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CEOs & CMOs: The time to invest in digital capability is now

As consumers, Australians are globally recognised as adopters of technology. We love gadgets of all kinds. We buy lots of phones (the smart ones) and we use them a lot. ACMA’s Digital Lives Report from 2014 reveals that:

  • 70% of Australians use the internet via mobile
  • 50% of Australians use a tablet
  • 68% of Australian access the internet using three or more devices.
  • And astoundingly, 23% of Australians use FIVE or more devices.

While we have strong – and continuing growth in our use of mobile devices – and the internet more widely – why do our brands and businesses struggle to create compelling digital experiences?

The recent Marketo/eConsultancy report on the State of Digital Marketing in Australia and New Zealand suggests that the problem is skills.

How would you describe the level of digital knowledge in your organisation?

The Marketo/eConsultancy report explains:

As marketers are grasping the complexities of digital marketing, they’re also recognising the shortfall in the competencies required to be successful in the digital age.

When questioned about the level of digital knowledge within their organisations, the response “very poor” has more than doubled in just one year. In 2012 and 2013, only 4% of respondents described the level of digital knowledge within their organisation as “very poor” – yet in 2015 it has jumped to 10%. At a time when digital technology is becoming more vital not just in terms of our business capability but in terms of business survival, we are going backwards at a great rate of knots.

Similarly, those respondents indicating that they had “excellent” levels of digital knowledge has halved since 2012, from 14% to 7%. The report slates the responsibility for this to the senior levels of organisations:

Executive teams do not truly comprehend the opportunity which can be realised if the digital channel was performing to a high standard.

While it would be fantastic if we could start to see more Boards with members, advisors or directors with digital skills or capabilities immediately, this does take time. Our boards and advisors need to start taking us on the digital path. In an era when the world’s most valuable and profitable companies – like Google and Facebook – are “digital first”, Australia cannot compete while 91% of our Board directors languish in a 20th Century mindset. IBM’s Global Managing Partner for Social Consulting, Andrew Grill explains this as lacking “digital literacy”. In a recent BlueNotes article he suggested:

… the issue of digital literacy remains, in my opinion, a much more important issue than it was back in 2001.

At a recent MIT symposium, it was estimated that 32% of revenue is at risk over the next five years due to digital disruption. That is a third of our business’ revenue. So even if we are just taking a risk management oriented approach to digital, then we should be looking to invest in our digital capability, not only at the execution level, but at the strategic level – with our boards and senior executives.

How do we do this? Where do we start? I always suggest that we should start with our customers.

  • Understanding your customer is the new competitive advantage. We need to invest in the analytics, platforms and capabilities that help us better understand not just how to acquire customers but to keep them longer, make them happy and transform them into loyal fans and advocates
  • Appoint a Digital NED: Andrew Grill from IBM advocates the appointment of digital-savvy non-executive directors to Boards. This is a great way to bridge the past and the future in a strategic, long term fashion
  • Experiment with startups: We can’t necessarily out-compete at speed with startups, but there is plenty we can learn from them. The recent Qantas Hackathon is a great example
  • Get help: Sometimes we don’t have the skills in-house to help us transform. Seek the advice and experience of others to help drive your digital transformation
  • Start now: It’s easy to say “no” to change – but I’d encourage you to find a place to start. Today. Make a call. Set aside some budget and get to work.
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