Over the past ten years we have developed a number of approaches to assist our clients in measuring and managing their digital marketing needs. Just as digital technology is driving change through the market, our processes and approaches to this ever increasing spend evolved and developed to meet the needs of advertisers.
In the early days most of our digital engagements were to provide simple cost assessments, but very quickly this evolved into wanting to understand the requirements and processes for implementing their digital strategy. Plus there is an ever-increasing requirement to review and advise on the best way to integrate digital into their existing structure and processes.
Today, reviewing these approaches, there are two clear directions companies can undertake a process to improve their digital implementation and integration into the organisation and in the process, improve their digital efficiency and effectiveness.
One commences with the assessment of a project and works up into reviewing structure, strategy and process. This is the bottom up approach as it means you start with the end of the process (the project) and you work up the process to the strategic requirement.
The other starts with the strategic requirement and works down through the structure, process and finally projects. This is the top down approach as you start at the other end, at the higher strategic requirements, aligning the development and delivery of the process to the ultimate output.
There are positives and negatives of both approaches. Here we explain each approach and how we apply this to our clients’ circumstances. The main point is to work out what is best for your situation.
1. Digital Project Assessments
You are managing a digital project, say the implementation of a new e-commerce site for the company, or perhaps something smaller such as a mobile app and you feel the costs associated with the project are excessive.
You question the agency on the costs and ask them to provide a breakdown, which they do, but there is something nagging at you regarding the resources and costs. This is where we can assist with a reasonably quick review of the current project, reviewing the methodology, the resources and the associated costs.
We recently reviewed a proposal for an annual website maintenance proposal and identified a number of areas of duplication, over specification and in fact identified almost 30% reduction in the proposed cost.Hint: This is an ideal starting point for marketers who are faced with projects or processes that appear to consistently take too long, or a project that is over budget, or the proposed price seems high.
2. Digital Health Check
Often having identified inefficiencies in a project or a number of digital projects, we are engaged to undertake a more in-depth health check of the current process. This is sometimes a review of a particular major project or it could be a review of a certain regular digital go-to-market process.
The health check is designed to take a broader review of current structure and process beyond just the cost implications.
We recently reviewed the process of the integration of customer data into the digital acquisition and retention strategy and execution to ensure the process was efficient, robust and effective. In the process we identified a number of checks and balances in the process that could have had disastrous consequences regarding customer privacy and relationships if they had failed.Hint: The Health Check is best implemented when it is apparent that the current process, either internally or with your agencies seems to be hard work, or a protracted process driving the cost increases identified in the assessment.
3. Internal Digital Alignment
Marketers are increasingly discovering that digital is not just a marketing platform, but in fact impacts and engages a wide range of internal stakeholders across areas as diverse as finance, information technology, sales etc.
There are times when the structure and processes within the organisation have not been designed for the “always on” digital world and in fact the process has often been cobbled together within the existing organisational structure leading to bottlenecks, blockages and duplication.
The Internal Digital Alignment process is a marketing driven, broad-based review to define the internal objectives, requirements and to review the structure and process to achieve alignment to the strategy.
In the past year we have undertaken a number of these projects including assisting an online media company review and redefine their structure and process to maximise the resource utilisation within the organisation and minimise their reliance on external suppliers.Hint: The internal digital alignment is best undertaken if the Health Check identifies either duplication or confusion over roles and responsibilities amongst the various stakeholders.
4. Digital Supplier Alignment
Some marketers will contact us to help them select a new digital agency.
The first challenge is defining what they mean by a digital agency and then to define the way the agency will integrate and align to the internal stakeholders within the organisation.
We have written previously on the differences between a digital agency and a technology agency, but it may be surprising to know that many advertisers still insist on selecting an agency in this space based on a traditional ‘creative pitch’.
Although we try to explain the folly in this approach, often we miss out on the project because we prefer to select digital suppliers based on their capabilities, culture and their alignment to the requirements of the advertiser and not their ability to simply come up with a speculative creative idea.
This process is about defining the requirements based on the digital strategy and the internal capabilities and then to find the best possible fit in the form of one of more external agencies or suppliers.
Again this is a core service we provide and very recently we have assisted a number of consumer goods and automotive companies to select the best suppliers aligned to their digital strategy needs and complementing their internal and other external resources and capabilities.Hint: Often the internal digital alignment will identify that there are gaps in the current agency roster or that the current digital agency roster does not have the capabilities required.
1.Internal Digital Alignment
The top down approach, as the name suggests, takes the bottom up approach and turns it on its head.
