Marketers understand the importance of technology and data towards delivering the best customer experiences. They realise that creating a new culture focused around customer engagement is critical, and they recognise the need to evaluate and renew the capabilities of the people in their department.

But while there is a general recognition of the importance of people, process and technology to their success, less well understood are the interdependencies between the issues.

The topic was addressed in some detail at the recent Optimizely Modernize 2018 event in a panel discussion hosted by Simon O’Day, founder of The Lumery, with Sheerien Salindera, Digital & Merchandising Lead, Qantas; Jodie Sangster, CMO Liaison Lead — IBM Watson; and Bronwyn Smedley, Senior Manager, Behavioural Communications & Analytics, REA on the stage.

Each speaker in their own way highlighted the issue of the misalignment between the pillars of people, process and technology.

The prevailing view was that companies were quick to settle the technology question but often underestimated the impact of the other issues.

Consider these three excerpts:

  1. “This is a small market where these digital skills and data skills are hard to find. With digital transformation, it is just so important to attract and retain talent. Your IP is your people and that’s a really important and sometimes underplayed reason for why you have to reorganise constantly to be able to adapt.” Sheerien Salindera, Digital & Merchandising Lead, Qantas.
  2. “We have looked to work at a pace where we are constantly testing and learning and optimising, We’ve put people together into teams to work cross-functionally so that we actually can start to build momentum around really transforming [the business].” Bronwyn Smedley, Senior Manager, Behavioural Communications & Analytics, REA.
  3. “One question [companies ask is] how on earth do we build a team that can actually use the technology? The second one that comes up time and time again is, we’ve invested heavily in the technology, we had a vision for what we wanted that technology to do but now that it’s embedded into the organisation, the organisation either isn’t structured right or doesn’t have the right skill set to use that technology to really drive the business.” Jodie Sangster, CMO Liaison Lead — IBM Watson.

Each speaker in their own way was highlighting the significance of understanding the importance of the interdependencies between people, process and technology, rather than trying to corral each issue off discretely into its own separate problem.

Basically, you can’t really solve one without solving all the others.

Speaking prior to the panel, O’Day cautioned that there is an assumption — often fuelled by the vendors themselves — that the platform alone will help the brand meet its future goals.

The reality, however, is that the most successful technology implementations often involve significant organisational and cultural changes, which require businesses to address people and process as well as technology.

O’Day said that The Lumery’s work with clients leads him to understand that when any one of these pillars fails, the others cannot succeed.

However, for marketers, whose core skills lie beyond the disciplines of technology or even change management, it is easy to miss these interdependencies and the reality that a holistic approach is required to ensure success.

Take O’Day’s experience at The Lumery as an example. A Melbourne-based Optimizely partner, The Lumery provides strategic advisory services that help organisations uncover these interdependencies and then assist them to execute on their business outcomes.

According to O’Day, “If you think about this general topic of digital transformation, or what I call modernisation, those pillars are actually critical. But there’s an overarching question: What are you really trying to do?”

He says it is not uncommon to encounter board level or C-level executives who are still struggling to understand the question they’re trying to answer.

For instance, he said he sees a number of companies where executives have been sold on solutions without really doing a deep-dive into how the technology fits with their people or their processes, or their overall strategy.

“Too often the C-level becomes enamoured with the technology to the exclusion of other matters,” he says. And that’s a problem because it can lead to organisations investing in technology that will be unsupported by the current in-house skill level, or not properly deployed.

Echoing Sangster’s comments on the panel, O’Day says organisations need staff with the right capabilities and talents, working on the right processes to line up behind the technology.

Vendors need to take some responsibility here, he says. “I think we all have a lot to answer for with what’s called the solution sale structure where we’ve all built up these visionary, crazy futures, and we’ve sold people into how that’s going to transform their world.”

The misalignment between people and technology is a key issue. “For example, you may wish to buy a sophisticated email platform but have a team that is really only versed in simplistic email delivery.”

In such a situation it is easy to blame the technology, but both buyer and seller should bear some of the responsibility.

People and process are the two biggest challenges and teams need to work together and have the capacity to work together.

The issue of talent acquisition is a difficult one to solve, says O’Day. “There’s no talent pool. People get hired for the wrong outcomes on the wrong technology or wrong process.”

Closing the talent gap in the market is a long slow burn, and while there are companies and organisations trying to solve the capabilities gap, change will come slowly.

Process alignment likewise requires a serious investment by the senior leadership group.

For his part, O’Day equates process with corporate culture. And he says there are often big wins to be had from focusing on small changes. For instance, it is common in many corporate cultures that people or departments don’t see the small things that they can do to improve the flow of information.

“Getting stakeholder agreement at all levels — and using it — is also vital,” he says.

It is not enough to solve the problems of people, process and technology in isolation. Each needs to be addressed with regards to all the interdependencies between them.

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