The Fifth Element Of Digital Maturity

Digital is, indeed, a “thing.” In fact, it’s post-“thing.” It’s mainstream.

“Digital marketing is marketing.” We have to “understand and predict customers’ next moves … and reach them at the right time with the right message … wherever they go, whatever device they use.”

On top of this, “the digital world is constantly changing,”… no company is ever completely there. “We have to work continually to do it all well.”

Reading this, you may feel overwhelmed or maybe a bit tired of the same old clichés, but here’s the thing …

Digital is mainstream, but you’re probably struggling at it.

Only 19% and a woeful 7% of organisations in North America and Europe, respectively, are digitally mature, according to the 2016 Adobe Digital Marketing Survey as discussed in the white paper “Four Essential Elements for Digital Maturity,” the rest are mostly just getting along or are “on a journey.” And the “digital elite” are showing them up. They’re the ones who are deliberately investing in digital maturity strategies, and 81% of them said their maturity efforts were “definitely differentiating their company,” whilst a whopping 91% said automation had led to an improvement in KPIs on their website.

Feeling inadequate? Disengaged? A bit cynical maybe?

One statistic that jumped off the page for me in this report and made me want to dig a little further was this: “Thirty per cent of all organisations surveyed say, yes, their digital efforts have definitely differentiated them from their competitors.”

Only 30%? Even if you ignore the subjectivity of the self-assessment, a 30% success rate, given all the work and investment going on, is pretty disappointing, isn’t it?

If digital is mainstream, and maturity, investment, and efforts are going up across the board, how come we’re not better at it?

Digital Maturity Needs To Grow Up
Let’s read between the lines for a moment.

The four elements of digital maturity—data-driven marketing, customer experience, mobile, and cross-channel—are a useful view on where organisations need to develop capability in a technological and methodological ecosystem that is vast and sprawling. And it’s encouraging to see that the companies that do best in these areas are the ones who “consciously invest” in holistic improvements to their digital marketing programmes.

Sweeping statements such as “if you’re playing to win, you have to do it all, and you have to do it well … using a platform that integrates all of the processes, technologies, and tools necessary to move forward in a holistic way” raise several questions. Isn’t this technology looking for a problem? Shouldn’t we have a better and more informed way of planning and prioritising investment?

And what about the other elephant in the room—ability to execute? “The three top obstacles to advancing digital maturity are resource availability, budget, and staffing to manage the testing strategy or process.” Many organisations are investing in technical capability without investing in the people and skills needed to exploit it. And where is the customer in all of this? Data might tell you what they’ve done and what they might do next, but what about why and how your organisation should respond? As this CMO.com article rightly points out, we need to Stop Thinking Omnichannel, Start Thinking Customer.

One Ring To Rule Them All
We need a fifth element of digital maturity—a uniting force that brings the four capabilities together and supercharges enablement through focused investment and empowered people.

But what does that look like?

Firstly, any investment in digital maturity should be driven by two, preferably complementary, things: business objectives and customer needs. This doesn’t sound like rocket science, but it’s a soothing antidote to some of the hysteria that still surrounds topics such as digital and data, as mainstream as they may be.

Data can, and should, support the process. Augmenting customers’ profiles and analysing their behaviour goes a long way to understanding their needs and informing business priorities, but it shouldn’t stop there. There’s still scope to move things further upstream to identify and co-create new products, services, and experiences with customers and to test the hypotheses and assumptions around the business value of these before developing more informed cases for investment.

Secondly, any investment in digital maturity needs a twin-track view that goes beyond data and enabling technology, and also focuses on developing the people, skills, and processes needed to embed and maximise return. Without this, organisations are subject to “inefficient processes and bottlenecks that keep them from understanding and optimising their efforts fully.”

Customer + Commerciality + Cultural Capability = Digital Adoption—the Fifth Element of Digital Maturity

Digital is now officially too important to be a stand-alone function. It needs to be disseminated, embraced, and driven across the organisation to truly optimise investment and return. This is an exciting prospect as it has the potential to exponentially improve the woeful 30% impact rate that digital investment reportedly has, whilst also democratising data and digital beyond the silos where they have traditionally lived, empowering the whole organisation to make informed decisions and deliver experiences customers love. That sounds like more than maturity to me, it sounds like excellence.

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