client base their reporting and stakeholder engagement around this weekly,  2 cycle framework and it works well because this way of working has been agreed with our client during onboarding.  So everyone is happy.
We have also found that reaction to change is still managed quickly, even with Scrums only happening twice a week. The team behaviour that the agile approach tends to nurture means that personal autonomy and initiative to solving problems become second nature, so we rarely get to the next Scrum with big issues still hanging over us.

LEARNINGS SO FAR

This way of working empowers our methodology
We embrace change and ensure we take a test-and-learn approach to everything we do. We’re finding that Scrum principles give us an excellent framework within which we can manage the day-to-day realities of practising what we preach.
Encourages autonomy
We know that tools and processes will only work if the behaviour of your people supports them. Scrum places the onus on the team when it comes to defining and executing work. And in turn we are finding that this has increased autonomy within individuals. The desire to problem solve and be successful as a team is so much more important when you meet and make promises to each other every day.
No more falling off the radar
The existence of a backlog when it comes to ongoing marketing activity is proving a very welcome addition. The small “I must do that” tasks that often are very important when keeping things moving can sometimes get lost in the ether. It’s so easy to drop those points into the backlog, safe in the knowledge that that task will be looked at and prioritised.
People are broadening their skills
A really great side-effect of regular team Scrums is that people are learning from each other. One of the Meccas for Scrum (especially in an agency environment) is for people to expand their skill sets to other areas of the business and actually be able to undertake tasks that previously they would not have been able to. We’re creating a team of all-rounders!
Lessons learnt isn’t a big event
Instead of the meeting that no-one ever has time for, every Scrum provides the opportunity for lessons to be learnt on a smaller, more digestible scale. And we aren’t just talking about learning from our marketing tactics and outputs, but also about how we are running our teams, how we communicate with each other and, most importantly, how we can do it better next time – something that’s much easier to remember when you have a team that speak to each other frequently.
Much improved transparency
The ability to see what’s going to be done today, what is blocking progress and what is upcoming seems so simple. But having the conviction to stand by those 3 types of task and not overly complicate things is so helpful to so many people – clients, internal stakeholders and team members alike.

WHAT’S NEXT

As well as trying to iron out the inevitable little problems that come with trialling new processes, we will be making some subtle changes to what we have running to see if we can further improve.
I’ll be looking at:

  • Alternative instant messaging tools with the ability to create tasks from discussion
  • Velocity and burndown for marketing activity – how can we utilise estimates and job points to better understand what’s left to deliver on a work stream
  • The equivalent of the sprint planning process for marketing BAU

Tune in for an update soon!

Unlocking Your Digital Transformation – Event Round Up

Digital technologies and innovations are transforming our world. Everywhere we look, traditional norms are being overthrown as new platforms, channels and devices re-write the script for business in 2016 and beyond.
Change is inevitable but it’s not something you can just ride out. As changes in technology and behaviour increase in pace many organisations simply have no idea what to do in order to stay relevant. Digital transformation is more than a buzzword; it’s an on-going process that businesses have to go through, but it’s one that many get wrong.
On March 1, 2016, we held an event ‘Unlocking Your Digital Transformation’ at The Ivy in London, exploring digital transformation and what it means for organisations of all sizes in all sectors. Each speaker brought various specialties and insight to the table.
The result? A comprehensive and in-depth analysis of digital transformation and what it means for brands – today and tomorrow.

Opening Remarks & Speech

James Moffat

James founded Organic in 2006. He has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Digital Transformation within business and has worked with many big organisations.
James began by discussing the new reality of life in 2016, the barriers to tech being lower than ever before. Drawing influence from Maslow’s famous quote, “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail,” James continued to discuss how businesses can’t use the same strategy (hammer) for every problem (nail).
In the face of tech changes, James believes in practical human development to ensure that teams break down silos and enable transformation throughout a company. Here are some key takeaways from James’ speech:

Empower People to Drive Digital Transformation

Digital transformation needs to be people centric. It’s not about having the latest and flashiest tech, but about ensuring that people use technology as an enabler. Brands need to take an anthropological approach to digital transformation, ensuring that tomorrow’s generation is given the necessary tools and freedom to use tech in the most appropriate way possible.

