Most digitalisation projects fail because they lack a solid strategy, optimal delivery mechanism, and good people management and change management, according to Rias Atter, VP program management, transformation, integration, and continuous improvement of Caesars Entertainment Corporation, US. Speaking at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s Digital Marketing Asia 2020 conference this morning, Atter said that while data is often hailed as the golden ticket to all digitalisation efforts, "the explosion of data in the world now is creating a poverty of attention” – especially for marketing teams who are now sitting on goldmines of data.
To turn that poverty into riches, companies need to leverage modern technology to gain competitive advantage. This is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes to the rescue. “Until recently, computers were unable to mimic what the human beings were able to do. But now, computers are extremely powerful," he said. Marketers need to incorporate different layers of automation and AI into their marketing strategy to increase efficiency and boost productivity and of course, cut through the clutter to reach the consumer.
These layers of automation can range from incorporating a simple algorithm to make minor decisions, to using it to transform data into information, machine learning, and eventually cognitive automation. All of these can help increase the brand’s output value, with less effort.
Automation and AI may seem like a daunting process to embark on that requires a lot of thought, but Atter urges brands to innovate boldly and take educated risk, instead of waiting until they are fully certain.
"When it comes to technology, try to innovate and take educated risk. Don't wait until it's perfect. Iterate your solution, seek customer input, power your digital solution and think about the future,” he said.
Pushing back resistance
Ultimately, to ensure business change, different department heads need to “hold hands with other operational leaders” and make a business case, he explained.
“Don't just think about today, think about the future and align goals between the business, IT and marketing and all the other functions. This is extremely, extremely important," he said. Before heading into a boardroom to make a business case, marketers and digital transformation specialists need to ensure they can show tangible ROI and a plan for “the intangibles” to be transformed into tangible.
“Create an alliance before you go to the CEO or the board,” he said. Business cases need to be made with “no gaps, ifs, buts and maybes”.
“Business leaders are not fools. They understand and are highly experienced and educated so they know when somebody is putting lipstick on a pig. Go straight to the point and make a case for a small pilot test or trial that works as an incubator to replicate that experience. Start with a small subset and go with a stronger case,” he added.
Companies also need to have an achievable harmonised digital roadmap and not “multiple pieces of the puzzle”. To ensure longevity and sustainability of this roadmap, companies need to build on their internal talent because outsourcing or using a consultancy, specifically in the technology area, can be expensive.
Moreover, should an initiative no longer match the brand's overall objectives, marketers shouldn't be afraid to put in place a sunset criteria. "Deliver what is only true value for your customers. Don't paint everything gold, just deliver what actually is of value for your customers. Go with small steps and leap into that giant future," he said. Although technology and digitalisation can give brands a competitive edge, Atter said the heart of all technological adoption, should go back to how brands can value-add to consumers. At the end of the day, it is a must to take on a consumer-centric mindset.
Build your culture and people
According to Atter, when it comes to digital transformation, many companies get caught up on the shiny new toys and technologies in the market and forget about the people element. “Businesses embark on their strategy but forget that the strategy is only as good as the people who implemented it. And the people are only good if the culture allows them to be who they are,” he said.
Ultimately, to drive a good healthy positive culture, leaders must align their project management steps with their change management steps. And this is almost always missed because many companies start change management at the 11th hour.
“Change management should always go hand in hand with project management when you execute your initiatives,” he added.
Diversity and inclusion is another extremely important facet often overlooked during digital transformation. Atter said that it is important to have people from different colors, cultures, backgrounds and genders as diversity is proven to increase bottom line. With people of different backgrounds and cultures, you can have new ideas or see things you may have otherwise missed.
“Cultural diversity and inclusion almost always wins. It brings out-of-the-box thinking to the organisation and different market perspectives from different experiences based on culture, lifestyle and background. Input becomes unbelievably important and becomes a solid piece in the strategy – I have seen diversity improve bottom line every single time,” he said.
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