How to Tell If You’re Just Dabbling with Digital

Digital transformation is hot — in a new Altimeter Report, “The State of Digital Transformation”, we found that 88% of organizations we surveyed said that they were undergoing a formal digital transformation effort, which Altimeter defines as “the re-alignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital consumers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.”

But the research found that only 25% had mapped their out the customer journey, while another 12% were in the process of a mapping effort and were awaiting results. What was striking was that 42% of respondents said that while they were not officially researching the digital customer journey they had made efforts to update those digital touch points with new social and mobile investments and initiatives.

This means that while many organizations believe they are making progress to be more focused on the digital customer, I fear they are merely dabbling in their efforts and not truly undergoing a transformation. One organization I worked with had very advanced social and mobile initiatives and applications — but these two teams operated in silos (marketing and digital, respectively), rarely interacted or coordinated, and competed frequently for limited resources — both investments and people. Without a common understanding of the customer journey and alignment on how the organization would develop digital touch points, such conflict and inconsistency is inevitable.

One other statistic serves as evidence that organizations aren’t truly underling transformation — 59% of respondents felt that one of the biggest challenges to digital transformation was “thinking beyond a ‘campaign mentality’ in digital strategy efforts”. If you are jumping from campaign to campaign, your customers will feel it — you aren’t trying to develop a relationship with them, you just want to sell more stuff them.

There are three ways you can use the data from the report to benchmark your digital transformation efforts — and demonstrate to your organization the need to reconsider whether you are truly transforming or just moving chairs on the deck of a ship that’s adrift in the digital seas.

  1. Have you mapped the digital journey of your customers? With data? Until you have this in place, you can’t really align your organization around the journey.
  2. Does your leadership have a plan to address cultural issues that arise with digital transformation? True transformation is hard, painful, and challenges the status quo of organizations. Our research found that people are at the core of the transformation, not technology. Do you have a digital Center of Excellence that coordinates all of your digital efforts (social, mobile, digital marketing, etc.) and also an executive committee in place that has governance in place to identify and resolve these inevitable conflicts? You’ll need these structures in place to guide the organization through these tumultuous waters.
  3. How widespread is digital engagement amongst employees? A surefire way to tell where you are in your transformation journey is how many employees are able to engage with customers. Is it just a few select people in marketing, communications, and customer service? Or are all employees trained and empowered to engage? That second requires a clear understand of how widespread employee engagement with customers is beneficial to both the customer and the organization. It also requires guidelines, training, and ongoing monitoring and education — as well as a change in mindset from authoritarian, hierarchical control to a more open leadership style and approach.

If you don’t have satisfactory answers to the three questions above, then you have to ask yourself if your organization is truly committed to digital transformation or if it’s merely waving the flag. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of advanced with a social presence or mobile application — dig deeper and honestly ask yourself if the organization is transforming or just dabbling. If the first step to change is awareness, then it’s time to make sure that you understand where you stand.

Want to learn more? Join Brian Solis, the author of the report, for a webinar on the report findings on September 17, 2014.

Below is a preview of the report. The full report is available for free download as well.

Help with My New Report: Employee Engagement & Advocacy

Businessman holding paperI’m passionate about Open Leadership, and the imperative to be open, authentic and transparent in the way we lead. This is all the more important when looking at how to engage employees, and tapping them for the bright shiny object de jour “employee advocacy”.

To that end, my colleague Jon Cifuentes and I are working on a new Altimeter report on how companies create holistic strategies that increase internal employee engagement and external employee advocacy. The report looks at the fundamental disconnect between organizations wanting active and engaged employees and the actual execution of employee collaboration, engagement, and advocacy efforts.

Three recent studies exemplify the problem.

  • Gallup found that only 13% of employees worldwide are actively engaged while 24% are actively disengaged.
  • A more optimistic report from Weber Shandwick, released just last week, found that while 47% of employees are ProActivists or PreActivists who are inclined to take positive action on behalf of their employers, 31% are HyperActivists, ReActivists, or outright Detractors who can hurt their employers with negative actions.
  • IBM just published their CHRO study and found that only 42% of CHROs interviewed felt that they were effective at fostering employee engagement and commitment, and only 20% thought they were effective at addressing collaboration and information sharing challenges.

