The main obstacle to digital transformation

Whenever we think digital transformation, we naturally think marketing, communication, product development or retail.  We generally try to figure out how to offer a seamless experience to our clients.   Many fantastic models and matrices exist to help accomplish this.

Nonetheless, through my various experiences with global groups and international brands, I have realized that the operational problem, as important as it may seem, isn’t the central issue.

I once met with the head of a very well known B2C brand in France.  I had been asked to convince her that there were alternatives to TV marketing, particularly internet.  Although I’m no internet ayatollah, given the brand’s situation, it seemed apparent that the media plan needed to be reworked.  So I provided explanations, figures, case studies… to a very smart person.  Nevertheless, I failed in my mission and the brand invested 80% of its media budget on TV.  Digital was just the icing on the cake.


1. An employee is more focused on his career than on his clients

It may sound corny to say that a business should be centered on its clients. But the reality is that most of us are more centered on our own careers, which means being focused on one’s boss.  “Whatever the boss wants, the boss gets”, and any fool knows this is how things work.  The more fearless amongst us may attempt to suggest alternatives or convince the boss, but in the end, we all want our year-end bonuses.  With that in mind, if the boss doesn’t agree or doesn’t understand, or if the formulas used for calculating my bonus and advancement don’t evolve, then my work methods won’t change either.

So it’s easy to see that the problem is managerial, not operational. But obviously, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t lots of work to be done on the operational side too.


2. A leader doesn’t have to be a digital expert; he just needs to understand the context

core convictions

During a discussion with Frederic Colas, we agreed that three factors are essential in the decision making process:  1. intelligence, 2. quantified data, 3. convictions.

Bosses are generally intelligent and have access to concrete data.  However, they usually lack “core conviction”.  They don’t necessarily know how to confront agencies or teams with very clear views on what should or should not be done.  This is due to the simple fact that when they began their careers, Internet probably wasn’t in the picture.  When internet started occupying some space, this was on an operation level.  Future bosses were already too high up the ladder, and weren’t directly impacted by its presence.  However, in just a few years, internet has become a strategic element.  Convictions arise from experience and most bosses don’t have any, when it comes to internet.
This diagram, straight from Frédéric’s head, easily illustrates this theory:

Digital transformation

They know digital is essential. They understand the need to change direction or at least modify their way of thinking, to avoid finding themselves stuck in a dead end. But they don’t have a clear idea of which buttons to push.

When you’re the boss, who do you discuss your shortcomings with?  With your employees? Your agency? Who can you trust? Where do you start?

We have seen businesses who, feeling that they’re lagging behind, suddenly invest massively on the web – from Facebook to Twitter to YouTube, or anywhere else recommended by lazy agencies.  These businesses inevitably fail in their goal, or at best, come away thinking “digital doesn’t work”.

Obviously, when a tool isn’t used properly, that’s what happens – it doesn’t work.  So it’s not really about what percentage of your budget you allocate to digital; it’s about how you invest it.


3. “The basics are the basics” Pete Blackshaw, Global Head of Digital, Nestlé

At Le Web, I was lucky to have the opportunity to exchange with Pete Blackshaw on the Nestlé Group’s transformation.  Mr. Blackshaw confirmed that the obstacle of getting all employees up to the same level of knowledge (12’ min), was primarily a management issue.

He explained that only top management could break down the barriers within a company (depending on the specific corporate culture, of course).  In addition, only the boss will be on the lookout for ways to move his career and his company ahead.

Digital is an opportunity, but it’s also a threat if the right changes aren’t made.  This does not mean that everything needs to be changed.  But in order to make the right decisions, this new environment needs to be understood and embraced.

Naturally, I am an agnostic, when it comes to agencies and employees.  And it is in that very context that I launched a mentoring program for top management, to act as an “accelerator of digital convictions”, for those interested.

gregfromparisAuteur: Grégory Pouy
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