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It’s time to stop rewarding mediocrity

Di Mayze Managing Director

Too often, innovative ideas are shut down with responses like “These proposals get discussed once a month so come back on the 21st.” It’s so frustrating when there’s still a big gap between IT and “the Business”. Or when getting any investment approved takes so long that you give up fighting for it and move on to something easier. Businesses constantly reward mediocrity, creating a culture of head-down, business-as-usual conduct, rather than rewarding the innovators and risk takers. They get squashed and silenced until they lose the will to fight.

This article sets out to share the five most common themes we see across many of our clients, and aims to reassure you all that it’s not just X-Factor contestants who are on “a journey”, most of you are too.

1. You all have sad tales of failed projects

Most companies have emotional baggage, and many of their employees do too. All too often, we get told that we need to hold back and be patient as a result of some transformation programme that has gone wrong, resulting in the company not evolving as anticipated. We see this across IT, marketing and programme teams. And, while failed IT transformation seems to create the most baggage, analyst firm Gartner reckons that over half of all analytics projects fail because they aren’t completed within budget or on schedule, or because they fail to deliver the features and benefits that are expected. The result is that some organisations have become fearful of big projects, holding back when it comes to addressing transformation and innovation.

Companies need to reward employees who take risks, who embrace change, push boundaries, and encourage trying new approaches. As one of my previous bosses said to me after a rather embarrassing failure: “You try something you get two points, you fail you lose one, that’s still more than you’d get if you hadn’t tried at all.” This has stayed with me, and in a world of “test and learn,” a failure should be reframed as a learning outcome without too much drama.

2. There’s a chance you’re going to be stuffed in May 2018

It’s a bad time for the data laws to change. Companies are just getting to grips with personalisation, omni-channel marketing, and single view of the customer – and now the law changes to make that a risky and nerve-wracking process. Companies aren’t really prepared for the GDPR. There’s a lack of data ownership in business, and frequently a lack of patience and trust between legal/procurement and the marketing and project teams. Anyone thinking that the new GDPR law is vague enough to allow them to carry on as they have been, should consider what a 4% of total revenue fine might feel like, and then put “understanding implications of the GDPR” on the to-do list. Make sure your team is prepared and educated ahead of May 2018. Seriously.

3. Most companies have spent $m on data projects and still don’t really understand their customers

This one makes me weep. Brands generally aren’t nailing the single view of the customer. This goal probably won’t be helped by the GDPR, so don’t worry if you haven’t sorted this out yet – few have. It’s not easy. I’d suggest you focus on two things:

  • Linking digital channels first
  • Looking at consolidating tech and data

These are the easiest starting points and will show savings. Then you can move on to driving ROI. Or start again, it honestly might be easier.

A failure should be reframed as a learning outcome without too much drama

4. Aiming for “best in class” rather than “one throat to choke” (finally!)

Hurray for this positive and exciting change! Marketing teams are getting better at briefing IT on their needs, resulting in some changes to the marketing stack. Traditionally, companies fell in to two camps: single vendor “We are an IBM shop”, “We are an Adobe house” OR a siloed jumble of self-built tech that wasn’t compatible with anything else. Now, in recognition that there isn’t a single stack that meets all marketing technology needs, companies are looking for best-in-class capability, mixing up vendors and consciously recognising what IT and Marketing need, and where they need to cross over and collaborate to deliver the best results (Although this doesn’t mean you should have two DMPs).

5. Finding the best capability: In house, outsourced or hybrid

Companies are frustrated at having to rely on third parties. There is definitely a shift with the opinion that the best solution might be to bring all capability in house. Confidence is still lacking though so, for now, most companies are settling on a hybrid solution that includes both in-house and outsourced resources. Organisations are slowly beginning to incorporate digital and marketing technology experts into their businesses to facilitate the move to a completely in-house function, creating ultimately a more competent team. Like number four above, this is a great change, and even if you’re going through a recruitment freeze, I would advise that you make an exception for data and digital talent.

Did you relate to any of these? You’re not alone.

About The Author Di Mayze - Managing Director

Di has 17 years of experience across media, fmcg and retail working at companies such as Boots, dunnhumby and The National Magazine Company. Di also set up her own business whilst on maternity leave selling buggy accessories across 16 countries and is listed in major retailers such as Asda, Boots and Tesco Europe.

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