Technology is also having an impact. The vast majority of employees all have personal access to social media — and frequently use it to talk about work. Collaboration platforms and enterprise social networks like Chatter, Jive, and SharePoint/Yammer often connect employees at work. A rising plethora of employee advocacy platforms all aim to make it easier to engage and amplify the voices of employees. The biggest challenge that all of this technology creates is the expectation of openness and transparency that many organizations are still struggling with — at a theoretical level, they would love to see more employees speaking positively about the brand, but also worry about slips up like the most recent US Airway’s accidental porn tweet or HMV’s live tweeted firing dustup last year.

Three Types of Engagement for One Employee

To address these issues, we’ll be looking at employee engagement in three distinct areas, which typically involve three different activities, three different owners in the organization, and three different technology platforms. The problem: There’s ONE employee.

Three types of employee engagement

This evolving view of employee engagement boils down to the evolving relationship between the employer and employee – all aspects of work are changing in the face of this new dynamic. Digital engagement becomes not the end goal but the forcing function, providing a new context for the entire employee engagement strategy.

Our research will seek to answer questions for business leaders at the core of this conundrum:

  • How do I develop a coherent and effective employee engagement and advocacy strategy, rather than a series of initiatives? What are the elements of a holistic strategy?
  • How do I select, deploy, and integrate technology to create a foundation that also leads to and facilitates employee engagement and advocacy?
  • What new leadership skills and organizational structures will be needed to create better coordination of employee engagement across the organization?
  • How do I know that what I’m doing is working and making a difference? (The age-old measurement conundrum.)

How You Can Help Altimeter’s Research

Altimeter is committed to what we call “Open Research”. Rather than keep our research behind locked doors, we’re sharing this early peek with the hopes of getting external input. We’d love to hear about the following:

  • Strategic approaches to overall employee engagement. Does your organization take a strategic approach to employee engagement? What other functions in the business are you integrating?
  • Leadership and organization. What role does leadership have in the strategy? How are you breaking down silos across organizations to connect internal engagement with external advocacy?
  • Use of technologies. How did you decide which tools to use to support your strategy? How are you planning to connect internal and external employee engagement platforms — if at all? How are you integrating with existing enterprise systems?
  • Measurement and results. How do you connect your employee engagement strategy to business results? How do you think about measuring the overall strength and evolution of the employee relationship?

If you think you have a contribution that could be made, please fill out this very short form (also embedded below) so that we can collect your input in an orderly fashion. Please also note if you would be willing to be interviewed for best practices and case studies. All information collected will be used only for background purposes. We will seek specific and explicit permission for any information we intent to publish or use publicly. And of course, you are very welcome to email me or my colleague Jon Cifuentes if you have any questions or suggestions.

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The Twitter IPO: Some Initial Analysis

Twitter just tweeted that it has filed a confidential S-1, with the appropriate disclaimer. Here are a few reasons why this filing and IPO warrant close scrutiny.

  • Twitter is the last of the Big Four to go public. In the social networking ecosystem, Twitter is seen as a must have in terms of a social strategy, and is the only major player left that is still up for grabs — YouTube (owned by Google), LinkedIn (IPO), and Facebook (IPO) are all spoken for. Other upstarts like Pinterest are just getting started so Twitter is going to be the talk of the town into 2014, which is the earliest the IPO can be expected. There will be a certain “last call” mentality to the Twitter IPO that wasn’t there for Facebook.
  • Confidential filing gives Twitter control. Twitter took advantage of the JOBS Act pass last year, which allows firms with less than $1 billion in revenue to file an S-1 confidentially. This means that unlike Facebook, Twitter won’t be subjected to a microscopic dissection of every word of its filing. This is a good thing, because Twitter’s business model isn’t the easiest to explain. As Twitter begins the roadshow, they’ll be able to roll out their story to investors in a systematic, orderly way that enables them to tell their growth story to the world.
  • Timing and Friends benefit Twitter. Twitter should be saying a big “Thank You” to Facebook for carving out the path before them. Facebook has spent the past year educating the market about social media advertising, doing much of the heavy lifting and laying out the red carpet for Twitter.
  • Challenge: Twitter’s Advertising Model. The biggest challenge that Twitter has is that its main form of revenue comes from “sponsored tweets” which is a form of native advertising (see Altimeter’s just-published report on Native Advertising). The problem with these sponsored tweets is that they are not, at present, a standard ad format that can travel outside the Twitter platform. That makes ad buying — and scaling to media buyers — more difficult.
  • Discipline to Stick to the Business. The tweet that Twitter posted one minute after the “filing” one shows everyone at the computers with the next, Now, back to work.” The company has been preparing for this day, and realize that it’s a long, long slog for the next approximately six months before the actual IPO. The team will need discipline to focus on the work, rather than pulling out spreadsheets to calculate their potential net worth. Not an easy thing to do!

