A three- to five-year strategic plan for digital transformation is a thing of the past.
Rolling out new initiatives in a compressed timeframe and moving to an agile digital experience delivery model is becoming critical to keeping a competitive advantage. While your digital experience program can start with a modest effort, realizing the full benefits requires expanding it across organizational units and geographies. In this blog, I outline four critical aspects of maturing your digital experience program — a steering committee, an agile approach to marketing, an innovative culture, and T-shaped team members — and how you can start implementing them now.
A governance program ensures that the broader business team continues to support the digital experience program and implements the strategies prescribed by it. As mentioned in the prior blogs in this series (here and here), the program requires senior-executive ownership and support, which ties program performance to individual performance plans.
Creating a program steering committee
The evolution of a digital experience program should be governed by a steering committee: a cross-functional executive team that owns the organizational functions engaged in the program.
This team ultimately decides how to best evolve and invest in the digital experience program based on your organization’s strategic objectives. It has final authority on budgets, processes, policies, and large expenditures.
Historically many of these programs have been narrowly defined under the CMO function. But they are becoming broader, often encompassing marketing, sales, commerce, store operations, and customer-service activities.
Typical permanent members of a mature steering committee include:
- Executive sponsor/champion
- Chief Digital Officer (if the role exists)
- Digital experience team leader
- Program management lead
- Business unit leaders affected
- Senior management: CMO, CTO, CIO, CSO or representative, COO or representative, CFO or representative, and business case tracking lead (perhaps from FP&A)
Key areas addressed by the steering committee include:
- Responsibility and governance definitions
- Setting priorities and guardrails
- Selection, review, and evaluation of program’s KPIs and progress toward objectives
- Approving high-level roadmaps and hiring
- Approving vision, performance goals, investments, including those which cut across BUs (e.g., DXP, Content Hub, CRM, Apps); sometimes investment is funded from the top to accelerate progress
- Key changes to business processes and policies — at a pace that accommodates the agile teams executing the digital experience program
- Coordination of cross-functional responsibilities and projects
- Management of top risks and issues
The steering committee should have a recurring meeting schedule. It can be monthly or quarterly, depending on the program’s scope and velocity.
It also pays to have a digitally savvy Board of Directors to assist and support your digital ambitions. A recent MIT study found that companies with three or more digitally savvy directors had 17% higher profit margins than those with two or fewer, 38% higher revenue growth, 34% higher return on assets, and 34% higher market cap growth.
Agile project and program management processes
The most important factor of successful digital experience programs is mindset; specifically, understanding they are robust long-term programs, not one-and-done projects. Agile principles work nicely with personalized digital-experience programs because you should never stop measuring, iterating, and delivering. Agile-marketing principles have gained a lot of traction within organizations that are investing in their customer experience. Some of the advantages of agile are that it enables:
- Rapid experimentation, allowing you to quickly evolve your tactics and increase speed to market
- Focus on most important aspects of customer experience
- Accelerated releases, results, and early learning
- Increased data acquisition and quick market feedback
- Early identification of roadblocks and problems
- Higher team morale
Agile marketing requires substantial changes to how marketing teams work. Agile Sherpas found that as of 2019, 32% of marketing organizations surveyed use at least some part of the agile approach versus 50% who still use the traditional “waterfall” approach and 15% who use an ad hoc approach. Of those who use agile, 42% have been using it for only two years or less – making agile a new but rapidly emerging practice.
Forrester Research has found that across 11 brands committed to agile marketing and measurement, they derived an average of 12.7% lift in ROI. According to an Agile Sherpas' survey, 93% of survey respondents who adopted agile marketing said it helped them improve speed to market and improved their ability to “switch gears” more quickly and effectively. 87% said it made their teams more productive. 80% said it led to an enhanced prioritization of “things that matter” and that it helped deliver a better, more relevant product. And 50% of traditional teams said they intend to start implementing agile within the next year.
