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Six Digital Transformation Barriers CMOs Need to Address

By Marc Brown | January 07, 2019 | 1 Comment

MarketingCustomer Acquisition and RetentionMarketing Leadership and StrategyMarketing Organization and TalentMarketing Technology and Emerging Trends

According to data from Gartner’s 2018 CEO survey, CMOs are an essential part of the team driving digital transformation across the enterprise. Why marketing? Put simply, it’s being driven by the power of the buyer. Buyer demands for the great experiences enabled by digitalization are forcing CMOs and marketers to reevaluate their strategies and approach digital transformation in a new way.

Unfortunately, many organizations across industry verticals have yet to fully embrace digital both in their marketing channels and capabilities for a variety of reasons. The truth is, successful and efficient digital transformation advancement is difficult. To be successful, CMOs must recognize the need of having close allies and work closely with their peers throughout their digital transformation journey.

Gartner has identified six barriers that CMOs must overcome to transform their organization into a digital business.

Barrier No. 1: A Change-Resisting Culture
Digital innovation can be successful only in a culture of collaboration. CMOs and their teams have to be able to work across boundaries and explore new ideas. In reality, most organizations are stuck in a culture of change-resistant silos and hierarchies. Marketing teams who adopt new structures, ways of working, such as using agile techniques, and seek to infuse their teams with new highly-relevant capabilities will be better suited to support their digital transformation needs.

CMOs aiming to establish a digital culture should start small: Define a digital mindset, assemble a digital innovation COE (Gartner subscription required), and shield it from the rest of the organization to let the new culture develop. Connections between digital innovation and COE can then be used to scale new ideas and spread the culture.

Barrier No. 2: Limited Sharing and Collaboration

The lack of willingness to share and collaborate is a challenge not only at the organization level, across the go-to-market team, but also inside the marketing organization, especially those that are decentralized. Issues of ownership, priorities, and control of processes, information and systems make people reluctant to share their knowledge. Digital innovation with its collaborative cross-functional teams is often very different from what employees are used to with regards to functions and hierarchies — resistance is inevitable.

For CMOs, it’s OK to not have everyone on board in the early stages. Try to find areas where interests overlap and create a starting point. Build the first version, test the idea and use the success story to gain the momentum needed for the next step. Start with the obvious choices – improving campaign planning, content development and reuse, and analytics.

Barrier No. 3: The Business Isn’t Ready

Many business leaders are caught up in the hype around a digital business. However, when the CIO, CDO, or CMO wants to start the transformation process, it turns out that the business doesn’t have the skills, resources, or systems needed.  CMOs must address the digital readiness of their organization to get an understanding of overall readiness, evaluating the people, process, and technology elements of the team.

Two-thirds of marketing leaders lack confidence in their ability to accelerate their teams’ digital marketing transitions. While technology and data give marketers unprecedented ability to observe, analyze, and influence customer behavior, many marketing organizations struggle to keep up with rapidly evolving buyers. Marketing can better cater to evolving B2B buyer expectations by becoming digitally proficient (Gartner subscription required) through focusing efforts on the highest impact areas and speeding progress through the transition.

Barrier No. 4: The Talent Gap

Most marketing organizations follow a traditional pattern — organized into functions or disciplines such as communications, creatives services, brand, and content marketing and largely focused on their functions rather than a customer-centric digitally informed experience. Change can be slow in this kind of environment.

Digital innovation requires a marketing organization to adopt a different approach. People, processes and technology blend to create new business workflows. Employees need new skills focused on analytics, data, innovation, change, and creativity along with embracing new technologies themselves, such as artificial intelligence (AI).

The talent recipe (Gartner subscription required) for digital success leverages two approaches — upskill and bimodal. In smaller or more innovative organizations, it is possible to redefine individuals’ roles to include more skills and competencies needed to support digital. In other organizations, using a bimodal approach makes sense by creating a separate group to handle innovation with the requisite skill set.

Barrier No. 5: The Current Practices Don’t Support the Talent

Having the right talent is essential, and having the right practices lets the talent work effectively. Highly structured and slow traditional processes are not ideal for digital. There are no tried and tested models to implement, but every organization has to find the practices that suit it best.

Many marketing organizations shift to an agile project-centric approach (Gartner subscription required) for digital innovations because it allows for multiple iterations. Operational innovations can follow the usual approaches until the digital team is skilled and experienced enough to extend its reach and share the learned practices with the organization.

The digital economy is driving CMOs to become CDOs as they build more data-driven practices around actionable consumer insights. This digital transformation is occurring on two major fronts – using big data analysis to gather insights about consumers, and using programmable communication APIs to connect with consumers. There is an unprecedented amount of consumer data available to companies. When combined with data analytics, this can lead to valuable insights that helps CMOs run precisely targeted marketing campaigns, while enabling better measurement of the impact of these campaigns. For example, the analysis of mobile data can help organizations understand the affinity of different groups to brands, changes in digital and physical footfall after campaigns, and so on. Once brands gain a better understanding of their customers, programmable communication APIs make it easier to reach customers through their preferred channels. Marketers increasingly need to be working closely with developers. These developers, powered by the new breed of communication companies, can customize campaigns, build chatbots to engage with consumers, or build customer communications into business workflows and truly transform marketing. For CMOs to capitalize on these new insights, they must eliminate the messy data and mismatched resources (Gartner subscription required) that undermine their goals.

Barrier No. 6: Change Isn’t Easy

It’s often technically challenging and expensive to make digital work. Developing platforms, changing the organizational structure, creating an ecosystem of martech and agency partners — all of this costs time, resources and money.

Over the long term, CMOs should build the organizational capabilities that make change simpler and faster. To do that, they should develop a platform-based strategy that supports continuous change and design principles and then innovate on top of that platform, allowing new capabilities and insights to draw from the platform and its core services.

Gartner clients can find more information in the research note “Six Barriers to Becoming a Digital Business, and What You Can Do About Them.” More information on marketing role in digital business transformation can be found in the Gartner survey “Survey Analysis: Marketing Role in Digital Business Transformation.”

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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1 Comment

  • Denys Dubner says:

    Great article. I couldn’t agree more on every single point. Running a digital marketing agency we see the resistance to change and the inability to overcome an overwealming fear of the martech stack selection. Not to mention the average age of the board members – some of these members still believe the anything to do with “internet” is the Chief Information Officer’s job.