Digital Transformation : A war between IT and Marketing ?

Usually, the digital transformation is a matter of customer experience: it takes digital for the customer and the digital can generate more revenue whether through direct sales channels or by offering additional value to customers (CRM & omincanal challenges: self-care, online assistance, customer journey, digital in store …). The the formation of the IT - Marketing or CMO - CTO couple thus becomes a necessity for carrying out digital transformation projects. Nevertheless, this is a very tumultuous couple and it is not always easy to align the perception of objectives between IT business units, which focus on purely technical issues, and those of marketing that essentially reason in terms of channels, customer experience, revenue, time-to-market …

Often, therefore, we find ourselves in a situation of continual “putsch”, a “leadership battle” for the ownership of the digital transformation projects. Things get more complicated in organizations where IT is considered a cost center and marketing as a profit center. So we are facing a real organizational problem and, from there to say that it poses a major obstacle to digitization, there is only one step to take, that of replacing the conflict with a close collaboration between the two entities.

In the absence of a strong partnership between IT and Marketing, the dynamics of digital transformation can be reduced to a few scattered projects that meet the needs of the moment. Result of the races: the absence of a medium-to-long term digital strategy, the misalignment between customer expectations and digital channels, the inability to innovate and produce differentiating factors, the impossibility of improving customers insights via Big Data (…). All this prevents the organization from completing its digital transformation and building competitive advantages based on digital.

Of course, these remarks must be put into perspective because we find in several structures a partnership and an efficient collaboration between IT and Marketing. Nevertheless, the risks of overflows remain here even latent because this collaboration rests on a fragile balance and often on the good will of a handful of Men. However, we are used to relying on organizational coordination mechanisms and well-established processes, which must not have any areas of uncertainty.

What are the main organizational changes that should accompany the dynamics of digital transformation?

1. The chief digital officer (CDO): the superhero of digital transformation

Prodigal child of the Digital, the CDO will come to break the silos in the Marketing and the IT thus allowing to establish the digital strategy of the company with roadmaps, operational action plans, KPIs… and all that s follows.

Basically and in terms of governance, this newcomer will have the mission of infusing the digital culture within the organization and to accompany the change of management modes. This is why it is generally placed in technostructure.

CDO flowchart

Multi-hats, the chief digital officer, masters digital marketing at the fingertips, he has proven business skills and strong foundations in IT. Nevertheless, beyond these technical aspects, he is a leader who is able to ensure change management, a necessary condition for the success of digital transformation.

An excellent communicator, he easily manages to use his experience and his “Swiss army knife” of skills to coordinate between marketing, technical and business teams.

2. The development of transversal skills

To succeed in digitization, the emergence of advanced skills appears as a necessary condition for the mastery of digital transformation projects that incorporate many facets: technology, business, design, customer experience …

The development of multidisciplinary skills related to different digital issues should lead to the emergence of “all-terrain” specialists integrated into “digital transformation cells” within the various business units that drive digitization processes.

Given the role of these units, project-mode operation and the autonomy needed to carry out innovation projects, the role of the PMO (Project Management Office) is crucial for controlling the different operational aspects of projects: costs, planning, risks, deadlines … PMO would therefore benefit from being strengthened and becoming more anchored in the precepts of Agile management.

3. Agility: a must have for digital transformation

The digital transformation requires an acceleration of all-round processes and a time-to-market at the earliest in order to always stay one step ahead; all with the ability to “digest” changes at any point in the project or product lifecycle.

This new situation highlights the need to profoundly change conventional working methods and places agility as the gateway to digital transformation.

Methods such as Scrum Agile, DevOps or Lean UX help meet the new challenges of digital transformation. Nevertheless, each method must be used in its proper context and taking into account the specificities of the concerned trade. When DevOps will prove to be of formidable efficiency for IT development teams; On the other hand, we will be satisfied with an agile in house (adhoc) method for the Marketing teams and which takes up the fundamentals of the Scrum Agile, for example, with the adaptations necessary for the marketing profession.

In short, it is necessary to have an approach adapted to the organization and modus operandi of each business unit; and, above all, do not do “agility for agility” at the risk of falling through methodological abuses that will be disruptive to the organization as a whole.

In charge of managing the implementation of Agility within the organization, the CDO can use external support to give impetus, introduce its employees to Agile management methods and evangelize everyone to customer centricity, touchstone of Agile principles.

Agile scheme

For a good change management and a reasonable control of the risk, it is recommended to introduce the agility progressively (for example: 25% of the objective per quarter) with periodic retrospective management reviews in order to evaluate the achievements and correct the shot, if necessary.

Finally, it must be remembered that digital transformation is a global process that affects all the components of an organization. And, throughout our small analysis, we focused on Marketing and IT, usually dominating entities in the digital transformation dynamic of companies. We donated voluntarily to other business units, including human resources. Nevertheless, we must not forget that digital transformation is an inside-out dynamic (internal / external) and that HR must also position itself as a leading player in the digitization dynamic.

At the rate where we see things going on the international scene, the HRs are increasing every day their involvement and, even, their influence on the digital transformation process. Legitimizing their key role in the digital transformation through their knowledge of the core-business of the company and their long-medium-term vision, HR is driving more and more digital transformation projects whose scope often exceeds their direction for s’ extend to the entire organization. Would we be facing a new pretender to the throne of digitization? Or, more seriously, the emergence of a holy trinity of digital transformation: IT - Marketing - HR?

Case to follow.