The 7 team characteristics necessary for successful digital transformations
Feb 4, 2016
With 88% of companies reporting they’re undergoing a digital transformation1 I can’t help but imagine how this big shift looks on the inside of these businesses.* Think of a business like a human body. Digital transformations require large changes within the major organs of the body, so to speak, and that can mean a hemorrhaging if done poorly or not at all. However, if done well it can mean a transition to a healthy whole body in the modern age.
* I imagine a giant scrambling of people and resources flying everywhere.
What exactly does this mean? If a digital transformation that better focuses on the customer is done well, the company can leverage stronger customer relationships2, increase consumer retention, increase revenue and help to secure the company’s long-term position in the marketplace. And it’s an assurance that the body stays healthy and doesn’t reject the changes in the organs.
Wait, why is this change necessary? Let’s do a quick refresher on the increasing pressure and need for digital. Essentially, customers expect more digital options from brands and companies. In a recent Gallup poll on banking, it was found that 71% of people paid a bill through online banking in the last three months3. On Black Friday this past November, 56.7% of smartphone owners used their phone to research products and purchase holiday items4. In the insurance industry, 83% of executives agree that digital technologies will transform the way they interact with their customers.
To stay relevant in the marketplace, companies will have to quickly shift to meet the increasing digital expectations of their customers. Much like the academic phrase “publish or perish,” in the modern and evolving digital marketplace it becomes a matter of “transform or terminate.”
Transform to have more digital channels and experiences and better meet the needs of your customers OR risk being outdated and perishing.
Think about Blockbuster and how the Internet killed the video store.
Think about the disk drive industry.
Ok, so the data and research continues to show the need for digital but some companies and industries are moving like Blockbuster – i.e. not fast enough – at least not fast enough for customers. In the banking industry, 57% of customers see a disconnect between the traditional and digital experience6 they receive from their bank, which indicates that these businesses are failing their customers by not providing the services and experience they desire or have come to expect based on their experience in other industries. Essentially, banks are lagging in the race to being more digital and this trend is also evident in other highly regulated and traditional business models like insurance. An Accenture survey suggests that insurance carriers will be investing just 0.2% of premium income a year on their digital initiatives over the next three years. Will this be enough of an investment to successfully transform and close the gap in the digital divide?
This all brings me back to the body of the business.
As the infamous Jack Welch says, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”
Is your business equipped for this change? Are the right teams in place? Where do you even start?
The marketing and sales departments interface with customers more than other departments and they are often ahead of the rest of the company in understanding the value and need for the digital shift. Start with marketing and sales for the transformation but do not assume those teams are prepared for the shift.
This is where the real work begins.
Acknowledging the need for the digital transformation is a great step but some would say the key to success is internal adoption of the change by the employees. The CEO of YP, David Krantz, agrees that the people side of digital transformation is the most important piece, “because at the end of the day, a company is made up of people. And it’s the people who then create the products. It’s the people that talk to your customers. It’s the people in your company that really are your brand7.”
Prepare your marketing team and increase adoption of the change by instilling certain traits within your team. This new dynamic will set the team up for success. It will inspire and empower those charged with making this digital shift happen, which will in turn help the organization more rapidly meet the digital expectations of customers.
What are the team characteristics for success?
In my experience working with several marketing departments during corporate digital transformations, there are seven overlapping traits that are always present in effective teams. Use these characteristics as a guide to develop a more effective marketing team that is equipped for change and empowered to succeed through a digital transformation.
Aligned with goals and mission
Align the team’s goals with the overall organizational mission, vision and goals for this digital transformation. Ensure that this alignment is clear within your team and the team’s initiatives and sub-goals are continuously connected to the broader organizational goals.
Don’t do it all at once. When you have a lot of priorities, you really have no priorities and that’s challenging to align people around that. Establish only a few top priorities and create a clear strategy with your team to execute and meet the goals. Stick to your strategy and rally your teams around it.
