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Digital momentum: The way to win.

In the last five years, there has been a sea change in the roles and scope IT professionals have been asked to take on. IT professionals and technology-minded marketers are navigating intense changes in how they perform their jobs with continuous pressure to develop new skills, adopt new technologies and be more customer facing than ever before. All this change is due to the demands of customers in a more connected world.

 

Digital maturity.

Digital maturity is a state in which a company is realising the benefits of digital transformation by continually revolutionising its business. A digitally mature organisation has done more than just automate and digitise its processes—it has adopted a state of constant change, continually updating its operations and reorganising its business around the next generation of digital tools to enhance its relationships with customers.1

 

Customers have many new and varied ways of interacting with companies and are demanding more sophisticated experiences, content and relationships. Their expectations are changing and many companies are struggling to adjust. As with any change, some companies are moving swiftly towards digital transformation and some are not. Companies that accelerate their digital transformation will have an enormous competitive advantage over those who don’t. From operational efficiency to the ability to grow faster, companies performing well on the digital maturity curve can cultivate deeper and more loyal relationships with their customers.

Generating digital momentum doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, IT professionals have been using several methods to simplify the process of digital transformation within their companies. Currently, more than half of Australian organisations are undergoing largescale IT transformations.2 This leads to widespread investigation, planning and roll out of emerging technologies like enterpriselevel marketing software designed to build and maintain relationships with customers. At the heart of these technologies is the management, utilisation and distribution of data to better meet customers’ needs. IT is at the centre of this opportunity, combining technical expertise and strategic thinking to create a competitive advantage with digital transformation.

 

Level of digital maturity

Understanding digital transformation.

Digital transformation is the utilisation of digital technology across all aspects of a business to better meet customers’ needs and create a new, sustainable, competitive advantage in today’s digital economy. It’s more than just a buzzword; It’s a tangible organisational shift that is redefining the role of IT leaders and the contributions of IT departments across the globe. While some organisations have more readily embraced this transformation than others, all would be remiss to view this transformation as a onetime change. Digital transformation is instead an ongoing evolution in digital innovation, where constant change has become the new status quo.3

 

In a recent study, Adobe spoke with several company leaders about their experience with digital transformation. One of these leaders, the head of IT at a major Australian retailer, said, “The adoption of digital platforms is growing like mad in Australia. I think there is a need for retailers to understand, first, that their customer is online but also that their customer is at a physical location. They need to be able to target them across those different touchpoints and that is becoming more and more prevalent. That’s why investment in those technologies is quite significant at the moment.”



Pillars of digital momentum.

Competition from companies that have managed this transition well has increased the pressure for less digitally mature organisations to adapt or die. Companies that have accepted this new reality and are successfully managing digital transformation exhibit three common elements in building digital momentum:

1. Ensure simplicity in IT.
2. Adopt a customer-centric approach across IT teams.
3. Foster a culture of collaboration across disciplines.

 


Pillar 1: Ensure simplicity in IT.

Every company’s IT infrastructure is different. To accelerate their digital transformation, we found that leading companies are adopting platform solutions to create a connected infrastructure that is easy to manage and update. They’ve also prioritised cloud-ready solutions to reduce departmental maintenance costs. Then, to drive further efficiencies and keep teams focused on strategic initiatives, they are using managed services.

“It’s the technology that is driving the trade, not the people,” says a Technology Lead we talked to from an Australian retailer. “To make the process run smoother, you need robust technology. You need to keep improving technology based on feedback from customers. For retail, trade, B2B and B2C, technology is key. It’s the game-changer for us.”


What are digitally mature organisations doing right

“We’ve shifted to not building as much internally in the last few years and looking to engage with external partners and consultants and bring in more packaged solutions rather than attempting to customised-build them ourselves.”

ETHAN, IT DIRECTOR FOR AN AUSTRALIAN FINANCE COMPANY

 

Streamlined platform solutions.

One thing that shouts “simplicity” for both IT and marketing teams is the holistic approach platform-level solutions offer. By implementing platform software, organisations can realise concrete value with built-in tools, native integrations, common data models and user identifiers and automatic updates.

Platform solutions also streamline digital content and processes, from authoring to publishing to connecting with customers. These capabilities were traditionally owned and managed by marketing but are spanning departments because customers demand consistent and personalised communication. Today’s platform solutions allow teams such as sales and HR to communicate with customers with a unified voice.

A marketing technology leader we spoke to from an Australian software consulting company said, “You’ve got to have an omnichannel approach to everything you do. Many traditional server infrastructure support people are going to service providers now. Cloud-based solutions make it easier for digital strategies to be recognised. You no longer have to make big capital expense investments on hardware.”

Platform solutions also remove the need for IT departments to spend time patching together mismatched point solutions. Traditionally, companies rely on in-house IT resources to create customisations on top of vendor software, many of which do not work when new versions of software are released. These companies also depend on in-house teams to create cohesive insights from complex sets of behavioural, transactional and operational customer data pulled from disparate solutions. With platform-level solutions, all these pieces are natively brought together–or in some cases are seamlessly connected via APIbased third-party integrations–freeing up IT departments to step into more strategic, customer focused, leadership roles.



Added agility in the cloud.

Companies can supercharge their platform solutions by ensuring that they are cloud-ready and optimised for edge computing. Cloudbased solutions are undoubtedly the way of the future, offering far more flexibility than their on-premises counterparts. While neither a panacea for all organisational IT challenges nor a universal solution for all organisations, cloud computing has upended how a company’s data and processes are managed and edge computing is eliminating the latency that results when data must traverse back to a central location for processing and analysis.

