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Digital Transformation: More than Marketing Well Online

I like marketing teams. I work with them about 80% of the time when engaged in a digital governance project. That’s because very often it is the marketing team that is responsible for driving an organization’s online footprint (with some support from IT). Unlike some other parts of the business, marketers are good at messaging. They are good at talking up their own importance in the organization. And, they love to talk about digital disruption and digital transformation—especially because these (almost) worn-out buzz words put them front and center within the business. Marketers talk about disruption and transformation so much that sometimes it seems that any activity that leverages a digital channel is somehow transforming a business or disrupting a market sector. That’s nonsense.

Most organizations I work with are nowhere near transforming their business through the use of digital channels. They are stuck trying to maintain websites, establish organization-wide digital and content strategies, and wrangling social media interactions within the organization. This is pretty fundamental work if you think about it—but hardly transformative and having a solid website doesn’t leave your business bullet-proof to disruption. From my perspective, good digital governance and management are necessary but not sufficient conditions for business transformation. Think about it—market sectors that are disrupted by digital aren’t disrupted solely because a competitor has a better website and has out-marketed them. They are disrupted because someone has utilized digital capacity to take a direct hit on their core business model.

As tired as the phrase “digital transformation” is to some of us who work in the space, there’s still plenty more disruption to come as capabilities become richer and deeper and new digital native business minds bring new products and services to market. And, the focus of the business threat will not be on marketing. So organizations that have the marketing team leading their digital efforts (and that’s most) need to be extra careful and realistic about evaluating where they really are when it comes to digital maturity. If Marketing wants to be effective in leading the digital charge, then they’ll need to get a bit out of their comfort zone and be broader and deeper about how they think about digital.

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