These are still early days, and I anticipate that we’ll learn a lot more about Twitter’s business over the next few weeks and months. I, for one, am eager to not just see the numbers, but also to hear their story. Because as one of the four foundational platforms of the social space, they have the ability to shape the future as they envision it unfolding. And the vision that Twitter CEO Dick Costello and his team roll out is sure to be interesting.

New Book: The Seven Success Factors of Social Business Strategy

I’m very proud to announce the publication of an eBook that I co-authored with Brian Solis, entitled “The Seven Success Factors of Social Business Strategy“.

Based on research as well as real-world experience with our clients, Brian and I found that there are common characteristics of successful social business strategies, the most important one being a laser focus on achieving business goals. In fact, the most successful businesses are those with an executive who can articulate the vision and strategy roadmap almost as well as the social strategist.

Here’s a summary of the Seven Success Factors of Social Business:

1.  Define the overall business goals. You can’t align your social strategy with your business objectives if you don’t even know what your objectives are.

2. Establish the long-term vision. If you’re not striving toward the end goal, you’re likely to veer off the path. If you want your team to fully invest in your social strategy — and you need the support of your entire team– you’ll need to communicate your vision with clarity and passion.

3. Ensure executive support. In the early days you may be able to fly under the radar, but at some point, if you want to truly have an impact on the business, you’ll need the backing and support of key executives.

4. Define the strategy roadmap. You already know your business objectives and have a clear vision. But how are you going to get there? Plan out your route, what roads you’ll travel, and what roads you’ll avoid.

5. Establish governance and guidelines. Who is responsible for executing the social strategy? What’s your process of listening and responding to your customers? If you clearly define this process and then stick to it, you’ll spend less tie floating along throughout the social sphere and more time strategizing your social growth.

6. Secure staff, resources, and funding. In the early stages of social growth, you might outsource your social media campaign to an agency, and that’s fine. But you should also be looking down the road and planning to develop internal resources to take your company to the next level as your social prowess — and your business — grows.

7. Invest in technology platforms that evolve. Resist the temptation to jump on the latest technology bandwagon before you have a long-term strategic plan in place. Hold off on making significant technology investments until you’re equipped with a sound vision and strategic plan.

The organizations we studied didn’t necessarily have each of these success factors fully developed; rather, we found that it was much more important that each factor was aligned with immediate and long-term business goals.

So ask yourself — how robust is your social strategy? As you look at each of the elements above, consider how well you are doing in each area. Score your social strategy on each factor on a scale of 1 (not doing it well at all) to 5 (knocking it out of the park). In the spirit of open discussion, I’d love hear how you scored yourself — where your strategy is strong, where you need to improve.

In the book, we go into detail about how to approach each success factor, illustrating the key elements with best practices and exercises, as well as common mistakes to avoid. One of my favorite sections is how to convince and even rally decision makers at the executive level. Brian and I also designed the book to be a quick but useful read — at only 100 pages it’s something that you can give to your team and executives and reasonable expect that they will actually read it!

Our hope is that the book will help you move from having a pile of social media tactics to having a social business strategy around which your entire organization is aligned. And if you need additional help crafting that strategy, Altimeter can also help with our Social Business Strategy service offerings.

More information and additional resources:

Upcoming Webinar: Thursday, August 15th 10am PT/1pm ET. Registration and details.

 

How To Create A Successful Social Business

Are you a social business? By this, I mean are you aligning your social strategy to business goals? In a new Altimeter Group Report, “The Evolution of Social Business“, my co-author Brian Solis and I found that this was not the case. Only 34% of businesses we surveyed felt that their social strategy was connected to business outcomes. Brian goes into detail about our findings in this post.

