Digital maturity – what does great look like?

In observing how major companies are approaching the question of “digital transformation,” I have identified five levels of digital maturity (going from the basement floor [level 0] rising to the top of Excellence [level 4]). The interesting point about digital maturity is that it is an ever-moving target. {Tweet this}

What is acceptable today more than likely will no longer hold true tomorrow. Benchmarking against what digitally sophisticated teams and brands have been doing means that you are only playing catch-up. Moreover, whatever digital initiatives you undertake should be specific to your brand and your objectives. While it is necessary to overhaul and/or update websites at a fixed point in time, the bigger challenge is to establish a constant-learning environment such that the next update is a leapfrog of technologies, functionality or design. {Tweet this}

How digitally mature is your company?Digital Maturity - myndset digital strategy

At this given point in time (February 2015), here are some signs to help identify where your organization is, based on seven criteria, which basically drill down through the business. Through the prism of these 7 criteria, looking at certain characteristics (behavioral, whenever possible), any company might find itself doing well in some areas, but not in others. Essentially, the route to digital transformation is a state of mind and one that will require great corporate and mental agility to keep up with the changing times. {Tweet this}

Level 0: In the basement

  • Digital maturity level 0 myndsetLeadership – At this level, there is a general lack of digital awareness. The leadership is, if not in denial, unconvinced about the need to “digitalize.”
  • Organization – This type of organization likely does not have a strong marketing fiber.
  • Governance* – The handshake is the most important decision-making tool.
  • Culture – Management is possibly satisfied that it does not have any need to use digital tools. It can be that either the associated risk is deemed too heavy or there may be a belief that the client base is not using digital tools and platforms. The organization is a very hierarchical.
  • Digital marketing – Digital marketing is too geeky, social media is considered gimmicky, and any communications are designed merely as a one-way channel to control the message. At best, there is a poorly managed LinkedIn profile.
  • Website – There is a static website, that is an eye-sore on the mobile.
  • E-commerce – WTF, as Brian Solis might say.

Key conclusions

: Many niche businesses may feel that any digital opportunities are not worth the effort. Especially in areas where the scope of clients and network is extremely tight, exclusive and/or reclusive, the digital opportunity may well be irrelevant (for now). These organizations are destined, almost by definition, to stay ultra niche. Otherwise, the risk is disappearance. The most likely area of opportunity resides in internal communications.

*Governance: decision-making processes, risk management, crisis management, supply chain management, shareholder communications …

Level 1: At the Ground Floor looking up

  • Digital maturity level 1 myndsetLeadership – The executive team uses Blackberry (for work). The reigning attitude is: digital is hardly pertinent for my business. No one on the executive team has a presence on any social network.
  • Organization – People responsible for digital are not generally integrated in the team. Customer service is outsourced or treated as a low-level part of the enterprise. HR is leading the “digital transformation” via rudimentary training programs. Departments are distinctly siloed.
  • Governance* – Decision-making remains very slow and deliberate. What social media guidelines are in place are poorly understood. There is no clear social media escalation policy.
  • Culture - To trial is to fail. Accountability is diffuse.
  • Digital marketing – The digital marketing strategy is still in its early stages. Any presence on social media is, at best, a number’s game; at worst, it is considered as another outlet to push out interruptive messages. The majority of the digital marketing budget is injected into the website. The communication/advertising agencies of record continue to promote big budget films and expensive photo shoots. Celebrity spokespeople are considered hands down the best choice versus “those irrelevant bloggers.”
  • Website – The website is bereft of a social media presence and any form of interactivity. It’s slow to load and/or too institutional in tone. Updates are rare and/or limited to auto-promotion. No mobile-friendly site.
  • Ecommerce – Non-existent.

Key conclusions

: Intellectually, the company and its C-suite has registered that digital is important. However, it is far from a true priority. Your company needs to get with the program quickly. As this Fortune article, by Faisal Hoque, identified: Adapt or Die. Start by getting the digital strategy seriously on the executive committee’s agenda.