Test & Learn

Test and learn through small, incremental advancements to discover what works and what doesn’t. This could be as simple as asking yourself – does Instagram or Snapchat work better for us than Facebook or Twitter? Which devices are our customers gravitating towards? Only by testing different technologies and platforms will brands develop an understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

Constant Change

Change is the only constant and the only thing we can guarantee. The best brands are able to shift and are open to rapid change, but you need to get the behaviours right in order to effect change. We need to leverage change and see it as positive, embracing digital advancements when they fit our company’s goals and objectives.

Fireside Chat

Linsey Wooldridge

The next session of the day saw Linsey Wooldridge sit down with James Moffat to discuss the digital challenges she faced while working as Retail Marketing Director for the UK’s largest owner and manager of retail space, British Land.
Linsey was confronted with a problem: how do you understand customers in an Omnichannel world?

Customer-Centric Digital Strategy

Linsey advocates a customer-first approach to digital transformation. She discussed how she helped British Land develop a much deeper understanding of customers’ wants and needs by asking them directly. This often meant breaking down digital barriers by approaching people directly in shopping malls up and down the country. Armed with this insight, Linsey was able to gather a much rounder view of different demographics and how they interacted with digital.
Here are some of Linsey’s most important takeaways:
“Digital does not exist in a bubble.”
“Leave your ego at the door and walk in the shoes of your consumers.”
“Embrace serendipity, lean into the unknown.”

Digital Transformation through People

Tiffany St James

Tiffany addressed key ideas of engaging workforces to ensure that digital transformation can properly take effect. She believes in five dials of digital transformation.

  1. Vision Strategy
  2. Product
  3. People
  4. Customer Experience
  5. Culture

Tiffany believes brands need to ask: “What is our most attractive digital face?” Brands can help to create this environment internally by embracing modern developments in the connected workforce.

Talent DNA

Digital capability mapping (how can brands leverage and measure their digital workforce) is vitally important to any successful digital strategy. By attracting and retaining digital talent, brands will have a greater chance of implementing successful digital transformation. This stems from greater internal nativity with digital tech, but can also arise through employee digital education, something Tiffany believes all brands should be implementing. The right tools, information and support are all facilities that brands can use for employee advocacy.

Session: Panel Discussion

James MoffatLinsey WooldridgeJeremy WaiteTiffany St JamesAndrew Davies
(Left to right: James Moffat, Linsey Wooldridge, Jeremy Waite, Tiffany St James, Andrew Davies)
As the day continued in stirring fashion, guests were treated to a panel discussion where our digital transformation experts debated some of the industry’s hottest topics and controversial strategies.
At the start of the event, each guest was asked to write down one question which would later be presented to the panel. The first centred on the question of how brands take digital marketing rhetoric and apply it in reality so that customers are engaged. Across the panel, each expert agreed: we need to communicate with customers in a language they can understand.
One highlight stood around a debate between incremental change and so-called “Uber” leaps. Proponents of the “Uber” leap look to their massive share of the market and incredible valuation as signs that most companies should follow suit. However, for every Uber there are 1,000 failures, if not more. It’s important to figure out what matters for your specific brand; become the steward of your customer voice through small, digital steps, which when accumulated over time will lead to change across the board.
Our final speakers began by quoting three of business management expert Tom Peters’ essential musts for any success person:
1. Work harder
2. Hustle
3. Go into every meeting more prepared than everyone else in the room
Jeremy went on to discuss an interesting (and perhaps controversial) facet of Salesforces’ internal corporate structure, whereby every single employee has to write a personal goals timeline and wider business model, which are shared openly for anyone in the company to see. It’s an interesting take on the advances that digital offer companies in terms of internal structure and engagement.
Jeremy and Andrew were keen to stress that our goal in business should not be to sell to people who need what we have, but to sell to people who believe what we believe. Brands are all competing against speed, and digital has redefined the way companies can expand and enter the market, but unless we use digital to better our understanding of customers then it won’t land the same impact.
Brands can use digital to create single customer views through complex data collection, which allows a more holistic and 360-degree approach to targeting consumers. It’s about integrating an approach between using technology as an enabler and remembering that customers are more than just figures on a spreadsheet – they’re people.

Watch Our Event Round Up Video

Is Your Workplace Ready For The New ‘Normal’?

