Executive leaders, it's time we spoke. You're a big part of the problem in digital transformation.
In April 2023, we, in partnership with Six Degrees Executive, released the findings from our Digital & Marketing In Focus study. The report which is now in its third year (formerly known as the Marketing State of Play report), has been developed to shine a light on the marketing and digital industry down under.
We have seen many organisations undergo rapid digitisation over the past few years. In this year’s study we sought to understand if digital transformation remains of key importance, and the barriers impacting adoption.
Our 2023 study has painted a fairly consistent picture to prior years, with marketing, experience and digital leaders reinforcing that digital transformation remains high on the priority list to address over the next 12 – 18 months. In this year’s study, 43% of leaders suggested digital transformation is one of their top priorities. However, for organisations generating over $100m, the importance of digital transformation increases, with 55% of leaders suggesting it is one of their top priorities. As nearly 8 in 10 leaders are focussed on driving the growth agenda, it stands to reason that digital transformation is vital, as leaders understand the critical importance of transforming to enable growth and remain relevant in a changing market.
Although digital transformation remains an imperative, driving successful outcomes remains elusive for many brands as they seek to drive change through the organisation.
Knowledge of executive’s leaders tops the list for difficulties in digital transformation
Whilst the difficulties leaders face to drive digital transformation are varied, in this year’s study we sought to unpack the aspects of transformation that are causing the greatest difficulties. To do so we focussed our energy on understanding challenges across areas of strategy, investment and people (as tech always gets a lot of air time). What we have found is that the report card for leadership teams is not pretty. A lack of knowledge and support at the executive table topped the list of difficulties facing marketing and digital leaders to drive digital transformation within their organisations. Nearly 4 in 10 leaders suggesting executive teams lack knowledge of and aren’t providing support for digital transformation. This helps us to understand why digital transformation failure rates are still so high. When difficulties like these are combined with skill and capability gaps as well as an inability to secure investment, then
leaders are facing an uphill battle.
Transformation starts at the top but knowledge has to be dispersed across the leadership team
From 2016 to 2020 a study was undertaken across Fortune 1000 companies to review C-Suite job ads to determine how organisations are hiring in a digitised world. The study reviewed mentions of “technology” or “digital” in the background of candidates. It identified that the search for these skills was largely on a subset of roles within the C-Suite - as opposed to being a requirement across all leaders - demonstrating organisations are not going far enough to evolve their leadership pipelines and to balance out knowledge across the executive team. Digital transformation challenges everything: from the organisation’s strategy, through to its operating model, its investment profile and the culture of the organisation. Yet it seems the expectation is that a few key roles can shoulder the digital transformation agenda. Too often this is still the case within many executive teams and boards across Australia. The impact of digital to a market and a business is not well enough understood, and whilst there is a FOMO associated with it, brands are still too often attempting to “tick” the digital box through some key hires without being all-in.
In Australia, nearly one in five sales for retail goods now occurs online. Digital is increasingly influencing the majority of purchases. Despite this, too many leaders and teams are ill equipped to navigate the change, as knowledge and understanding is not seen as a mandatory requirement for all executives and leaders sitting around the table. For marketing and digital leaders, it is clear much accountability still resides on their shoulders along with their CIO counterparts.
Building knowledge within the executive leadership teams and boards
Whilst executives must and should actively educate themselves in this space, those shouldering accountability for driving the transformation agenda must play an active role in helping the executive group and the board to close the knowledge gap;
Develop opportunities for leaders and board members to learn from the people who are ahead and the people who are behind you (“reverse mentoring”); Sometimes unique and fresh voices are important to bring to the table to cut through. Think about how you can open up opportunities to expose leaders to those in the know within and outside your industry to challenge the status quo.
Play the long game; Educating and shifting perceptions is not done overnight, it is something that is done over time. Identify appropriate forums and interventions to educate and inform (one on one and within a group context) to help those without knowledge get more comfortable with concepts and ideas.
Keep it simple; Digital can be perceived as quite technical and complex – it is important for those looking to shift perception and build knowledge to make the complex simple and make information accessible and easy to engage with.
Be bold; Digital transformation often needs a catalyst – organisations and leaders won’t necessarily engage if they don’t see a burning platform that is driving them to engage. You need to experiment with how to drive cut-through and even think about what will provide the shock factor to motivate other leaders to realise that this is something that everyone must lean into.
Arktic Fox is helping an array of brands to drive digital transformation, this includes creating a clear coherent strategy that leadership teams buy into, alongside of driving organisational change. If you are in need of a helping hand – find out how we can help.
Want to get your hands on a copy of the Digital & Marketing In Focus report? Download a copy here.