Data, Uncategorized

Digital Transformation Dialogue (Pt 1 of 5)

Originally published @ Measuring the Digital World with my friend Gary Angel

I’m going to wrap up this extended series on digital transformation with a back-and-forth dialog with an old friend of mine. I’ve known Scott K. Wilder since the early days of Web Analytics. He’s been an industry leader helping companies build communities, adapt to an increasingly social world, and drive digital transformation. In some of this current work, Scott has been working with companies to adopt collaborative working suites for their customers, partners and employees – which I think is a huge part of internal digital transformation. So I thought a conversation on the pitfalls and challenges might be interesting and useful.

GA: We all see these hype-cycle trends and right now there’s a lot of interest in digital transformation at the enterprise level. I think that’s driven by the fact that most large enterprises have tried pretty seriously for a while now to get better at digital and are frustrated with the results. Do you agree?

SW: Good question.

When you read white papers about the latest trends in the enterprise space, most of them highlight the importance of each company being digital transformed. This usually means leaving a legacy approach or operation and instead leveraging a new approach or business model that embraces technology.

Unfortunately, most companies fail when they undertake this endeavor. Sometimes they fail because just pay lip service to this initiative, never do anything beyond placing the goal of ‘going digital’ on a powerpoint slide they give a company All-Hands (I have witnessed this first hand). And sometimes, they just test out bunch of different programs without thinking through desired outcomes. (They throw a lot of virtual stuff against the internet wall hoping that something sticks).

Undergoing a Digital Transformation means many things to many people. It can imply focusing more on the customer. Or it can mean enabling employees collaborate better together. At the end of the day, however, a company needs to first focus on one simple end state. One change in behavior! Rather than trying to boil the whole ocean at once and try to do implement massive digital transformation across an organization, it’s better to start with a  simple project, try to leverage technology to accomplish a desired outcome, learn from the experience and then share the success with other parts of the organization

Start first with a relatively simple goal. And if you really want to change an organization, see if you can get employees volunteer to be your soldiers in arms and then closely work with them to define what digital success looks like. It could be as something getting employees to digitalize their interaction with each other more  or leveraging technology to improve a VOC process. Whatever it is. Start with one project.

Here’s one approach. Once the goal is to define, then ask for volunteers to work on figuring out how to achieve the desired outcome. No digital program or initiative is going to be successful without employee buy – in and involvement, so it behooves CEOs to find a bunch of enthusiastic volunteers to figure out the ‘how’ (If you remember you calculus Y = (x)Senior managers can decide on the Y, and then let their team figure out the X or inputs.

Digital Transformations often fail because:

  • Executives often decide their company goals and then impose their approach on the employees. Digital Transformation initiatives also fail because CEOs want to change whole culture overnight. Unfortunately, however, they often forget Rome was not built in day. Even though a true Digital Transformation is often a journey, it is also important to start simple. Very simple!
  • There’s no buy in at the mid-level ranks in the company
  • There’s no True North or desired goal
  • There’s too much attention on the technology and not the cultural impact.

I have read articles that tell you true cultural change can only happen if you eliminate political infighting, distribute your decision making, etc. While all of that is important, it will require gutting your organization, laying off a lot of people and hand-picking new hires if you want to change things quickly.

To truly change a culture, however start simple. Pick a goal. Ask for employees to volunteer to work on it (take other work off their plate so they don’t have to work after house). Ask them to to involve leveraging digital technologies. Give the team room to succeed or fail.  Most importantly, be their guide along the way.

Once this small team completes their project, celebrate their success in front of others in the company. Have them highlight how they leveraged technology.

Once this group is successful, anoint each team member to be a digital transformation ambassador and have them then move into other groups of the organization and share their learnings, experiences, etc.