When we are kids we do dynamic things like dance, play football, go out on our bikes and climb. We are encouraged to find things out, ask questions, to discover and investigate the world around us and to ask yet more questions about this world. Alongside their early exploration into natural world, children are encouraged to direct their own activities and to investigate technology through play. They are championed in exploring their imaginations and developing skills by working with others, as well as independently. At nurseries and pre-schools everywhere, the emphasis is on opening up horizons, and educators work tirelessly to ensure that every possible opportunity for enriching the learning of children and young people is at the forefront of everything they do.
In short, the early years are about experimentation and explorative thinking. If you were lucky and you went to a well-resourced school in a ‘good’ area where the staff were well-supported and given adequate time to plan and prepare sessions, then your education would have been less about jumping through arbitrary assessment hoops and more about continuing that journey of exploration. Perhaps you were even lucky enough to enjoy these privileges all the way up to your higher education experience – even beyond. And then what happens? There you are with your young mind alive with possibilities, ideas and questions, eagerly anticipating the first opportunity to bring the fruits of your learning to the much-lauded ‘real world’, but is that real world ready for you?

Joining the party

Today, kids know how to operate a handheld electronic device like a phone or tablet even before they learn how to hold a pen. The mobile technology today’s kids are intimate with makes one wonder how parents had previously managed occupy their kids in cafes prior to the advent of the Cbeebies app or YouTube. Parents of young children today will have smirked at their four year old’s frustration when an antique TV screen or monitor cannot be operated by touch, or when their agile pincer movements expand a part of the screen on a tablet as though it were the most obvious and instinctive thing to do in the world. In the same way that phones with dials were replaced by phones with pushable buttons over several decades, smart digital technology has meant the effort of engaging one’s digits in the act of pushing has become redundant overnight. Today’s kids expect to have instant control over and make an immediate impact on their digital worlds, and anything that does not comply with this expectation is bewildering.
Millennials who grew up exploring the digital landscape more than their own back yard, who organised their lives via social media, or conducted their lives on social media, who typed more than they held pens, who engaged with information efficiently, expecting and getting instant results from their searches, for whom ‘the post’ is a quaint concept akin to the telegram and useful only for taking receipt of items ordered online, will more often than not find themselves entering a workplace anticipating the same fleetness of foot in communication, action and activity.
But the reality of stepping into the world of work is often very different to what they have become accustomed to. Businesses are slower to migrate to the digital landscape than individuals and while digital permits work activity to take place any time of day or night, working practices often adhere to the daylight hours defined during the time when we needed to exploit the natural light so we could plough fields. Digital merges home with work, but maintaining a good work/life balance means being able to switch off at least some of the time. Digital means everything is instant, but can real people keep up with the demands of an increasingly interconnected and speedy world? Most businesses are built on structures that have been reinforced over a period of years; people have their place, their role and their responsibilities, and changing the way we communicate can be a struggle – not least for those who have arrived late to digital party (or not at all), but also to those emerging into the workplace who are already digital natives.

Integrating the worlds

Let’s take the example of a graduate who left university to work for a well-known brand. Accustomed to the nature of existing in an integrated physical/digital world, they are astonished to enter a workplace that is struggling to manage their Twitter account. Should this be the terrain of customer services or marketing? What happens when a customer makes a very public complaint about them on Twitter? Should the customer services team swoop in to smooth it over, or should marketing handle the complaint and use it as an opportunity to reinforce the brand’s values and improve its perception? It depends, of course, on the nature of the issue, however, companies who have managed to integrate marketing skills and customer services knowledge have often yielded the benefits of mingling worlds that previously may never have crossed paths. It’s worth noting how brands that do successfully integrate teams have yielded not only happy customers, but immeasurably valuable positive publicity.

Accepting new realities

When throughout the majority of your education you’ve been encouraged to work independently, to draw on your own initiative and engage with original thought, moving to a work context in which you are obliged to make every decision by committee can be a source of immense frustration for newcomers. Something as apparently simple as setting up or reinvigorating a newsletter or blog often requires multiple stakeholder input – that’s assuming standards and guidelines already exist in relatively new social media contexts. Often by the time corporate guidelines have been agreed, any energy and originality has been expunged from the initiative to produce something that fails to elicit the desired effect in the audience.
Companies cannot expect their staff to benefit from a 30-minute training session concerned with integrating new communication approaches, because digital transformation must be part of the climate rather than perceived as an adjunct to a pre-existing system.
Furthermore, internal communication is often dependent on antiquated processes – even forms of communication like email feel ponderous to someone who uses WhatsApp or Messenger and expects instant replies. Accepting the reality of the efficacy of digital communications as the norm is the only way for organisations to compete and progress meaningfully

Painless evolution

Companies that are interested in accepting and privileging advancements in how their sales, customer services and internal communication take place will be the ones who adapt painlessly to their ever-evolving, increasingly competitive terrain. But it is important to listen to the newbies, not just because they are still in touch with the learning, freedom of thought, energy and positivity their learning and youth has afforded them, but because they are already converts to a cause you will be championing later down the line – they are the new ‘normal’.