The first thing to note is that the last two steps of the bottom up approach are interchangeable, depending on the circumstances of the organisation and the marketing function.
The first requirement is to have an internal structure and process that is aligned to the digital strategy for the company and for marketing. If this exists, great.
But in our experience it is worthwhile reviewing the internal capabilities, resources, structures and processes to ensure they are aligned to the digital strategy. This means ensuring there is a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities and that the process includes all checks and balances and is robust and yet efficient, scalable and flexible.
A major consumer goods advertiser came to us wanting assistance appointing an agency to help them select and implement an enterprise wide content management system (CMS). We discussed the issues with this approach and instead undertook a regional enterprise review of their requirements and provided a report on their options for consideration by marketing, IT and the other stakeholders. The selection made, we were able to go to the next step.Hint: If there has been a significant increase in budget in the digital category, it is worth considering undertaking a complete review to ensure the increased investment is being effectively implemented.
2. Digital Supplier Alignment
Due to the rapidly changing nature of digital marketing, often advertisers will find themselves with a collection of agencies that can be classified as digital service providers. Plus, increasingly, all agencies are offering digital services and therefore you may find you have far too many digital agencies (and agencies generally).
The digital supplier alignment is about reviewing your roster of digital agencies against your requirements. Defining the capabilities you have within your organisation you can then review the external suppliers to ensure you have the breadth and depth of digital capabilities required for your strategic needs.
In the case of the CMS for the consumer goods company, it was found that while they had a significant number of digital agencies, these agencies were more communications focused and did not have the technology capabilities required for the implementation, customisation and management of the selected CMS.
In fact it was found that much of what the existing digital agencies were providing was actually a duplication of the brand work delivered by the brand creative agencies.
Therefore it was possible to not only assist in selecting a new technology agency for the CMS, it was also possible to reduce the number of agencies on the roster by removing the duplication of digital services represented.Hint: The internal digital alignment can lead to questions about the structure and capability of the existing agency roster. Aligning the roster to the new internal structures, processes and requirements is essential.
3. Digital Health Check
As requirements of the digital strategy change and personnel change on both the agency and the advertiser side, it is often incumbent to review and evolve the existing structure and process.
This may be a particular process or a specific project, where the changes in requirements and capabilities mean the existing arrangement is no longer operating efficiently.
The health check helps to identify the changes required. In the case of the consumer goods company, the appointment of a new agency to manage their social monitoring impacted a number of internal stakeholders including corporate affairs and the marketing team.
Very quickly some of these stakeholders had organised alternative arrangements within the existing roster (amazing how everyone can manage social media) creating duplications and disputes over responsibilities that required review.Hint: Following the internal and external digital alignment, it is rare that you need to undertake a health check. But over time it could be that some areas of the digital go to market process require adjustments and this process is ideal.
4. Digital Project Assessments
Ultimately the measure of efficiency is cost or even return on the investment and this is where the digital project assessments become a spot measure of the efficiency of the current structure and process.
Engaged either on a regular or ad-hoc basis, we can assess the process, resource and associated cost for a specific project and assess the impact of the current arrangements as a diagnosis and an operational assessment.
In the case of the consumer goods company, a major brand website was under development and the brand creative agency was engaged to develop an interface and content and the implementation was to be managed by the technology agency we had appointed 18 months earlier.
The project assessment identified significant duplication in the project management resources in both the brand creative agency and the technology agency. It appears that both had included contingencies for the project as they felt it had become unclear about the exact requirements and the roles and responsibilities of each agency in the project.
We were able to re-establish these and have both aligned to the agreed structure and process with a removal of the contingencies and a significant reduction on the project cost.Hint: The digital project assessment is an ideal spot check to ensure the digital alignment is delivering efficiency and effectiveness. Or it is used for particularly large, new or unusual projects.
Top down or bottom up?
Both approaches are legitimate. It depends on the circumstances of the organisation and the stage of evolution to a digitally integrated model.
Bottom up starts with a project assessment to identify any issues or opportunities and then can potentially progress upwards into the strategy across the external suppliers and the organisation.
Top down starts with the digital strategy, hopefully aligned to the business and marketing strategy, and proceeds to align internal and external structures, processes and capabilities, defining roles and responsibilities and delivering a strategically aligned outcome.
The approach you take is up to you.
But the first step is perhaps talking about where you are currently with the integration of digital into your marketing strategy and the wider organisation.
Makes excellent sense, Darren. Agree it doesn’t matter where you start as long as there is an attempt to align the strategy and implementation. Mahesh