4 pathways for accelerating marketing, sales & service transformation

by Abhik Sengupta

For those of us working in or with large enterprises, the word ‘transformation’ is a very familiar one.  Almost every organisation we speak to is either contemplating, or in the middle of executing a transformation program around the common goal of keeping pace with their digitally empowered customers. All of them are on their own unique path facing challenges around time, complexity and capability, which inevitably slow the digital transformation process down. So, how do you accelerate your transformation journey in the face of these challenges? We’ve had the opportunity to lead and observe numerous transformation programs and have identified 4 common pathways that help accelerate change, which I’ll explore further in this post.  

The best transformation path for your business generally depends on where your organisation currently is in the maturity process. This is because transformation is different for everyone and is dependent on a myriad of external and internal factors. Buyer evolution, digital disruption, changes in technology, competitor actions, regulatory pressures, management capacity, organisational capability and internal complexity are just some of the factors at play. Marketing divisions need to gain buy-in for digital initiatives and must figure how to deliver personalisation at scale, while salespeople have to gain new insights and acumen in order to engage with today’s buyer. As these divisions mature, the challenges become even more prominent, especially around integrating them into one execution engine focused around the customer.

So how do you accelerate transformation?

We use the Blackdot Operational Maturity/Business Imperative (OMBI) framework to assess where an organisation is in its transformation journey. On the horizontal axis, we assess the operational maturity of a business in terms of people, process and technology and how well they match the core mission of executing in the evolving market environment. On the vertical axis is the business imperative to change – covering both management focus, as well as frontline alignment. Like any good two-dimensional framework, the ideal, of course is to the get to the Utopian state in the top right-hand corner. Depending on how an organisation has evolved, it can sit in one of 4 areas within the matrix, which in turn determines the optimal pathway for it to accelerate its transformation journey.Diagram.jpg

Pathway 1: Disciplined Start

Organisations that identify with Pathway 1 are generally in the early stages of transformation and are typically not facing immediate pressure to change from customers and competitors. As a result, there is a low imperative to change within the business and the investments have not yet been made to grow operational maturity. To gain traction for their transformation initiatives, it is important for the organisation to set up the case for the transformation well and execute an initial pilot with the right scope and resourcing.

Pathway 2: Rapid Operational Reinvention

Businesses that identify with Pathway 2 usually have a high business imperative but a low operational maturity. This is often caused by a disruptive external change that has caused management or the frontline to sit up and take notice. For example, this could be an observable change in how the customer base is buying or an innovative new competitor is capturing market share quickly. This is quite an empowering position for a business to find themselves in, as the energy and motivation are already present within key internal stakeholders. The challenge here is how to quickly deliver on the right operating infrastructure to harness and enable this momentum.

Pathway 3: Organisational Reset

Pathway 3 is often the result of a derailed transformation. Operational maturity is high indicating some progress on the transformation journey but the business imperative has dropped. A common situation is when a business has embarked on a new technology implementation, which has not gone well. This could be a new platform implemented badly or an inadequate change management strategy. As a result, frontline staff will have lost belief in the platform and have probably stopped using it to its full potential. The challenge here is to maintain management focus and win back frontline trust and belief.

Pathway 4: Data-Driven ‘double-down’

Organisations identifying with Pathway 4 are already in a good place. They have relatively high business imperative and operational maturity and have fully or partially executed a transformation program and realised some benefits from it. The challenge here lies in harnessing existing momentum and continuing to optimise customer and business outcomes to take the business from good to great.

Each of these pathways reflects a different situation in which organisations find themselves through the course of a transformation journey. The challenges are vastly different for each organisation, implying different actions and different priorities in order to take the next step towards customer-centricity.