GA: I’m a big believer in the idea that to change culture you have to change behavior – that means doing things not talking about them. I like the idea of a targeted approach – huge organizational changes are obviously incredibly risky. That being said, I feel like most of what you’ve talked about could be applied to any kind of transformation project – digital or otherwise. I’m not disagreeing with that, but I’m curious if you agree that digital presents some unique challenges to the large enterprise. And if you do agree, what are those challenges and do they change/drive any aspects of a transformation strategy?

SW: There are definitely challenges in driving any type of transformative change in an enterprise environment. Here’s a list of challenges preventing a smooth adoption of digital technologies or hindering the ability to digitally transform an organization

As they say. It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. Companies get stuck in their old ways of doing things. For example, even though companies are testing the waters with Slack and Hipchat, two great collaborative platforms, few have made any progress in being weaned (a bit) off of email. For example, we all complain about email but refuse to reduce how often we use it). Part of the problem is the result is that those individuals, who are tasked with driving change in the organization actually tend to be the biggest resisters to change. The IT department, who I will pick on here, usually are decision makers and keepers of the digital platform budgets do not want to try something new. (Marketing is slowly getting more say here, but most marketing leads don’t understand new technologies). So IT and even Marketing wait as long as possible to make a decision about adopting newer collaborative technologies, such as Slack or Hipchat. And while they are doing an elaborate evaluation process, today’s tech savvy staff often just jumps in and starts using the latest and greatest technologies. They don’t ask for permission first. This was the case at Marketo with Slack. First, a small group of employees starting using it and soon others jumped in. There was resistance at the highest parts of the company. Eventually, IT, however had no choice and how to follow the wisdom of the crowd. Survey Monkey also started out this way. There are other challenges as well. Solution: Companies need do a better job at knowing understanding what tools their teams want to use and why they want to use them. If the troops are using Google Docs, for example, management needs to embrace this and not try and force their way (in this case, the Microsoft Office 365 way) down the throats of their employees. If there are security concerns, figure out a solution.

GA: I’ll just note that in many ways this reflects my discussion of a Reverse Hierarchy of Understanding in organizations

…What else?

SW:   Data and Privacy Issues: Companies, rightly so, are always concerned about data leakage, data security and privacy issues. Enterprises, especially the public ones and the ones in important transaction industries like Finance or Health Care, have to be sensitive to how data is shared within an organization. Solution: If an organization wants to adopt a newer technology, management needs to do more research in how other companies adopt newer technology while protecting their company secrets. Few companies develop breakthrough technologies and systems that they are the first to try something new. Probably someone has already created a similar service or implemented a similar technology. They have probably already dealt with similar issues. I am not saying just copy what they did but rather learn from their mistakes. Or what they did well.

An older workforce: A third challenge is that many enterprises attract an older workforce and/or are not sure how to integrate millennials into their organization. As I pointed out in my book, Millennial Leaders, it’s important to embrace a younger workforce and place these individuals on teams where they can help advise key decision makers. Younger employees are more likely to adopt new approaches, new technologies and new ways of doing things. Solution: Bring millennials into digital related conversations sooner than later. While decision making can still be top down, it’s important to give these younger folks a voice.

GA: Okay – I know you have more thoughts on this but I’m going to stop right there because I know you’re an expert on this Millennial stuff and I want to delve into it a bit. But that’s probably a discussion for Post #2…

B2B Marketing, Business Processes, Community As Integrated Service, Ecosystems, Lead Generation, Technology Intergrations, Uncategorized

How to Overcome Challenges and Use Community as an Integrated Service to Improve Business Results

This article first appeared on Higher Logic’s website. This is the first in a series of articles about Community as an Integrated Service (CIS).

Historically, organizations have struggled to integrate community into their infrastructure and customer-facing offerings. Community is often looked at as a standalone application or service that’s tacked onto a company’s overall suite of platforms, such as their corporate website, their marketing automation platform, their email engine, and their CRM.

Such a lack of integration makes each platform, and even the entire company, less efficient because they create a fragmented view of customers. Your email engine gives you one set of data, while your CRM and community give you two more. That information is never combined to give a comprehensive dataset including transactional data, demographic data, and behavioral data that you can use to provide a better customer experience.