The Awakening: the difficult merging of different worlds

Integrated marketing seems easy enough to achieve on paper. You bridge the gap between online and offline, ensure you use the right tools, channels and people at the right time to meet (and who knows, maybe even exceed) your goals, and that’s it.
So why does it seem to be so complicated? In truth it isn’t, but it’s made difficult by organisations failing to understand, and in some cases, refusing to accept, the true nature of the changing world we live in.

Tiptoeing through the silos

When I landed my first job in marketing, which was for a well-known brand, I was a fresh-faced graduate with the belief that I could make a real difference. It didn’t take long for that to change, and not because of any cynicism, but quite simply I butted up against too many walls in a fragmented business that had made its name before digital was a thing.
Quite soon I realised that each department was very protective of its area of responsibility, like little fiefdoms with their own processes and ways of getting their job done. I spent quite a lot of time tiptoeing around the various teams, trying not to upset anyone or appearing to go over someone’s head to get something done.
This is not a criticism of that specific business; it’s something I’ve seen time and again at other organisations throughout my career. Usually it’s at bigger businesses that have had to integrate new technology into existing processes, procedures and systems.

Navigating the Twitter storm

One element of the job involved managing the complaints that were rearing their heads on a relatively new platform to them: Twitter. I remember the arguments about who owned the channel (marketing or customer services), trying to bring about change by submitting a strategy outlining an approach to dealing with online complaints, only to be told, by people who had no idea what a tweet was, how to send one, or deal with a complaint in 140 characters: “We’d rather just get them to phone us… we know how to deal with complaints over the phone.”
As the weeks went on a similar pattern emerged on other projects. Each department within the organisation was so caught up with their own activity that no campaigns were running particularly effectively or coherently. As a result quality was suffering. The digital team, who worked on email communication and CRM, had very little input or anything to do with the eCommerce team who built the site and released patch changes and so on.
They could call me a digital native, millennial or any other trendy buzz name, but the truth is at that point I was just a person who had a clearer understanding than them about the reality of the world we were operating in.

It’s a mindset

We don’t live in a digital world, an online, or a connected world. It’s just The World, which is how the majority of your employees and customers see it. Digital technology is simply the way to get the same things done they have always done.
Change needs to be embraced wherever possible. The one thing I know for sure is that change is inevitable, so instead of resisting it why not accept it and learn from it?
That doesn’t mean diving in both feet first without a plan, randomly adopting new platforms, tools and ways of working in the hopes that one will be the silver bullet for your problems. Put a plan in place, sanity check it, measure and analyse it; if it’s not working then change it. That’s the path to true digital transformation.
At the end of the day it’s got to be better than having your customer services call handlers trying to log into twitter for two-hours, just to ask someone to call you back at their expense.
 
 

Focus on what’s important for success

Focus on what’s important for success

What’s in a name? When it comes to digital transformation, quite a lot, and it’s not necessarily all good. Although digital transformation is necessary, the name trips people up and can even cause attempts at digital transformation to fail. Why? Because they get too caught up on the ‘digital’ aspect, which is just a part of the process. It’s perfectly possible to be digitally innovative and yet fail to see that innovation have any real impact, which can be a costly mistake.

Kodak and the myth of digital transformation

One of the biggest brands trotted out when people talk about digital transformation is Kodak. They just didn’t get digital, or so people say. They clung onto the old ways for too long and paid the price. So if you don’t want to suffer the same fate, adopt new technologies. It’s digital or die.
But as Al Ries outlines in this article on Kodak’s misfortunes Kodak were innovating in digital before anybody else:

  • 1976 the first digital camera
  • 1986 the world’s first megapixel sensor for a handheld camera
  • 1994 the first digital camera under $1000
  • Over one thousand patents in digital photography

So clearly it wasn’t failure to adopt digital and new technologies that caused the problem here. For Al the problem was brand association, Kodak meant film not digital. Other experts have said the problems lay in inept management. Whatever it was, it wasn’t being digital luddites.

