Digital transformation – it’s your job

Greg Taylor tells us why it’s vital for marketers to take an active role in their team’s digital transformation.

Having a Chief Digital Officer is like having a finance guy who only deals with prime numbers. Its existence creates a silo for a technology which is all about integration.

Admittedly, in many companies the CDO has been appointed in a temporary role, with a focus on transforming the business to the digital age. The role is all about integration and it should, in theory, ultimately remove its own need to exist. Scanning various job descriptions, you discover they are there to ‘determine priorities’, ‘redesign business processes’, ‘seek efficiencies’ and ‘provide oversight of digital initiatives’.

Few talk of building a stronger sense of engagement with the customer – yet that’s the attribute that sits behind all digital success stories. The danger is that the CDO comes from the same consulting background that oversaw many CRM implementations.

For those who haven’t been through it, CRM programs were often run with the help of external advisors. They gathered requirements from across the business, with marketing just one interested party. Because the project cost a lot of money and required technological infrastructure, the job of sorting it all out fell into the CTO’s remit. Marketing folk often had to fight hard to ensure key elements stayed on the bucket list, even though, you’d assume, customer relationship management was one of the department’s key roles.

The same danger exists today. ‘Digital’ is being treated as ‘data’, and for those who spend their life building IT systems, data is driven by databases. Suddenly, the digital function is all about the technology behind it and less about what it can achieve. Even if that’s not the original intent, it’s an outcome that can happen by default. It’s not hard to imagine a CEO appointing a chief digital officer then, rather than having the appointee as a direct report, making it part of IT.

The assumption would be that the role can’t fit in marketing because the CMO doesn’t know enough about the implementation of the technology.

Once again the marketing team is left fighting their ground in an area of the business they should really be leading.

Digital transformation is all about how companies engage with customers. It flows through to internal processes, reporting and structures, but it begins with understanding the importance of developing a more effective dialogue with people; that’s marketing’s job.

Yet when Accenture asked C-Suite executives about who was responsible for driving their company’s digital strategy, only 1% suggested the CMO. And the push to employ Chief Digital Officers continues unabated. Research from Gartner predicts that soon a quarter of all organisations will have hired one.

It’s fine to have a Chief Digital Officer for a short while, but shouldn’t they be part of the marketing function? If you are a CMO lacking confidence to drive the digital strategy, now is the time to build your skills and take responsibility. CEOs want marketers to own the entire customer relationship – to do that you have to develop a deep understanding of the entire digital space. The danger is, if marketers don’t grab this mantle of responsibility, the business will end up with a second-rate solution that misses the tremendous opportunity that awaits.

There’s plenty of train wrecks when it comes to CRM implementations, running over budget and with less than half the measurable benefits they set out to achieve.

Digital transformation is too important to fail. It’s now a time for marketers to come out from behind their office partition and scream ‘I’ll do this!’ After all, it is your job.


Greg Taylor is managing director at Marketo.