Many leaders also wrestle about where community should sit in their organization. Should marketing own the community? What about customer support? Many organization never fully answer this question or define their community’s business goals, so it becomes just another relatively isolated tool among many. When I worked at Intuit, we dodged this question and treated it as a Center of Excellence. The team moved around to different parts of the organization at different times: Marketing, Support, Product Management, Advocacy, and others.

Community should not be thought of as just another platform, or even as just another offering from an organization. It should be part of a larger suite of platforms, all of which work together to forward business goals like customer acquisition, engagement, retention, and revenue. Community as an Integrated Service,’ or CIS, is: a community that’s fully integrated with technology stacks across an organization (Support, Marketing, Sales, IT, etc.) and enables the company to tailor the entirety of the customer’s online experience toward each individual’s specific needs.

This holistic approach leads not only to improved business outcomes (targeted marketing and care, sentiment, retention, etc.), but also to a better customer experience. It is a key driver of the customer’s overall digital experience (and to some degree his/her offline experience) because it impacts a company’s business processes. It is part of a larger integration tying it together with marketing technology stacks and support systems, and it drives the overall ecosystem of customers, partners and other stakeholders.

Community Should Fit into Your Company’s Big Picture

Community is part of a much larger company PIE (Processes, Integrations and Ecosystems). I recommend that you focus equally on these three components—of PIE—no matter the size of your community:

1. Processes

Customer engagement and employee workflows impact numerous processes.

Examples of employee-facing processes include how content is created and curated, as well as how it is remixed and reused across various channels. More and more of this content is being created by customers and partners vs. employees.

Examples of backend systems include how a lead is identified on a community or partner platform, and how it is scored and tracked in your marketing automation and CRM systems.

2. Integrations

Community should not be looked at in isolation. During the evaluation process (or even after you have launched), it’s important to determine how community fits into your company’s marketing stack, sales tools, customer support systems and IT infrastructure.

If users are logged into community, for example, you could track their lurking or commenting behavior and feed this information into your Marketing Automation or CRM instances. Suddenly, a lead becomes more qualified because you can tell what blogs, videos or discussion threads they are looking at. This information can be forwarded to your sales rep. And, better yet, you could roll this data up at the Account level and gain insights into the community behavior of everyone from a certain company. (Why isn’t this part of Account Based Marketing?)

3. Ecosystems

When it comes to ecosystems, most people think of customers, employees and partners. But not all these people are created equal. Some customers become advocates for the company. Others become behind-the-scenes product experts. Or both. It’s important to understand how different segments interact with your products, services and your company so you can engage your audience strategically, putting more resources into more valuable segments.

There are also other important constituents such as ex-employees who might still have a strong affiliation to the company, alumni of your clients’ companies, and influencers who engage with relevant tribes. Each of these needs to receive an invitation to the table—a place to engage, learn and transact.

7 Challenges to Implementing Community as an Integrated Service

CIS is the foundation for implementing processes, handling integrations, and engaging ecosystem members. There are some real challenges, however, to get companies to think of Community as an Integrated Service.

1. Every Platform Is a Ship with Its Own Captain

The average number of technologies in an enterprise marketing stack is 12. But some marketers are using more than 31 tools to manage campaigns and data. Almost every marketing company has their own digital landscape portraying marketing stacks. But where is community on this list – the place where people have the most opportunities to interact with your brand?

To be honest, I make a nice living showing companies the benefits of reducing the number of their cloud based platforms and technologies. And that’s because I often see employees managing their own platforms in isolation. The demand generation team runs Marketo, the customer success team runs Gainsight, sales enablement runs Salesforce, the community team runs Higher Logic, and rarely do the operations leaders of all these platforms ever get in one room to discuss how they can market to their customers more efficiently. So much for a holistic approach to tracking the customer’s digital journey.

