Galloping into Transformation

As a keen horse rider, I can saddle up a horse and mount. That doesn’t mean I can win the Melbourne Gold Cup, the Kentucky Derby or an Olympic medal. Before that, I must transform myself and my steed into supremely fit, skillful, responsive and disciplined athletes. However, as many partnerships between horse and rider have proved over the years, with dedication, patience and focus, we can win the prize of our dreams no matter where we start. 

The same is true of transforming a business to succeed in the digital economy. It is not enough to just “saddle up” the business “horse” with digital enablers such as an on-line sales platform, CRM systems and internal collaboration technologies. Yes, these are important tools but the business needs to be transformed and those that “ride” it must fully understand their role in that transformation. 

Just as horse and rider must qualify to enter world championships, so a business must prove its digital performance before it can accept the challenge of complete digital transformation. 

All the evidence points to Marketing as the function where performance uplift through digitalisation can be proved – free of cost to the enterprise. That is why I believe the CMO must take the lead in the overall business transformation. 

The first step in achieving a marketing uplift is to define a clear overall marketing strategy with a clearly defined ambition. This needs to be supported by a data strategy with marketing KPIs set at key waypoints. Your new marketing strategy will embrace the following key concepts: mobile first, a multi-channel marketing communications mix, highly targeted media buying, an omni-channel sales and support presence and teams focused on optimising the performance of sales and marketing channel partners. 

Where does the resource come from to implement this strategy? Simple – the smart CMO can free up new resources by targeting the media spend to where it is most effective. This will reduce the creative cost which can also be reduced in its own right through consolidation of agency support. 

Before any of this can be achieved, the CMO has to make sure the right skills are available internally; that those skilled are optimised in a streamlined organisation where delivery takes precedence and technology is deployed to maximum effectiveness. And finally, this new team must be imbued with a forward-thinking culture that has the courage to challenge the corporate “status quo” and the will to try something new. This culture is entirely dependent on the leadership from the CMO. 

When this new strategy has paid dividends, the CMO is ideally positioned to lead the transformation throughout the enterprise. On the one hand, the CMO has proven the benefits of digital transformation and shown – at a functional level – what is required in terms of culture, skills, organisation, focused resources and investment in technology. On the other hand, the next phase of the business progression must be marketing led. 

As I explained in a previous post the accelerated business targets given to marketing (once it has proved is functional ability) will likely only be achieved with transformation across other functions. 

I have developed this six phase strategy for enterprise digital transformation (refer to the chart below). 


It mirrors the requirements to transform the marketing function. We start with the capabilities audit from which we can create an achievable vision. Then we map out how we are going to deliver on that vision. Then the critical part – getting the rest of the business to buy in. Once that is achieved we can start to lay the foundations of skills development, organisational structure and the all-important culture shift. And when all (or most is in place) can we start to deliver the higher-value customer experience that the digitally transformed business promises. 

Returning to my horse and rider analogy (yes, I am a very keen horsewoman, albeit a relative novice) all too often we see companies pin a winner’s rosette to their horse’s bridle long before they have proved its worth in competition. They proclaim to have transformed when in reality when all they have done is “tacked-up”. 

A few weeks ago my horse decided it was time to practice for the Melbourne Gold Cup while I had asked it to do no more than a gentle, controlled canter. As a result, we parted company in pretty dramatic style. I am still waiting to ride having damaged my back and broken my arm. As I spend time longing to be in the saddle once more, I think of my fellow CMOs who have been unseated as they pursue their dream of transformation. When that happens – and it will – the only thing you can do is learn where you went wrong, get back on and keep going!