Efail?

Email comes in for a lot of hate when people talk about digital transformation, and it’s easy to see why. We rely on it a lot for communications and it often replaces phone calls and face-to-face chats. So something that could perhaps be clarified in a minute or two ends up being snarled up in an email thread.

Here are just a few ways that email could be hobbling your organisation:

  • It sucks up time. A study from 2012 by the McKinsey Global Institute found that knowledge workers spent on average 28 hours a week reading and writing emails and searching for information buried as attachments in email threads or in various folders.
  • It gets messy fast. While most email clients allow you to organise messages, group items into folders, archive old messages and so on most people don’t stay on top of it. They begin to ‘lose’ threads and documents, things that don’t seem as important as the latest email to land get pushed back and back. It’s hard to keep things in order.
  • It leaves people out of the loop. It’s far too easy for someone to get left out of the loop on email. This then slows projects down further, especially if things roll on without important input from people. 

Of course a lot of email’s problems aren’t necessarily to do with the technology but how people use it. Email wasn’t really meant for group collaboration and project management, so we shouldn’t be surprised that it doesn’t perform well in that capacity. No point hating a screwdriver because it’s not good at sawing wood.
Technology to the rescue?
So you know that email is hindering productivity. What do you do? Pay a hefty licence fee for a nice shiny collaboration platform.
What happens? It gets rolled out, the announcement probably made by email and so immediately ignored or deleted by half the workforce. Then someone from the IT department rushes around setting up logins and giving people a quick rundown on how to use it. A few people begin to, but then they start to drift off and what should have been a bright new hive of creativity and collaboration becomes a ghost town.
And everyone’s back on email.
So what’s going on here? Technology isn’t the solution. It’s part of it, but really it’s changing how people work that is going to make things work. It doesn’t matter how good the tech is, if people can’t see the benefit they won’t use it.
At the root of it is a desire to not spend money on anything other than a tangible product (whether that’s hardware or software), and that’s a big mistake. Getting people to change ingrained working habits takes time, effort, persistence, and yes, money.
You can’t email people and give them a 30-minute training session and expect them to embrace it. Some will for sure, and these people are your best allies when it comes to getting everyone else on board, but managing the change is also important.
So before you dive headlong into digital transformation and spend a lot of money on technology make sure you’ve properly invested in the process and the people who will make or break the change.
We were exploring the balance between technology and people in digital transformation at our event in London – learn more here.

Google’s Latest Revelations

<sermon>
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was that of Google, Lord of Search. At first all was void and chaos, then Google moved its force over the Internet, and separated the bad from the good. It did punish with low rankings and lists of blackness those that flouted its search maxims: the link farmers, the spammers, and the content duplicators. Yet Google did reward the worthy – the generous givers of valuable, rich, original content that users beheld with joy.
The Word of Google was discerned by many to be a rigorous set of rules; by others, as precepts with scope for interpretation. Amidst the uncertainty of digital times, so it came to pass that in its beneficence, Almighty Google did distribute Webmaster Guidelines – or commandments – to those who would hear the Word. And yet, many of Google’s 200+ ranking factors remain sub rosa – arcane knowledge possessed only by the illuminated few.
As a reader of this blog you are no doubt one of the worthy, one who seeks to engage users with high quality content. Therefore, as humble disciples of Google’s Word, we reveal to you the good news: Google has updated their Webmaster Guidelines.
</sermon>

Thou shalt encrypt thy site

In essence, Google’s new encryption guideline makes what had previously been mere recommendation more official. Though Google has advocated HTTPS for some time it has now been explicit in stating, ‘If possible, secure your site’s connections with HTTPS. Encrypting interactions between users and your website is a good practice for communication on the web.’ 
Therefore ‘secure’ sites are no longer the dominion of ecommerce pages, but extend to all data that may exist within any given site.

Thou shalt not favour certain devices

As the ways in which we access our information changes, it stands to reason that Google’s guidelines formally acknowledge the transition from laptop to mobile by creating sites that are fit for purpose across devices. Google says, ‘Design your site for all device types and sizes, including desktops, tablets, and smartphones. Use the mobile friendly testing tool to test how well your pages work on mobile devices, and get feedback on what needs to be fixed.’
To those of you who have long been aware of the importance of making content pan-device friendly this advice might appear quaintly behind the curve.