Our research found that organizations typically go through six stages of social business evolution. But this doesn’t mean that you have to wait until Stage 6 to realize business impact. Rather, it’s not only possible but crucial to focus on achieving business results right from the very beginning. The six stages are as follows (for a deeper dive into each, please download the report):

A great example of this from the report comes from Shell. They launched the Shell Facebook presence only in January 2012 and they mostly post content on the page and moderate comments. But they see tremendous benefit from this activity because their business goal is to understand and improve their reputation with customers and partners. They ask the question, “To what extent is Shell meeting customers’ energy needs in socially and environmentally responsible ways?” The key here is that this is not an effort isolated to Facebook — they measure reputation across ALL media channels so that they can see their activities impact reputation differently. Moreover, they measure this DAILY. Shell may be early in their social business journey, but they make sure that they see business impact from their efforts.

Creating Your Social Business Strategy

The focus on business goals is the key to having a coherent social business strategy, which we define as “the set of visions, goals, plans, and resources that align social media initiatives with business objectives”. That alignment and focus on business objectives forms the foundation for the strategy, no matter where the organization is on their evolution. Just 28% of respondents in our survey felt that they had a holistic approach to social media, where lines of business and business functions work together under a common vision. A mere 12% were confident they had a plan that looked beyond the next year. And, perhaps most astonishing, only half of all companies surveyed said that top executives were “informed, engaged and aligned with their companies’ social strategy.”

But there is hope. we found a set of best practices common across all development stages. We call these the Success Factors of a Social Business: 

  1. Define the overall business goal and align social media strategies against it.
  2. Establish the long-term vision for becoming a social business.
  3. Seek and earn key executive support and sponsorship based on the business case, not the trend.
  4. Beyond marketing and service campaigns, develop a list of prioritized initiatives that will demonstrate business value at the enterprise-level and in key functions/lines of business and plot them on a two-to-three year roadmap.
  5. Train and educate executives and employees not just how to use social media, but also how social media can impact business objectives and how to develop and run programs that do so continually.
  6. Get the right people involved at the right levels. An effective social business strategy takes a unified approach with cross-functional support. It’s a combination of social media savvy and business acumen.
  7. Invest in technology only after your vision and strategy are set. Technology and social media in general are only enablers to the overall mission and purpose you set forth.

Applying The Social Business Success Factors

From the research and from our work with clients, we have found that these success factors become especially important when the organization moves from one stage to the next. Some of the most common issues we’ve seen organizations face include:

  • Getting executives to buy into the social strategy — and fund it. Factors #1 and #2 which use business goals and a common vision to align the organization, become crucial. Sometimes this can be accomplished with a short education session, but more often, it requires that social strategy be built into the very fabric of the executive’s work and priorities. This is done only by strongly linking social activities to the 3-5 strategic goals that executives care about. If social doesn’t help the executive accomplish their mission critical goals, then it won’t ever make it on to their radar.
  • Creating a coherent strategy for social business. As crazy as it may sound, we’ve been working with clients to create three year roadmaps for their social business strategy. That’s not a typo, although it may seem impossible to do this in a fast-changing technology landscape. The key is to focus on the long-term strategic business goals of the organization and to make technology decisions ONLY after the vision and strategy are set.
  • Establishing governance. This is the perennial question, “Who owns social media?” This isn’t a simple issue determined by company size, maturity, or industry. It’s base much more on how the organization sees social playing a role in the company in the future, and creating a roadmap to bridge the reality of today to the future. One organization we worked with envisioned a multiple hub-and-spoke model with product and country teams. But to get there, they realized they needed to be temporarily centralized first, move into a basic hub-and-spoke with defined responsibilities, and a migration path for governance to pass into the spokes in a few years after training ensures that the skills and capabilities are in place.
  • Engaging and transforming the organization. This is perhaps the most challenging problem facing senior executives — they see the need to redesign and retool the organization for greater flexibility, adaptation to a changing landscape, and resilience in the face of increased competition. CEOs see social technologies as a way to harness and bring together employees, customers, and partners, but don’t have a roadmap to be able to do this.

By keeping in mind where you are in your social business evolution AND using the success factors, you’ll be able to start tackling some of these tricky issues. We’ve seen firsthand that this is not an easy journey, but it is one that you can successfully navigate. I’d love to hear how your journey is going — what stages are you in and have you encountered similar challenges? If so, how has our organization managed to move forward? Add your comments below or send me an email with details — we’re always looking for more case studies!

If you’d like to learn more about how Altimeter can help your organization move quickly and efficiently through the social business journey, please get in touch with us at sales@altimetergroup.com.