Top 7 Challenges CMOs Face Implementing Digital Transformation and How to Overcome Them


Digital transformation is the next frontier in business development for large organizations. From optimizing your digital marketing channels to finding creative ways to develop new apps and software for your customers, today’s most important innovation is happening in the digital space. Increasingly Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are finding themselves on the front lines, leading the charge to implement digital transformation initiatives. But the process often requires out of the box thinking, ruthless strategic prioritization, and the ability to craft and communicate a big vision. What are the most common obstacles that you’re likely to face in this role and how can you overcome these objections?

Important But Not Urgent: The Digital Transformation Paradox

Is digital transformation one of your company’s strategic priorities? MIT’s Sloan School of Management recently conducted a study that led to a startling insight: 78% of surveyed executives stated that digital transformation was essential for their organization’s growth. Yet 63% said that the current speed of innovation at their companies was too slow, and the number one cited reason was a “lack of urgency.” Many organizations struggle with the idea that digital initiatives are their own separate work stream, rather than something that’s fundamental to the very DNA of the company’s operations and product development.

Establishing and communicating a clear vision for digital transformation can help begin to address this problem. What does digital mean in the context of your organization? How will it benefit each stakeholder, especially your customers? Can you define the positive financial impact that it will have on your business? A clear and comprehensive vision can unify your executive team and set the tone and focus for where your employees focus their efforts.

Focusing on the Customer Experience

Taking your company digital happens on many levels. It impacts internal processes. It influences new product development. Executives, staff, vendors and most importantly customers all feel the effects. But it’s important that strategic decisions around digital transformation focus specifically on how they’ll impact your customer experience. The payoff is real. Forrester Research has defined a customer experience-oriented company as an enterprise that “focuses its strategy, its energy, and its budget on processes that enhance knowledge of and engagement with customers and prioritizes these over maintaining traditional competitive barriers.”

Companies that fit into this category outperformed the Standard and Poor’s Index over a six year period, with a comparative cumulative return of 43% versus 14% for the S&P 500 Index. CMOs can take this lesson to heart. Do you take a systematic, measurable approach to the customer experience and its relationship to digital initiatives? How will digital improvements help you create a better customer experience? Finding a clear relationship between these two priorities has two benefits: it clarifies where you should be focusing your energy and helps ensure a positive ROI.

Identifying Bottlenecks Throughout the Organization

If you’re encountering resistance in your organization to an increased focus on digital, it’s often based on a fear of change. Staff don’t understand how digital technologies can benefit both company performance and their own positions. As CMO, it’s critical that you address these issues head on. Develop a high-level map of what your organization looks like and how digital transformation will impact each business are. What will it mean for your customer service department or your IT organization, for example? What kinds of digital initiatives have the priority – process improvements, new product development, or enhanced customer service?

Identify the bottlenecks to moving forward. Is the resistance centered around specific individuals, processes, or departments? With a clear understanding of your roadblocks, it’s possible to dig down, understand what’s causing them, and create a roadmap forward.

Demonstrating the ROI of Digital Transformation

As an advocate for change and digital transformation within your organization, demonstrating ROI is one of your top concerns. Yet the 2014 CMO Survey found that just 36% of chief marketing officers felt that they had successfully made the case for digital transformation and only 29% had demonstrated the long-term value. As CMO, you have high-level insights into which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are essential for your business.

Define how the continued digital evolution of your company will play a role in reaching these KPIs. Focus on specific examples and metrics for improving productivity, growing market share, and reducing costs. Making the argument using industry-specific and technology-specific research and case studies will ensure that your plans feel both relevant and achievable to your company’s unique context.

Embracing the Mobile Mindshift

Consumers are experiencing a mind shift to mobile. Processes that once happened in person, like shopping and banking, are moving increasingly to digital devices. Software that was once used on a PC or laptop now needs to be accessible on smartphones and tablets. People are using mobile devices to write books, edit spreadsheets, submit expenses, and access their company’s most important information. In the US alone, 90% of adults own a cellphone; 64% own a smartphone; and 42% own a tablet. Serving today’s customers requires understanding that mobile adoption will only increase and that companies need to keep pace in all areas of their operations.

CMOs can start supporting the mobile shift by ensuring that they understand how mobile devices impact their customers’ journey. How, when, and why are your customers using mobile to interact with your brand? It’s important to look at how hardware, software, and applications can be engineered with mobile in mind. Finally, develop ongoing monitoring programs that allow you to continuously measure and optimize mobile engagement and the mobile user experience. Proactively planning for the mobile future will help put your company in a winning position.

Hiring the Right Talent

Undertaking an enterprise-level digital transformation initiative requires the right talent. Whether it’s migrating your data to the cloud or having the programming capacity to create cutting-edge applications for your audience, technical talent is key. From developers to communicators who can bridge the gap between the tech and business worlds, digital awareness and savvy needs to become a core hiring requirement for all positions within the organization.

With respect to filling specific positions, managing costs and developing expertise are critical concerns. Outsourcing these functions to an experienced partner such as net solutions allows you to augment your team’s capabilities with expertise in programming, mobile, cloud-based technology, analytics, and social business.

Managing the Flow of Data into Insights

As digital approaches to doing business become more prevalent at your company, you’re going to be stepping into Big Data territory. The amount of information that’s generated by systems today can overwhelm any organization. Companies today have the capability to uncover novel and important sources of data. What’s important is ensuring that you have the culture, talent, and organizational vision needed to turn that data into insights.

The most successful companies see data at the core of everything they do. Real-time market feedback, website analytics, and other sources of information become a mirror that helps executives determine how effective their efforts are and what pivots need to be made going forward. When insights are tested and then put into practice, it creates effective feedback loops that refine how productive your organization can be. Set a clear analytical agenda to measure the effectiveness of digital initiatives and guide their development in the future.

Are you ready to take the next step in your organization’s digital transformation? Contact Net Solutions today to learn more about our solutions and services or to arrange for a personalized consultation.

Rohit Dogra

About the Author

Rohit Dogra leads Marketing at Net Solutions. He is an evangelist for Inbound Marketing and has a rich experience (close to a decade) in various roles which includes Marketing, Presales, Sales and Business Development. He is passionate about sharing his knowledge and experiences while consulting his clients on developing web and mobile based solutions for their business. He also loves to spend a lot of time with fellow colleagues, share his experiences with them as well as learn from their experiences in life. When he is not working, he loves to spend time with his son, cycle around the city and going for long walks. You can reach him via Twitter, his twitter handle is @rohitdogra

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