Firms continue to accelerate their digital capabilities. But as customer interactions and internal operations continually increase organizational reliance on technology, a surprising number of CEOs and Boards have been slow to fully embed digital leaders into the development of corporate strategy. These omissions can be incredibly costly, both in terms of failing to leverage the firm assets and misjudging the speed at which companies can capitalize on market opportunities.
This article will explore a few examples of how the missteps play out, and, more importantly, how they can be avoided.
Reliance on tech begins with how firms interact with customers.
There has long been broad acceptance that B2C brands need a direct digital relationship with consumers. This sentiment has not always extended to B2B, partially a reflection of direct sales forces built on human relationships.
The oldest Millennials turn 39 next year, however, and now represent over half of B2B buyers. These individuals live on their phones and are often over halfway through the buying process before contacting a human. In short, all businesses now go to market digitally, whether intentional or not.
In this environment, digital marketing strategy – the broad interplay of SEO, paid search, web / mobile / social and downstream lead generation – dictates to a large extent the composition, size and quality of a firms’ funnel.
This digital ecosystem is evolving at incredible speed. The assets a firm has at its disposal, such as the volume of historical blog posts, URL age and the maturity of digital marketing platforms, determine what is both realistic – and even possible – at a strategic level.
Failing to understand and incorporate the implications of these assets, many of which, like whiskey, can’t be rushed to maturity, can lead firms to choose strategies that either neglect structural advantages or rely on tactical necessities that will be challenging to bridge.
Today’s data-driven sales process.
Looking downstream to sales, successful account executives have always required a combination of discipline, perseverance and charm. This has not changed. What is now different, however, is the reliance of sales strategy on data dexterity and underlying enterprise systems.
The interplay of geographies, SKUs and customers can lead Boards to rightfully identify a myriad of market approaches that are theoretically possible. But these strategies often rely on the ability to draw insights from complex data sets packaged in ways sales reps can make them actionable.
A simple example is cross-selling, which requires unified, cleansed SKU, customer and order history data and a CRM platform extensible enough to engage with reps in a rich dialogue. Firms who do not fully understand their true starting point may require 12 – 24 months to roll out a strategy, at which point the market might have moved on.
Strong tech leadership at the Board level is critical.
In a world where the winning strategy is more and more driven by the ability to execute rapidly, the composition and extensibility of a firm’s enterprise applications is paramount. Historically, this was a relatively straightforward dialogue: “Can our ERP do this today? If not, how long will an appropriate customization take?”
The past five years, however, have seen a massive fragmentation of application landscapes: many firms now run over 200 applications, and the average number of apps per firms has doubled. This richness has meaningfully increased what is possible. But it has also introduced much more optionality and variability in terms of risk and speed.
In short, winning strategies have always included a strong dose of market and customer knowledge. But for strategies to be sound, they must leverage firms’ structural advantages and be sensitive to immutable impediments, many of which are not obvious to smart people one degree removed from company systems.
Embedding a strong dialogue between technology leaders and the CEO / Board therefore becomes the best way to chart a smooth, expedient course to blue water.
At Infosys Consulting, this is an area we are very passionate about and something we’d love to discuss with you in more detail.
Managing Partner & Global Head, Infosys Consulting
Mark joined technology leader Infosys in December 2018 to lead its thriving global Consulting business. As Managing Partner, he guides the firm’s overall strategy and direction, leads a global network of 3,000 highly-talented consultants, works hands-on with clients that are some of the biggest and most well-known brands in the world, and drives the organization’s growth agenda and transformation into an innovative digital services leader.
Mark is a highly-experienced consulting leader who spent much of his career at Deloitte, A T Kearny and Cognizant. He has worked with top-tier clients across a number of industry sectors on large-scale transformations, board-level strategy and turn-around programs, and was the chief architect in building a global consulting organization into a $1 billion business for Cognizant.
Mark started his career in the United States Air Force where he was a nuclear missile launch officer. After the military, Mark then spent 13 years at A.T. Kearney where he was the global leader of the strategic IT and business transformation practices. He also served as the Dallas office managing partner and eventually became the CEO for their Latin America business, based out of Sao Paulo, Brazil.