Digital technology has disrupted the organization. But rather than cower, business leaders from all corners of the C-suite have zeroed in on their new mission: to build the modern enterprise. Step one? Aligning all teams—HR, data science, marketing, sales, finance—around what’s best for the customer.
A panel of multidisciplinary executives—a chief digital officer (CDO), CMO/chief experience officer and chief human resources officer (CHRO)—who spoke at Adobe Summit all agreed that digital is evolving their roles, companies, and hiring practices as they work toward building a more agile, tech-savvy, innovative, and forward-looking organization.
“Digital’s not just about driving opportunities in the call center or driving revenue in sales or what we need to do from a marketing perspective,” said Shawn Mandel, CDO of Telus. “It is all of those things. … [At Telus we aim to be] far more horizontal and organize ourselves around how the customer interacts with the brand.”
According to Donna Morris, CHRO and EVP of employee experience at Adobe, most businesses, like Telus, realize it’s the experience—for both employees and customers—that will keep them relevant.
“All of us are seeking to have personalized relationships, whether that be within the enterprise or with the enterprises that we’re actually buying from,” Morris told attendees. “I think one of the core capabilities that transcends most jobs now would be the focus on really being able to understand the data that drives whatever business that you’re in or whatever function that you’re in, which is very different than [in the past].”
Just as in marketing, and especially with the evolution in digital, HR has become much more accountable for driving business outcomes, she said. Gone are the days when HR folks were considered the “nice people-person” who develops programs that “might or might not have value,” Morris joked.
Lilian Tomovich, CMO and chief experience officer at MGM International, said her organization is on the road to modernization in the face of the digital disruption—and data will play a big role.
“As we move forward with our digital transformation roadmap, the opportunity to better leverage our data to drive personalization requires that we modernize the way we operate and the way we build teams,” she said.
Hiring The Right People
When Adobe changed from selling boxed software to being an online, cloud-based business in 2012, the plethora of data the company gained about how customers were using its offerings resulted in an immediate shift in its need for talent, Morris said.
“We were always building software, but how we were actually providing that service to our end customer changed the whole nature of how we were structured, the roles that we had, the capabilities that we had,” Morris explained. “Then that cascaded to all the other functions.”
Technology has made demand for talent exceed supply, which has changed MGM’s mentality to be more flexible in the types of people it hires, Tomovich added. For example, diverse talent from different industries and geographic locations has enabled a more virtual team.
“If you’re going to compete with everyone else—the Amazons and the Airbnbs—for this rare talent, then we just have to be more open to where these people live and how they engage with us,” Tomovich said. “Of course, now there’s thankfully all kinds of technology that makes it so much easier to have virtual relationships with your employees, so that’s been a big benefit as well.”
Telus’ Mandel made an interesting, albeit cautionary, point about hiring based on employee referrals.
“Referrals often breed more of the same,” Mandel said. “I think the caveat is making sure that your referral is open to bringing different ideas. Diversity is not all about gender or ethnic diversity. It’s also about ideas. In the modern enterprise, I think you want a mixture of individuals that have been there, done that, meaning they have a lot of tenure, and you want people who are right out of school who have only ever lived in a digital world.”
Breaking Down Silos
MGM is sitting on a wealth of data in the organization, Tomovich said, and its focus on data-driven practices has shifted greatly over the last five years.
“In the business that we’re in, the top 1% of our customer base drives a significant amount of our revenues, and so that top 1%, we know them intimately … [and] we can drive hyper-personalization,” she said. “It’s sort of that frozen middle that we’re all trying to get after to really understand how can we leverage the data that we have.”
The challenge, according to Tomovich, is that MGM runs many different businesses—with multiple channels of data for each. So it’s no wonder the company is intent on figuring out how to harness this data to help drive personalization and, hopefully, incremental revenue profit.
It’s a muscle MGM is trying to grow internally, which “sounds a whole lot easier than it actually is,” Tomovich said.
At Telus, one of the challenges the company faces with regard to data-driven practices is mindset.
“I’m constantly reminding the team, ‘We work for the customer,’” Mandel said. “Creating a sustainable program around a fundamental shift in cultural change through mindset and behaviors is probably the single largest challenge we all face, especially when you’re in these large organizations.”
When Mandel took over Telus’ data portfolio (he is also the chief data officer), he saw that great work was happening. But, he said, it was happening across various verticals. For example, marketing would roll out innovative data-powered projects to solve marketing-specific problems. While the field team had its own pocket of innovation, so did folks on the B2B side.
Mandel soon realized that these 10 or so departments, comprised of 80-plus team members and about five key vendors, had never been physically in the same room together.
“I got some money, I threw everybody together, we got some beer and some tequila, and we all hung out. We became friends, we built relationships on a human level—and then we got to work,” Mandel said.
This type of collaboration also feeds into the ability to be agile, said Adobe’s Morris. Agility heavily depends on having a cross-section of capabilities coming from different departments across the organization—and that requires a matrix to connect different functional expertise together.
“I think where it works best is to ensure that there’s clarity in what the outcome or desired outcome or object is,” Morris said. “At Adobe, we’ll often talk about the fact that we look for our leaders not to lead their function but to be leading for Adobe’s overall outcome, and I think almost all modern enterprises are looking for the same thing.”
The Future Business Leader
The notion of the marketer as someone who is just good at creative and “pretty pictures” has been evolving over time, MGM’s Tomovich said. Ten years from now, she said she expects to see more analytical horsepower sitting within marketing, and far more leaders who were once data scientists and data engineers helping their companies make the most of ever-increasing volumes of data.
Business leaders of the future will also have an innate ability to think laterally, given their varied experience, Telus’ Mandel predicted. For example, if you are a CMO who came through the ranks of finance, operations, and HR, then you can better understand how a decision could impact departments other than marketing.
Mandel also expects that in the modern enterprise, digital won’t be a function in and of itself. Instead, it will be distributed across all functions. Even his role as chief digital officer may one day be redundant, he joked.
“That’s why distributing capabilities and skill sets broadly throughout the organization is a major focus [for us],” Mandel said. “We spend a ton of time trying to bring teams together cross-functionally … not because we want to own everything, but because we want to cross-pollinate so that other teams can manage this for themselves. This idea of hoarding skills in one area from a long-term perspective isn’t going to help organizations become modern.”
Leaders who are focused on simplifying their employees’ experiences, thereby enabling them to better deliver on customer expectations, will also be crucial, Telus’ Mandel added.
“Leaders who do that well in the future are going to be very successful in driving the right mindset inside of organizations,” he said.
Future business leaders, Adobe’s Morris said, will be fixated on the experiences their organizations are driving for their customers. Leaders who can encourage their teams to reimagine the customer experience are going to be key as well.
“[If you are not] executing and willing to take the risks, then you’re not going to have the top job,” Morris said.