Skilled and trained
Provide training and resources for employees. According to a MIT Sloan report, 76% of digitally maturing companies say their company provides resources to obtain digital skills. The difference between companies more mature in digital transformation is that leaders and employees have access to the resources they needs to develop the digital skills necessary to execute their responsibilities8. And an underprepared workforce can bring the whole effort to a painful halt.
Encourage your team to try new and innovative ways to solve problems. During these modern times, the market disrupters are coming out on top. Think Uber to the taxi business and Airbnb to hospitality. According to Jürgen Kunz of Oracle, only companies that are able to imagine, develop, and realize truly disruptive business models have a chance to survive through digital transformation9. Rally for more risk-taking and celebrate the failures as they are part of the journey of learning and adapting.
Be open to the fact that the strategy and boundaries may have to pivot or the goal(s) may need to shift. These are all part of being adaptable and this comes with the game of change. The teams that successfully move through digital transformations have accepted that the initial course they set out for will look very different several months into the initiative and even more so at the end. The key here is to loosen the grip on controlling the outcome and instead be more graceful in the way your respond with the inevitable surprises, twists and turns.
Transparent and collaborative
This is where I see teams fail the most as they move through a digital transformation. The successful teams instill a strong transparent culture. All leaders hold an open door policy and actively share information as they receive it. Leadership make it a point to get in front of employees to share information and make it a two way communication. These forms of internal communications are critical for breaking down silos and creating a more collaborative culture.
Human nature’s tendency is to resist change, so attaching an accountability structure through performance metrics and a reward system will encourage your team to more actively embrace this change. Be sure to clearly communicate the expectations to your team members and help them meet their goals, which may include eliminating boundaries for them. Leaders are only as strong and effective as their weakest employee. Lift each other up and reward and advance those that perform well. In the end, this accountability structure will show the progress of your team to executives and help to make the case for expanding digital transformation to other areas of the company.
Use these seven characteristics as guideposts for your team so you can help transform your company to a more healthy and digital age. This digital transformation shift is largely an inside job, so continue to motivate and engage your employees in new ways to make the adoption process more successful. And please let me know how instilling these seven characteristics helps you. If you have other things that work for your team, I encourage you to share them with me via Twitter.
All stories about “transform or terminate” are welcome.
Next time, I’ll expand into the steps it takes to build a successful digital marketing team.
Do you have the right people in place?
What are the critical roles and responsibilities necessary for meeting the team and organizational goals?
We’ll cover all of that and more.
About Sarah: Sarah is a Senior Business Analyst who has handled transformations (both physically and organizationally) for the past 8 years. She is drawn to understand complexity and change and she’s experienced to help people and companies move through it with success. You can find her on Twitter @TheEcoFoodie or on LinkedIn.
1 Solis, Brian. “Digital Transformation: A Year in Review.” Web blog post. BrianSolis.com. 9 Dec. 2014
2 Weill, Peter., Weorner, Stephanie. “Thriving in an Increasingly Digital Ecosystem.” MITSloan Mag., 16 June 2015
3Youra, Beth. “Most Bank Customers Would Trade Personal banking for Digital Banking.” Web blog post. Gallup.com. 27 April, 2015
4 NRF’s Thanksgiving Weekend 2015 Customer Survey Data
5 The Digital Insurer, Accenture Digital Innovation Survey 2014: Seizing the opportunities of digital transformation. 2014 Accenture
6“Digital Disruption in Banking: Consumer Expectations vs CMO Realities.” Source from Accenture CMO Insights Survey 2014
7 Green, Sarah. “The CEO of YP on Leading Digital Transformation.” Web blog post. HBR.org. 23 July 2015
8 Kane, Gerald C., Palmer, Doug., Nguyen Phillips, Anh N., Kiron, David., and Buckley, Natasha. “Strategy, not Technology, Drives Digital Transformation.” MIT Sloan Management Review, Deloitte University Press, MIT 2015
9 Brucklmeier, Petra. “‘Be a disrupter’ – A recap of Cloudworld Frankfurt.” Web blog post. Oracle.co. 14 Nov 2014.