An IT lead from a packaged goods company underscored the simplicity that cloud-based solutions bring to their IT department: “Most of [our] software is now in the Cloud, which simplified our lives from implementing extra features. Software companies now come with a pre-packaged implementation kit for every component.”

 

Outlook on IT spending in Australia.

The IDC predicts that by 2021, Australian enterprises’ spending on cloud services and cloud-enabling hardware, software and services will more than double to over $9.8 billion.

 

Michael, a technical systems architect engineer at a manufacturing firm, further detailed the benefits his team has seen from moving to cloud-based technology: “By switching to cloud-based experience tech, we save money on physical infrastructure—money on air conditioning, electrical, maintenance and someone to go out there and look at the problem. Now because the technology is in the cloud, it’s maintained by the provider. We can downsise, upsise and it’s on 24/7.”



Freedom through managed services.

Outsourcing commoditised tasks can streamline IT departments’ workloads and enable IT leaders to play a more strategic and influential role in their organisations. Meanwhile, managed services providers can do the following:

•  Handle the heavy-lifting associated with migrating data, configuring and customising software and preparing tools for non-technical users. This keeps the internal IT and marketing teams focused on building the business, not their software.

•  Manage software updates and upgrades with minimal, if any, downtime for users. This includes monitoring the environment for traffic spikes and setting disaster recovery safeguards that would otherwise impact access to data and tools.

•  Offer expert resources including a dedicated, personal point of contact who ensures an unbroken customer service experience.

Another IT professional from our study said, “We’re trying to understand the overall cost of ownership as an IT system, so that it could be done by not having to host it ourselves, to deploy security updates on the servers, to manage upgrades etc. Then by not having to have dedicated IT support we can do other, more important things.”



Pillar 2: Adopt a customer-centric approach across IT teams.

Unencumbered by the need to maintain and integrate disparate point solutions, IT teams can focus on the customer with an eye towards realising a more strategic vision.

With increased bandwidth, IT is better positioned to ensure that they have the right insights and capabilities to deliver personalised customer experiences (e.g., communications, offers and service interactions) at every touchpoint.

IT can also play a pivotal role in defining the future of customer experiences for their business with their peers. Using their deep technical expertise and knowledge of the organisation and its data structure, they can recommend innovations in process and technology to elevate customer interactions.

No longer are IT professionals shielded from end-user concerns by layers of organisational insulation. Digital transformation through the adoption of martech, adtech and experience tech is giving customers a direct line of communication to all areas of the organisation. IT is in a unique position to enable the organisation to utilise customer feedback and customer data to drive deeper relationships. Companies that have a customer-centric approach throughout their organisation will be better positioned to realise the benefits of digital transformation.

 

“One of the drivers for moving to a cloud platform solution was not having so much IT technical involvement in maintaining content on the website, so we could focus on delivering a more robust experience tech system.”

KUNWAR, CIO FOR AN AUSTRALIAN CYBERSECURITY FIRM


Pillar 3: Cross-functional collaboration.

To stay at the forefront of your business, it’s important to collaborate across departments. Organisations that are successfully navigating digital transformation give cross-functional leaders a seat at the table. They bring forth a range of perspectives, gain early buy-in from multiple stakeholder groups and alleviate the risk of crossteam conflicts. IT and marketing teams, in particular, are partnering to make decisions as the lines between technology and marketing continue to blur.

The call to collaborate can sometimes come from leadership. We spoke with an Australian travel company that hired a techsavvy marketing leader who sought input from IT leadership whilst expecting IT leaders to do the same. This shifted the firm’s culture to, as he put it, “become more collaborative with each other, moving from an order-taking culture to a challenger culture.”

The process was not always seamless. Teams didn’t always agree, but they knew they were working toward the same goals. This new, team-first attitude enabled every team member, no matter their role or department, to align with overall strategic goals.

Sometimes collaboration emerges by necessity. With security concerns mounting and outdated customised-developed apps cannibalising their time, an IT department at an Australian financial services firm saw the need for an experience tech solution. IT teams contacted marketing. Together, they sought a flexible, scalable and cloud-based platform solution that would meet the needs of both departments.

 

“The business teams see IT as someone working alongside them to achieve overall business goals. We’ve come through a period where the business teams have seen IT more like an infrastructure or service provider—a bit like someone who just provides electricity.”

CHRIS, ENTERPRISE SYSTEMS IT MANAGER FOR AN AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL SERVICES COMPANY

 

Whether the change comes from leadership or happens more organically, gaining alignment across stakeholder groups, particularly IT and marketing, is critical to remaining agile and driving digital momentum within an organisation.

Technological advancements will continue to grow at exponential rates and companies will need to accelerate their digital momentum to keep up or be left behind. But generating this momentum can begin with simple steps. By simplifying their technology overhead, adopting customer centricity and fostering collaboration, IT leaders can navigate the path of digital transformation and achieve success.

 

“IT has been treated almost like as an expense centre. Now we’re making sure the roadmaps for marketing and IT are aligned. We are seen as a partner with the same goal.”

JOE, IT MANAGER FOR AN AUSTRALIAN INVESTMENTS FIRM


SOURCES:

1.  Frederic, “The Digital Leadership Report 2016 Is Out: Orchestrating Digital Leadership,” CIONET, 7 July 2016.

2. “Australian Businesses Embracing Emerging Technologies Amid Accelerating Pace of Change, ” Telsyte, 25 July 2017

3. Frederic, “The Digital Leadership Report 2016 Is Out: Orchestrating Digital Leadership.”


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