Renewing the marketing department for the digital age

lan609 in search of edge computing

There’s no end of talk about digital disruption, digital transformation and about their impacts on customer service and marketing: omnichannel; customer journey mapping; customer analytics; etc. What get’s less attention is how marketing organisations need to restructure themselves to adopt and exploit these technology-driven changes.

The Harvard Business Review is trying to fill that gap with a study: Designing a Marketing Organisation for the Digital Age. HBR interviewed thought leaders, industry experts and chief marketing executives “to discover how leading-edge marketing organisations are dealing with these challenges.”

In summary its conclusions are: since targets are moving quickly, forward-looking organisations are building fluid and nimble structures to seize opportunities and keep pace with change. They are also creating stronger connections with key partners across their organisations, especially IT, sales and customer service. And the mandate to improve customer experience is emerging as a catalyst for marketing executives to leverage their skill sets in larger roles within their companies.

“In the digital era, markets are changing faster than are most marketing organisations,” the report said. “To pick up the mantle of digital age marketing, its leaders must revamp how their organisations work and interact with other parts of the enterprise.”

The good news for marketeers is that the report envisages greatly increased importance for the chief marketing officer role. “The new business has changed everything for the CMO,” it says. “Because sales, services and customer care connect brands directly to consumers, companies now require deeper and broader knowledge of their customers than ever before.

The CMO is becoming the company’s most important agent in driving its approach to growth. That knowledge has moved the CMO from a role focused primarily on communications to one of direct involvement in every part of the business.”

The report listed three decisive steps that forward-looking marketing leaders are taking to prime their organisations for the new challenges ahead: building speed and flexibility through teams; working across organisational boundaries; changing the talent mix.

There are some interesting real-world examples to emphasise the key points. For example, the report contends: “A tight working relationship with IT is essential if marketing is to keep its focus on acquiring customers and building profitable relationships with them.

It then relates the story of Eduardo Contrado who, as chief marketing officer of Motorola Solutions, endeavoured to learn about IT to close the gap between IT and marketing. As a result, he was put in charge of IT to accelerate digital transformation and later appointed chief strategy and innovation officer.

The report suggests that the traditional departmental silos will give way to more cross-functional teams and that the leadership skills that worked for silos won’t work with these cross-functional teams.  “When structures are fluid and networked, authority can become more diffused. … Under such circumstances authority and influence come mainly from shared ideas and knowledge,” it suggests.

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