Allow thy content to be seen

The accessibility theme is continued with a new guideline specifically aimed at creating sites accessible to those who are visually impaired. Google says, ‘Ensure that your pages are useful for readers with visual impairments, for example, by testing usability with a screen-reader.”

Hide ye nothing

Google is able to crawl HTML content hidden inside navigational elements such as tabs or expanding sections, but make your site’s important content visible by default. Google says, ‘We consider this content less accessible to users, and believe that you should make your most important information visible in the default page view.’
Ironically Google includes this advice in hidden tabs, making it non-searchable. But perhaps Google can flout its own rules because it is already Lord of the Search Kingdom.
Though several changes in the latest guidelines expand upon existing recommendations, the above are the four main new additions.

CAN THE C-SUITE STILL INNOVATE?

The idea that big business struggles to innovate is nothing new. As a company becomes larger the emergence of hierarchies, processes and the aim of just keeping the motor running can begin to stifle creativity. You don’t have to look far to see how that ends for many businesses.
As the C-Suite has exploded in recent years, with multiple chiefs of something or other (from people and knowledge to sustainability and internet evangelism) there has been a greater and greater move towards silos. After all, if Lisa, the Chief Innovation Officer, is managing this then I don’t need to worry about pushing forward innovations, she’ll do it, and anyway I might rock the boat if I do say something. And here lies the problem: siloing is one of the biggest threats to innovation.
Buy, Buy Innovation
Google has a well-known policy that encourages employees to spend 20% of their time on projects and ideas they think will most benefit the company. In theory they get to ditch their contractual obligations and indulge their creativity and innovation. And it’s yielded some big results: Google News, Gmail and AdSense all have their roots in 20% time.
But as Google has grown, it seems that the 20% policy, while still in effect, may no longer be practical for employees if indeed it ever really was.
So Google, while maintaining its secretive Google X lab for what they call ‘moonshot’ projects, has taken the well-worn path of big business: buying innovation.
With huge reserves of cash, Google and other large organisations simply buy up smaller companies. Because start-ups and small businesses have less to lose they take bigger risks, and this means they are a hot bed of innovation just like Google, Facebook and the rest were when they emerged. These are some of Google’s innovation hauls:

  • YouTube – Purchased because Google could see the huge potential in video content
  • Nest Labs – As the Internet of Things and home automation became a reality, Google grabbed these innovators
  • AdMob – With mobile internet access soaring, Google acquired this mobile ad platform
  • Android – Now the biggest smartphone platform, Google snapped Android up in 2005

And the list goes on. You’ll find similar acquisitions by Facebook, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and also non-tech firms.
In larger organisations there is an aversion to risk, especially amongst the C-Suite. This makes sense when your job could be on the line. After all it seems that many C-level jobs exist to soak up the adulation when things go well and then take the hit when it goes wrong.
I’ve had many experiences going in to corporate environments, hearing lots of people talking about the need to change, and when I say, “Well let’s do it”, the answer is invariably a mixture of incredulity and pessimism. Before anything happens there has to be a lot of meetings, then the friction starts and before you know it everything has ground to a halt.
The feeling is that once you begin to innovate and disrupt then you open Pandora’s Box and there is no way to shut it. So the easiest way for huge corporations and businesses to innovate is let someone else take the risk, and if it works buy it.
But what about those businesses that don’t have the mega-corporations’ buying power? They can still do it, but instead of using money they have to focus on people.

HIVE MIND

Talk of innovation is fine, and necessary, but of course but it’s fair to say that expecting a business with hundreds or thousands of employees to simply change their culture is a bit unrealistic. After all not many people will relish the thought of possibly losing their job just so they can say they innovated.
But businesses, no matter how large, can’t avoid change. For many organisations it would be best to accept the difficulty they face in innovating and then take baby steps towards it.
One crucial step that businesses overlook is fostering a start-up culture from within. We know that corporates struggle to innovate for the reasons above, but what they can do is create small “start-ups” within the structure.
Set up a small, nimble team, give them some budget and let them know that what they need to do is experiment and work towards the goal, without worrying about jumping through the hoops of risk limitation and so on.
An analogy I like is that of a mother ship. The main business is the mother ship, which repairs and refuels these smaller start-ups. They then act like smaller craft that strike out and explore the depths of the final frontier.
To further minimise risk, these smaller companies can be moved off the balance sheet, which should calm any fears of failure damaging the parent company.
Investing in teams like this might seem scary to the monolithic world of corporations, but it is a way to innovate that is often overlooked.