Level 2: Pushed the Up button

  • Digital maturity level 2 myndsetLeadership – The C-suite has doted itself with a ‘head of digital,’ for example a Chief Digital Officer; but, that person has yet to find his/her place on the executive committee. No one on the executive committee has an active social media presence. The CTO is still working with legacy systems. Questions about products and system infrastructure are more easily and frequently treated than services and corporate mindset. The business model is never called into question.
  • Organization – A digital Centre of Excellence exists. The company is exploring the concept of a Startup Lab. The eCommerce or Omnichannel department is swelling in numbers. Customer service is moving toward a dedicated social media channel. However, overall, the company remains with organization charts and principles that come from an era of channel segmentation.
  • Governance – Decision-making remains very hierarchical, but efforts are under foot to become more agile. A social media policy is in place and training has been provided. Social media dashboards focus on the number of fans and followers versus engagement levels and leads generated.
  • Culture –Diversity (age, sex and race…) is more figurative than literal. There is more or less lip service to customer centricity. Best practice sharing within the company focuses only on the victories. Responsibility for ‘digital’ remains a top-down directive.
  • Digital marketing – The CEO has declared that a certain percentage of marketing must be “digital.” Beyond website maintenance and hosting, Google adwords and Facebook ads take up disproportionately large amounts of the digital marketing budget. Twitter is, at best, an afterthought. Many digital activities seem to exist in isolation of business objectives or are the direct output of a senior manager’s directive. CRM is still a buzzword.
  • Website – A decent interface, if a little slow to load. Navigation remains a bit cumbersome. The site is at least responsive for the mobile interface. Social buttons are hidden down at the bottom of the page. Updates and news are generally ‘push’ notifications.
  • Ecommerce – Separate channel. Not integrated into the business.

Key conclusions

: Digital is strategic, but remains a work in progress, with only a moderate grasp of the implications for the whole business. The key challenge is making sure that the digital initiatives are plugged into achieving business objectives in a credible manner, with the appropriate resources.

Level 3: Elevator Rising

  • Digital maturity level 3 myndsetLeadership – The C-suite now includes a Chief Customer Officer, because the Chief Digital Officer is no longer needed. The presence of younger, more digitally savvy employees — as well as customers — is a regular feature at board meetings. The CIO and the CMO, who work together with great complicity, are vying for the top job. If not the CEO, several members of the Executive Committee have an active presence online (social media, blog…). Leadership is keenly aware of the new for the best digitally savvy talent.
  • Organization – Digital is now embedded throughout the value chain, where responsibility for digital is just another part of the job description. Customer service is a key part of the business (listening, metrics) and reports into the CEO. Organizational changes are frequent and project management is the modus operandi.
  • Governance – The executive performance dashboard is focused on the key unified business metrics: NPS, Average Revenue Per User… The AGILE mindset is now common throughout the organization. Cross-functional project management is the norm. Employees are evaluated on their ability to test, fail quickly and learn fast. Social media training is done online with frequent updates and webinars. A distinct and minimal line has been carved out to distinguish the critically sensitive data, in order to enable a more open and sharing attitude. A social media war room exists at headquarters to serve as a listening laboratory and innovation center.
  • Culture – Experimentation is common. Topics revolving around the customer take up half of senior executive time. The internal social media platform (‘intranet’) is vibrant with everyone in the organization using it with abundant ease. A healthy BYOD policy is established. Office space is more congenial and accommodates a more “geeky” environment and work hours.
  • Digital marketing – Digital marketing is just “marketing.” All digital activity is a natural element of achieving business objectives. Some operations are 100% digital. All marketing operations are fully integrated with intermingled off and online activities. The single customer view is a top priority. Community management is managed expertly within the organization.
  • Website – The websites are in constant flux. The mobile version is not just responsive, but enhanced with pertinent apps and functionalities. Personalization for each customer is becoming a reality. Customer Experience is modeled on the customer journey with constant feedback loops. The Contact Us telephone number is visible at the top of the home page.
  • Ecommerce – Ecommerce is fully integrated into the business. Click & Collect is a reality. Ecomm terminals exist within the offline store network.

