Digital Maturity: It’s not what you do; it’s how you do it

By Emma Honeybone, Head of Marketing at Transform UK

When Little Richard sang “It ain’t watcha do (it’s the way how* you do it)” he had no idea that 45 years later it would be the inspiration behind the naming of this year’s DMI research.

DMI 2017: It’s not what you do; it’s how you do it

In a super cool room — both in terms of décor and temperature** — at The Soho Hotel, we launched our findings at a breakfast event for digital leaders from companies including Barclays, Lloyds, Diageo, Groupon, British Medical Journal, O2, Zoopla, British Gas, Maplin, Valuation Office Agency and William Jackson Food Group.

Emma Robertson — Transform’s CEO — shared how digital maturity can feel a little like chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. As you achieve one milestone, you look up to see the rainbow’s moved and that pot of gold is as illusive as the profitability stakeholders seem to immediately expect from any digital activity.

When we first started researching for DMI in 2010, we asked questions like “Do you have a website? Is it transactional?” Several iterations of DMI later and we were asking, “Do you have a mobile strategy?” Then the world shifted on its axis away from technology and channels to focus on the customer and we were talking about user journeys, feedback and CX strategies. In 2017 the press is dominated by technology yet again as AI, voice interfaces and IoT developments take centre stage. Which is a mistake.

The difference between operating digitally and becoming digital lies in a balanced eco-system. Yes, the customer is important. Yes, the technology you have and the channels you deliver through are key. But without the right culture and a well-developed strategy you’ll never be digitally mature.

We interviewed 55 digital leaders from public and private sector organisations asking them to share their thoughts on all five areas of our digital eco-system.

Coupled with substantial desk research and the knowledge and insights we gain from the projects we work on, several key trends emerged.

1. Small data: think smart and connected, not just big

We’re all tired of the term big data but activity still seems to be focused on gathering more and more rather than using what’s already there. Digitally mature organisations are best at leveraging small data, as they understand the power of smart, connected data and how to drive outcomes. However, our research found that while 69% feel their organisation is customer-centred, only 41% are data-driven. Ernst and Young’s ‘Becoming an analytic organisation’ report supports this thinking — 81% agree that data should be at the heart of all decision-making but only 31% of companies have significantly restructured their organisations to help do this.

2. Open minded technology: be tech savvy not technology obsessed

Being tech ready will only happen when technology decisions are counter balanced with strategy and culture. Fit for the future relies on connecting IT departments with the rest of the business. You’ll never be able to fully appraise all the new technology coming over the horizon but by understanding the purpose of the organisation and the way it operates you’re more likely to adopt the right technology for the right problem. We found that only 4% of our interviewees feel ready for the digital future, 30% are absolutely terrified and the biggest hindrance to transformation is legacy systems for 41%.

3. Digital inside: which came first, the customer or the employee?

“Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first” — Angela Ahrendts

While customer experience isn’t perfect, it’s still pretty good. Behind the scenes — within our organisations — there’s a significant amount of legacy processes and inefficiencies that could benefit from the approach taken when considering the customer. Commercially, the next wave of value will result from looking inside, rather than focusing purely on the customer experience. 51% of the digital leaders we spoke to believe they are either extremely or pretty customer-centred but only 2% declared a focus on employee engagement. Given that the customer experience will eventually fail if it doesn’t connect with the employees, we believe this is a priority focus area for digital maturity as we head towards 2018.

4. Digital leadership: forget job titles; focus on combining horizontal and vertical skills

The question ‘what does digital leadership mean?’ seems no closer to being answered in a high percentage of organisations. Making the leap between operating digitally and being digital starts at the top and there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of C-suite roles: CDO, CCO, CXO and CGO. But at the point of success many stall because they don’t have the permission to take digital expertise to department level. Silos continue to hinder digital maturity and yet only 12% of the organisations we interviewed cited breaking down silos as their biggest priority. In addition, despite knowing that employee engagement (EE) can unlock digital maturity only 2% believe EE is the biggest priority over the next 12 months.

In 2017, we continue to see that the most digitally mature organisations operate with the right level of balance across the entire eco-system but for many achieving this level of maturity is still some way off.

One of our attendees summed up a common view: “We’re still on a journey to drive digital internally, but there remains a reliance on digital teams, rather than everyone thinking digitally. Success is dependent on digital being embeded across the organisation as a whole.”

You can read the full findings here.

* Little Richard’s words, not mine

** I couldn’t work out how to adjust the air conditioning and didn’t want to interrupt the flow of conversation by messing around with the flow of air!