According to Agile Sherpas, the most noted barriers preventing marketing departments from implementing an agile approach more completely were lack of training in the agile approaches, belief that the current process is optimal, and lack of management support.
As depicted in the graphic below, your long-term digital experience strategy should be integrated into your digital marketing development lifecycle. Just like a backlog of technical features, a digital experience backlog should be actively managed and broken into sprints based on ongoing planning and performance analysis.
Personalization scenarios, A/B and MV testing plans, and UX and content development tasks are the core components that make up the digital experience backlog.
Increasingly, teams include members from several business functions and business units to ensure the scope of digital experience is customer focused rather than being hindered by organizational silos.
The agile team should be small. The “two pizzas” principle followed at Amazon suggests an optimal cross-functional core team size of 6 – 8 people. More critically, they should be people who are empowered to own the customer outcomes and make autonomous decisions.
It is important to include a well-trained scrum master role on larger teams. The scrum-master key responsibilities include:
- Lead coaching sessions on agile methodologies, best practices, and the agile management application
- Assist team leads in managing backlogs
- Ensure sprint activities are scoped and performed by team members in the allocated time
- Run daily standup and sprint planning sessions
- Collect and report team KPIs
Instilling an innovative culture
As the expression goes — culture eats strategy for breakfast (and lunch and dinner). Of respondents in a recent Gartner survey, 64% said their organization’s culture is a barrier to meeting digital ambitions, while only 25% said it’s an enabler.
To accelerate the implementation of agile marketing, most organizations will require some cultural changes. To evolve the organization’s culture, we recommend the following strategies:
- Recruit top management to own and lead your efforts with a clear vision and determination to adopt and embed the agile marketing approach, demonstrate and articulate how the new approach ties to the organization’s mission, values, and customer and competitive drivers; as well as their commitments to change (including goals and budgets).
- Immerse the team in the work lives and aspirations of lead-user customers to anticipate future trends. Design “from the package always insert out” — keep customer benefits as the driving motivation and be able to justify them.
- Build experiments with a view to scale.
- Identify skill gaps and recruit builders who love to experiment.
- Be clear about the preferred new behaviors and ways of doing things — and reward them.
- Involve key stakeholders early in communicating the new ways of doing things and results
- Embrace failure as part of learning — be prepared to reverse decisions based on data.
The T-shaped digital experience team member
According to some industry analysts, the top challenge for digital marketing organizations is hiring people with the right skills. Due to the complex, fluid, and rapidly developing digital-experience field, we recommend recruiting “t-shaped” people who are builders.
T-shaped marketers are passionate about digital-experience marketing, and curious enough to have more than a smattering of knowledge about the broader digital-marketing spectrum. But they should be also specialists in one or two areas. This will maximize synergy, collaboration, and innovation.
Digital-experience skills—regardless of your sub-specialty— should be based on being data-driven. You want an aligned team that values experimentation and knows testing is the ultimate arbiter.
The T-shaped digital experience team member
According to Gartner's 2017 Marketing Organizational Survey, 53% of modern marketers are already T-shaped. However, a fat-T profile is taking hold. In contrast to traditional T-shaped marketers, fat-T marketers possess significant-skills breadth and depth complemented by several areas of deeper, more specialized expertise. Gartner indicates that fat-T marketers are diverse, flexible, and able to contribute to a multitude of projects and adapt quickly to changing market conditions.
In addition to marketing domain expertise, another key ingredient to agile team success is critical soft skills. Qualities such as creativity, resourcefulness, empathy, and adaptability become the glue that binds skilled talent across teams, functions, and partner organizations.
If you’ve enjoyed this post, I highly encourage you to check out the first and second posts, or simply dive right into the full guide, “Digital experience management: Organization and governance.”
An experienced business leader, Elan Bair guides Sitecore customers and partners in planning, designing and optimizing digital marketing, customer experience and business performance programs using big/smart data, advanced online analytics, personalization and engagement automation. You can follow him on LinkedIn.