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Marketing for a New Age: Being Digital vs. Doing Digital

clock-iconJune 27, 2017

To thrive in an increasingly technology-dominated world, marketing organizations need to adopt a unique set of traits that are helping the world's top digital companies dominate the competition—traits we call their "Digital DNA." These traits should be at the heart of everything an organization does.

Yet a recent study by Facebook and Deloitte found that most marketing organizations surveyed are still at the stage of "doing digital" rather than "being digital"—using digital technologies to make incremental improvements to the status quo, but not yet weaving digital into their DNA. This finding is consistent regardless of company size, industry or geography.

Through ongoing research and surveys over the last three years, Deloitte identified 23 DNA traits that characterize a digitally mature organization. To see how marketing organizations around the world are progressing on their journey, Facebook and Deloitte conducted this latest follow-up study, including a survey of 383 marketing executives and managers across a wide range of industries and geographies, along with in-depth interviews of top marketing executives.

The study revealed nine Digital DNA traits that are particularly important for marketing. In six of these areas, marketing organizations are generally still at the stage of "doing digital"—leveraging digital technologies to extend their capabilities, but still relying largely on traditional business, operating and talent models. In the other three areas, marketing organizations are further along the maturity curve and are actually "becoming digital" at their core, not just dabbling with it around the edges.

DNA traits: 'Doing digital'

In these areas, marketing organizations have begun to develop their Digital DNA and are making significant progress, but still have a long way to go. Although they are building digital capabilities, they have not yet woven them into their everyday business, operating and talent models.

  • Dynamic skill requirements. Today, skill requirements are constantly changing. To be effective, organizations need skills that can be used in a variety of ways to tackle new challenges and circumstances. This requires the right kind of training.
  • Agility. Maturing digital organizations need the heightened awareness and flexibility to quickly adapt to unexpected changes in the marketplace. This requires tools, processes and policies that make it easy to work in a rapidly changing environment.
  • Fluidity. Fluidity is the ability to move with ease from one situation to the next, even in the face of shifting talent needs, resources and operating models. It is closely related to agility, but centers more around anticipated changes (although the changes, while anticipated, might not be entirely predictable).
  • Constant disruption. In our current business environment, disruption is a constant; however, some disruptions are truly important and some are just noise. Marketing organizations must be able to tell the difference and then have the capabilities and culture to respond appropriately.
  • Real-time and on-demand. Success today requires the ability to make changes in real time based on feedback from customers and stakeholders and to provide information and services on demand—whenever and wherever people need them.
  • Fail early, fail fast, learn faster. Maturing digital organizations aren't afraid to fail; they crank out solutions as quickly as possible, make improvements through rapid iteration and actively learn from their mistakes. Failure is equated with creativity and innovation.

DNA traits: 'Becoming digital'

In these areas, marketing organizations are becoming more synchronized and less siloed, and are actively weaving digital capabilities into their business, operating and talent models. Although most have just crossed the threshold from simply doing digital, they are on a strong trajectory to making these digital traits part of their DNA.

  • Continuous ecosystem disruption. In a digital world, organizations operate as ecosystems—not self-contained entities—enabling them to quickly and constantly reconfigure themselves in response to ongoing societal, technological and market shifts.
  • Increased customer involvement. Maturing digital organizations actively engage with customers, capturing feedback on products and services and gathering real-time data on every interaction.
  • Intentionally collaborative. In the current business environment, collaboration is key—creating alignment across the ecosystem and helping to deliver an improved experience for customers and employees alike. According to the study, this is the area where marketing organizations have made the most progress toward being digital.

Tackling the top barriers to digital

To move up the digital maturity curve, marketing organizations need to become more agile. According to the study, nearly half (46%) don't believe they currently have the ability to manage unplanned change without it slowing them down. Training is another key issue, with 48% of study participants saying they don't believe their digital skills training is effective. Organization structure is also a significant barrier, with more than half of marketing organizations (51%) still constrained by traditional hierarchies that revolve around formal roles and levels.

In the end, success or failure often comes down to culture. At the moment, 41% of marketing organizations do not believe their culture supports digital adoption. By weaving Digital DNA into their underlying fabric, marketing organizations can lay the groundwork for being truly digital and position themselves for success in an increasingly competitive business environment.

Activating the digital organization

Marketing organizations don't have to address everything at the same time, and they shouldn't. Rather, they should think about the short-term need to stay competitive and the long game for sustainability. As it relates to these barriers, a review of current governance structures and tweaks to the decision-making process could remove some formal barriers to agility.

Additionally, enabling employees to form the right networked teams based on business need rather than on formal and traditional functional ownership can yield intuitive new solutions for how the business can best be organized for success.

This intentional infusing of Digital DNA into a current organization is crucial to building the desired Digital Organization—it's about organizing, operating and behaving in a new way. And when game-changing technologies combine with the right DNA, the sky's not even the limit anymore.

About the Author

Garth Andrus, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, is the Global Human Capital leader for Deloitte Digital and recently completed his term on the Deloitte Consulting LLP board of directors. His areas of focus are digital transformations, change management, organization design, talent and culture. He has worked in more than 15 countries and helped many large global companies transform major aspects of their business. He has a doctorate in organization studies from Vanderbilt University. He has been quoted in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Chief Executive magazine, MSNBC, Analysts Reports, books, UPI and the Associated Press.


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