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How marketers can get tricky digital transformation projects off the ground

Digital transformation (DT) has somewhat become a buzzword over the last couple of years and the conversation skyrocketed when COVID forced brands online. The thing is, it may be a popular conversation but not everyone is excelling at its execution. Digital transformation can be a tricky process and any marketer who’s been through it can tell you that it’s not always a glamorous ride to the finish line. Contrary to popular belief, the issue isn't that digital transformation is too hard, it's that the process lacks strategy. These types of projects require careful thinking, forethought and collaboration between multiple teams. So what can marketers do to ensure their project makes it off the ground?

1. Take a phased approach to large digital transformation projects

Businesses are constantly evolving and what was true six months ago may be different to now. Digital transformation projects can take months or even years to come to life, so it’s important that they’re flexible enough to reflect the current, evolving and future needs of the business. There’s no use in launching an outdated tool simply because the project structure was too rigid to account for the business’ changing needs. Instead, a phased approach should be considered. This allows marketers to work with their digital agency to set goals, understand what the final vision looks like and work to achieve it in a flexible way that allows for tweaks wherever needed. Marketers and digital agencies should work together to discuss what a successful phase one looks like and collaborate to achieve this. The beauty of a phased approach is in the ability to analyse the performance of the first phase, assess where the business is at and where it needs to be, then make relevant changes. Phasing a project ensures it is flexible enough to be developed and launched in iterations so that it can move in the same direction of the changing business. Not only is this a great technique for the overall success of a project, this strategy removes huge amounts of pressure for the marketing lead; a win-win!

2. Lead with strategy and lean on your project management team

Digital transformation projects can be intricate and marketers may find themselves leaning on different members of the team where they may not have anticipated their involvement. As the detail of a project unfolds, it can be easy to get lost or overwhelmed in all of the options. Where multiple teams are collaborating, it can also be difficult to keep everyone on the same page. Knowing your overarching strategy and being able to refer back to it can be helpful to keep you and your team on track. 

Thoughtful strategy and smart project management go hand in hand. Project management is essentially the execution of a strategy and typically, it’s the team that keeps everything on track - don’t underestimate their value. The key to getting a DT project off the ground is to strategically execute a solution that hits the correct business KPIs at the right time. Ask yourself and your team, what does the business need at this point in time? Then manipulate the process to best serve the need. For intricate digital transformation projects where multiple teams are involved, rely on your project management team to optimise the process. Ask them what tasks can be done simultaneously and see where efficiencies can be made. The process of understanding what the business needs and how to plan for this in a timely manner is an essential skill. It allows marketers to execute goals at the right time, iterate, learn and improve. 

3. Choose a trustworthy digital partner 

This one is essential. The nature of the pitch process in our industry means that marketers will likely have to sift through some dirt to find the gold. Tech is magnificent and can do many things but knowing exactly what it does and how it will serve your business is more important than half the fluff you’ll be served in a pitch. Don’t get side-tracked by glamorous projects if there isn’t a clear result or if the creativity doesn’t serve your business. I love a creative idea as much as the next person but it needs to be backed by strategy and validated with evidence. 

When looking for a digital partner, search for quality reviews from other digital marketers. Better yet, if you can find a provider who has worked with similar businesses or in the same industry and has the reviews to back them, they’re probably a safe bet. Once you’ve done the initial vetting, the next step is to consider who has really taken the time to know your business. We know that strategy and multifaceted collaboration is key to success, so it’s essential you’re not bringing in an outsider who hasn’t done their homework. Look for a partner who will act as an extension of your business and fit seamlessly with other team members. Reliability accounts for more than skills, it’s personality, accountability and a mutual ambition to get the job done well.

With the right partner, tricky digital transformation projects shouldn’t cause marketers to shudder. Instead, it should be regarded as an exciting opportunity for both the client and the agency. With the right strategy in place, digital marketers will be equipped for success at all times, regardless of how quickly or slowly the business evolves.

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