TOP DOWN MEETS BOTTOM UP

Innovation does need to be led from the top, there’s no getting away from that. Very little can happen without top-level buy in.
According to Harvard Business Review’s report Business Transformation and the CIO Role – businesses that are leading change, what they term Innovation Accelerators, share these traits:

  • The CEO drives the commitment to innovation and transformation
  • The approach is structured but they prioritise speed over perfection and remove red tape
  • They emphasise diversity of thought and experience. Collaboration happens across teams and disciplines, silos are removed
  • Their CIOs spend more of their time on activities that are strategic to the business
  • They have strong IT departments that drive the agenda on innovation
  • They invest in and reward innovation

What’s important here is that innovation is led from the top, but driven from the bottom, as the points highlighted reveal. One interviewee in the report explained how their company goes “down two levels” to solve problems. That is, instead of making decisions strictly at the top and letting it trickle down, executives collaborate with staff further down the company and in different departments. This gives them a better idea of the problems faced by those on the ground. It also gives different viewpoints, which increases innovation.
And that’s where innovation from the ground up comes in.
I understand Snapchat, I get how to use it, what people use it for and how it can be used in a marketing context. But I’m in my mid 30s and nobody I know really uses it. My understanding of it is abstract, academic. Whereas someone younger, who lives and breathes it everyday, has a knowledge of Snapchat I can never really have.

THE TURN OF THE MILLENNIALS

So, what’s the answer? Essentially, hire people who live the reality of digital in a way you can’t.
Millennials are the natural choice. For this generation, smartphones, social media and digital are irrelevant labels. What falls under these categories is simply the lived reality they experience every day. But really, being a Millennial is more of a mindset. You don’t need to just hire people under-25, and in fact they may lack the experience and broader skills for many positions. Find people who have that openness, the ability to flex and change.
And, despite some naysayers, they are by their nature a driven, disruptive and innovative group. A study by PwC on Millennials in the workplace revealed:

  • 52% say career advancement was very important to them
  • 35% believe that personal development opportunities are the most important offer an employer can make
  • 38% feel that older senior management don’t get them
  • 65% believe rigid hierarchies and out dated management styles fail to get the most out of younger recruits
  • 46% think their managers don’t understand how they use tech at work

This generation expects information to flow freely, they are wary and mistrustful of power structures, and they want to work in the way that gets the best results, not the way things are “supposed” to be done. With their access to, and understanding of, technology and emerging platforms that’s exactly how they will operate, whether you like it or not. And that’s a good thing.
By hiring these natural disruptors, helping them grow and develop, and listening to them, you’ll be able to achieve digital transformation and innovation in a more fluid way than if you just try and force it from the top.
Of course the focus shouldn’t just be on Millennials and so called ‘digital natives’. People with strong traditional skills but who have an interest in, or are motivated to learn more about, digital can bring just as much to your business. We’ve added people to the Organic team who came from other backgrounds and aren’t your typical smartphone wielding 20-somethings. By supporting and encouraging them to get more into digital they are now key to our continuing success.
People need to move away from this idea of ‘digital’ being a little container that you drop ‘digital people’ into, while everyone else operates in a different world to them. Soon digital is going to stop being a thing, in fact some people would say it already has, and it will just be an integral part of everything an organisation does.
As with anything, it’s about balance.

THE INNOVATIVE C-SUITE

The C-Suite can innovate, but to do it they need to change how they think about the structure of their organisations. CEOs and CIOs in particular need to acknowledge that they can’t really stay on top of everything, and that they should tap into employs who are digitally savvy.
Trying to motivate people who lack drive is difficult, and sometimes impossible, so always look for motivated people and give them something to believe in and care about. Support their wider personal development, even if this means letting them indulge in activities and training that is not directly related to their job role. If your designers understand how to code, and your coders have a grasp of design principles, their breadth of knowledge coupled to the depth of their expertise in their specialism will make collaboration and understanding throughout your business easier and more effective.
There is only one way to succeed in the face of change, and that’s to embrace it, because clinging to the old ways as they crumble around you isn’t sensible or sustainable.
Interested in finding out how you can make digital transformation a success? Read our ‘Unlocking Your Digital Transformation‘ event round up.