Recommendation: Get a cross-functional team to work together on a consistent basis to map out touchpoints, track engagement and consolidate metrics. This approach will create a consistent framework that can be used across the organization. It will also ensure everyone is learning about the customer together.

2. ROI Is Not Straightforward

Most community cost-benefit analyses focus on call deflection and don’t take into account how community can be part of a multi-touch attribution strategy. A multi-touch attribution strategy includes assigning credit or allocating dollars from a sale to the marketing touch-points that a customer was exposed to prior to their purchase.

Recommendation: Where is community when it comes to multi-touch attribution? With the proper tracking, you can treat community as a channel with multiple programs and touch-points, making it a part of your marketing automation and CRM strategies as well as your multi-touch revenue attribution approach. I am not recommending that you sell directly to your customers within your community, but think in terms of education, nurturing, etc.

3. Lack of Senior and Experienced Muscle

Companies often don’t treat CIS as a strategic asset, and therefore tend to hire a junior or mid-level person to manage their community. After this person comes on board, senior management often takes a ‘hands-off’ approach and fails to share their business experiences or provide guidance to the community leader. Without a mentor, the junior person tends to operate mainly in reactive mode.

Recommendation: Pay a bit more to play effectively! Hire a more senior leader to drive community initiatives. Someone who understands your customers and also has experience in different areas of the business.

4. Not Treating Community as a Team Sport

This dovetails on the previous statement because division managers often don’t allocate resources to the community. As a result, community, like other marketing or support areas, operates in a silo. Community needs to be treated as a team sport with everyone in the ecosystem involved. At Marketo, we identified key internal captains in each department to participate in managing the day-to-day community operations.

Recommendation: Leverage the captain approach, but make sure department leaders include community metrics on their individual team member’s goals.

5. No Clear Definition of Success Across Departments

There are several issues here. It’s challenging to define the purpose, the mission and even the metrics that multiple parts of an organization agree upon. There needs to be a higher calling than just ‘generate leads’ or ‘increase call deflection.’ You need to know how those goals impact business metrics like retention and customer service spend, for instance.

In addition to those business goals, however, departments across your company need to understand how your community impacts customers. Does it reduce frustration when they have a problem with your product? Does it help them connect with peers and make them feel like they’re a part of something larger than themselves? At Marketo, we took the later route. Our CIS was the main platform for The Marketing Nation, the place for digital and technical marketers to connect with one another.

Recommendation: Develop a more human, emotional goal for your collaboration platform. Combine that with business goals to more effectively engage your customers and meet your company’s needs.

6. Lack of Understanding on How Everything Works Together

Rarely does a true marketing, support or IT system’s architect get involved in picking a vendor or ensuring all backend systems and front-end functionality are integrated. That often leads to data silos and a disconnected experience for customers.

Recommendation: Treat your CIS as a product. Get a digital architect involved who can map out how all your systems work together and manage the flow of data and provide guidance to channel owners.

7. Perception of Community as Loss Leader

When it comes to community, there tends to be a call center mentality of how we can reduce head count or how we pay each rep less per hour. As one manager put it: ‘I’m often asked what’s the minimum to put the lights on.”

Because of this, many community managers feel as if they have to constantly prove their value using convoluted metrics. They also struggle to get alignment and clarity about what it means to ‘put points on the board.’ This could be ROI. This could be customer satisfaction. This could be cross-sell / upsell. This could be a retention metric. Etc. At the end of the day, your community’s value is probably a mix of these items.

Recommendation: Don’t invest in community if it is really an afterthought. Don’t think of it as only a call deflection tool. Get alignment upfront with your team about what value the community will bring to your organization and what success (qualitative and quantitative) looks like.

Community Challenges Are Your Biggest Opportunities

The above are not obstacles. They are opportunities for leaders to treat community as an integrated service. It’s an opportunity to take their game to the next level and impact the company’s bottom line.

I will further explore how to create Community as an Integrated Service in future blog posts.


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