Key conclusions

: The CEO and her executive team have a critical role in taking the business to the next level. At this level, the digital transformation is well underway. Moving to the next level will depend largely on the mindset of the individuals in place. The strength of the brand (and its core values) is also vital.

Level 4: Penthouse Panorama

  • Digital maturity level 4 myndsetLeadership – All members of the top executive team are obsessed with the customer experience. Most of the C-suite is active on social media platforms of choice. All execs are happily part geek. Fifty percent of their time is spent on strategy and/or free-thinking (creative, brainstorming, tinkering, discovering). As Tom Peters would say, they embrace the S.A.V. mode, aka Screw Around Vigorously.
  • Organization – The org chart of the company is crafted in a bespoke fashion, possibly according to the customer journey. Digital no longer features in the job description.
  • Governance – Escalation policies are managed with the help of the community. 15-minute meetings are the norm, notably to facilitate a growing number of cross-functional/department tele-conference calls. Individuals within the organization have responsibility for the protection of their data (customer and personal). Each subsidiary is equipped with a social media ‘war room.’
  • Culture – A model of a learning organization. Learning is ongoing with mentoring and reverse mentoring a regular feature. Year-end interviews are based on behaviors (values based, learning and teaching…), and trying hard enough such that there are accomplished failures. Employees, who are hired and fired based on a set of de facto values, are the company’s biggest fans and all participate in the company’s external social media presence. New gadgets and tools are trialed and adopted with great speed.
  • Digital marketing – Single customer view, around the world is a reality. According to the strength and positioning of the brand, each customer has the right to high-touch personalization. CRM emphasizes the R of relationship. The latest startups (new technologies and innovations) are keen to partner with you.
  • Website – Mobile-first or even mobile-only (according to the sector). The website is a critical hub providing a seamless brand and commerce platform.
  • Ecommerce – Ecommerce is an integral part of the business mix. Innovation and service are benchmarked against offline. The Mobile Commerce Director is legitimately vying to become CMO.

Key conclusions

: At this level, the brand/company probably has a rallying purpose that thoroughly galvanizes the team. This organization is already working on the next generation of devices with an ability to review openly its business model. Opportunities abound and the best talent is applying to join. The key will be keeping a focus on the best opportunities and not veering too far from the company’s core mission.

How do you think you stack up against these levels? Are they relevant to you? Your inputs and thoughts are most welcome.

4 thoughts on “Digital maturity – what does great look like?

  1. Hi Minter
    That’s a great way for a company to rapidly self assess which dimension they are in, and as you always do, some great clarifying examples you’ve given.
    I’d agree with most of the statements too (love the ref to the handshake being the most important tool in level 0 btw).
    We originally had five states when we did the Econsultancy one a few years back, but decided it was better to give companies a ‘between stages’ state and just have three.
    I think what’s key is that companies start to ask the question “Are we really digitally native? or naive? and if were not what does it mean for the future of our business?”.
    Having some kind of benchmark helps companies figure out where they are and where they need to be. I don’t think it matters too much what it looks like as long as it works for them. More importantly is the ‘so what now?’, and I think that’s the bit that most companies (will) crave, especially if it involves true digital transformation since that’s going to be very culture and behaviour centric on the inside and outside.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Peter. I wonder how many big companies are ever going to be digitally native…? It’s true that each company is on a continuum. So, what now, indeed?!

    Stand still and you will fall behind.

  3. Great post. Clearly, the companies that have been the most under siege will be the fastest to move. Moving from 3 to 4 seems like a long way to go.

  4. Pingback: The Making Of A Digital Board of Directors

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.