The Digital Cure: Diagnosing the Vital Signs of your Business

Author Clodagh O'Brien

Today’s consumers have the world at their fingertips and an appetite for digital communication. In this customer-led marketplace, any business hoping to succeed must be digitally competitive and adaptable to the ever-changing needs and expectations of digital customers. 

This societal shift makes an organization’s digital skills more important than ever before. In this article, we highlight the challenges that businesses face when bringing digital marketing strategies to the fore in the workplace, and how they can overcome these challenges.

Putting theory into practice

Digital marketing is by no means a new idea. In fact, it is now central to the business strategy of any company with the desire to succeed in the digital landscape. But do these businesses really have the resources to back up their strategies, to walk the walk instead of merely flaunting the talk?

The question that many organizations today struggle to answer is: “Do our employees have the required skills to lead and deliver our digital strategy?”

In many cases, the answer is no.

Because even though digital may be the marketing strategy du jour, the best intentions often fall short when put into practice. After all, the statistics speak for themselves...

●77% of companies consider missing digital skills as the key hurdle to their digital transformation. (Capgemini Consulting)

●Over ¾ of marketers think marketing has changed more in the past two years than in the last fifty – yet less than half of them feel highly proficient in digital. (The Guardian, Sep 2015, Training Deficit Means UK Faces Digital Skills Gap)

●Only 4% of companies align their training efforts with their overall digital strategy (Capgemini Consulting)

●Only a third of organizations acknowledge that digital marketing techniques are fully incorporated into their overall marketing operations, with “a shortage of talent” listed as the main reason. (Gartner)

●No company spends more than 20% of its training budget on digital (Capgemini Consulting)

The digital revolution has changed the way in which decisions are made and commerce transacted, but the people that work within the industry cannot seem to keep up with the transformation.

So, why the digital marketing skills gap?

Three-pronged diagnosis

It may be true that many organizations have digital experts on hand with an established strategy that most, if not all, of their employees, are confident in applying to their daily work. However, many businesses are struggling to achieve their digital objectives, perhaps for the following reasons:

1. The digital strategy is not incorporated across the organization

Digital marketing may be considered a young person’s remit, but such thinking is dangerous to an organization’s success. These skills cannot just be viewed as the domain of younger, digital-native employees because they drive revenue, influence decision-making and have the ability to transform a business.

Leadership, not technology is the biggest driver of an organization’s digital transformation. In his book ‘Leading Digital’ George Westerman coined ‘Digital Masters’ as leaders that understand digital is not a technology challenge, but a transformation opportunity. So it’s not just about turning into a digital company, but about using digital to become a better business where senior management has the skillset and knowledge to take the digital lead and integrate it across the organization. In short, it’s about making digital the culture of a business, not just a set of tools. 

Vision, engagement and governance provide the recipe for strong digital leadership. These three elements build synergy over time as your organization moves along its digital transformation.

Top Tip #1: Instead of just investing in a pool of app-adept millennials at the start of their career, it is essential that senior professionals can lead the digital transformation of their business. This will avoid the slow adoption of digital marketing across the organization and the stymieing of economic growth through these channels.

2. More effort is spent on creating jobs than developing skills

In 2017, digital advertising spend is set to surpass TV advertising for the first time according to eMarketer with TV’s share of spending predicted to drop below one-third by 2020. As a result, Chief Marketing Officers have started to feel the pressure as they know how critical digital channels are to engaging customers. In fact, many have created specialized departments to do just that with 60% of marketers expecting their companies to invest more in digital marketing technology this year.

The problem is, the existing capabilities of these organizations are no match for an ever-changing market. In fact, as reported in ‘Ireland’s Digital Skills Gap: The Threat to Ireland’s Digital Economy’ the pace of digital jobs creation is far outstripping the rate at which professionals are upskilling. So while it may seem like a significant step to invest in new digital technologies and channels, what use is it if nobody in the business understands it?

Top Tip #2: Before deciding to roll out digital marketing campaigns, organizations should and adopt a more strategic approach to the digital transformation of their people.

3. The organization's size makes it hard to know where to start

For large-scale enterprises, the barrier to digital skills adoption can often lie with not knowing which skills are missing (and indeed, required) for the specific organization. The larger the organization, the bigger the digital quandary can be as with 10,000 employees and over, where does an organization begin when it comes to assessing their digital capabilities?

With over 90% of companies reporting a lack of necessary skills in the areas of social media, mobile marketing, internal social networks, process automation and performance monitoring and analysis, the gap seems to be widening between digital capabilities and customer expectations. This is not to say organizations don’t realize the importance of digital, far from it. It is more that many are not sure where to start when it comes to turning their business into a digital leader.

So, while an organization may have lots of talented employees to hand, without knowing their digital capabilities, senior management struggle to utilize these skills effectively or share them to create a more digitally educated workforce. In essence, the organization does not know the digital pulse of its business…

Top Tip #3: Before an organization defines where they want to go digitally, they need to understand where they are today. The key to digital successis to define the specialist skills and competencies required within an organization and ensure those skills take center stage. 

The take-home prognosis...

Digital skills are now required for nearly all customer-orientated roles, from marketing to sales to customer service. Understanding how customers interact with a business online is essential to that organization’s growth. In order to gain this understanding, and to put its findings to work, businesses should be more effective in utilizing their most valuable resource – their employees. After all, it is only in recognizing the symptoms and understanding the vital signs that businesses can find a cure.

Are you ready to test your organization's digital vital signs?

Clodagh O'Brien
Senior Content Specialist