Digital transformation in perspective

Digital transformation in perspective

Pretty much every conference or webinar you attend currently will be discussing 'digital transformation'. For this reason, it would be easy to dismiss it as the latest fad, soon to be replaced by another digital marketing buzz term.

However, the adoption of digital Transformation as a key topic and discipline is absolutely key to our success as digital marketers and business owners, in my opinion. The principle of digital transformation actually clarifies why digital marketing can be problematic in implementation and, when used appropriately, could actually prevent a lot of stress and the failure of many digital marketing projects.

What is digital transformation?

Let’s start by clarifying what we mean by 'digital transformation'. Digital transformation is the process of understanding where our organisation is currently, and where it needs to be in order to use digital marketing effectively to achieve our business objectives. By understanding the difference between where we are and where we need to be, we can then also understand what we need to do in order to ‘fix’ things. The issues this process raises can be very broad regarding business, such as team structure and IT infrastructure. And that’s where things get interesting.

Digital capability

Digital marketing is not in itself complicated. Most people can learn the key principles of search optimisation or running a social media campaign in a few hours. What is complicated are some of the things we need to be changed in order to implement these campaigns effectively. For example, there isn’t much point running a search optimisation campaign if you don’t know what your overall digital strategy is. You also probably won’t be able to do it effectively if your Content Management System (CMS) makes it hard to make changes to your website. Again, you are going to have an issue if you don’t know who is in charge of the website sign-off process, and if you don’t have the skills or the time to make the changes. All of these issues are the kinds of things that we need to address during a digital transformation project when trying to understand your digital capability.

Why digital projects fail

Let’s just consider a few scenarios where applying this in practice can save you a lot of stress. I would advise that before you start any new digital project or job, you use this process to do a quick audit of the situation. You go through each of the following key areas and give yourself a quick score out of ten (some points are more or less important than others):


  • Leadership buy-in
  • Team ability
  • Market readiness


  • Strategy
  • Governance
  • Infrastructure
  • Measurement


  • Financial
  • Innovation

By looking at each of these points, you will very quickly be able to work out where things are going to get difficult and, in may cases, where you are going to potentially fail. For example, an extremely capable digital marketer can have a very clear strategy, but without management buy-in it will very likely be nearly impossible to implement that strategy. Why? Because when problems occur, and they will, you’ll need that buy-in to get things done. Another example is that you have a great strategy and digital team, but you need your data and systems to join up so you can measure things properly. You’re going to need some effective IT infrastructure and without a cooperative IT team, this might be very hard. Even if they are cooperative, it may take them 12 months to make the changes needed. For this reason, some digital projects are doomed from the very beginning. I run a lot of digital marketing transformation projects, and I won’t take one on until we have been through this process. We don’t expect perfect circumstances, but we realise that unless the key issues are identified early on, and there is a will to fix them, then sometimes things just won’t work. Pretty much everything is fixable with good leadership, which is why any transformation project MUST have buy-in at the most senior level.

Daniel Rowles Course Director CIM
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