digital transformation

Digital transformation is firmly on marketers’ agendas. Last year Marketing Week explored what digital transformation really means for businesses from a practical perspective. Now brands are on their way to making those changes, marketers need to understand the new challenges arising as a result and how to address them.

Keeping up with the pace of change in the industry is one thing, but when it comes to digital transformation there are other factors marketers must consider to stay ahead of the curve.

The digital skills gap and the ever-growing chasm between the needs of employees of different generations, customer expectations, in-house skills versus third-party providers, the technology stack and legacy structures are just some of the things giving marketers a digital headache.

In-house skills versus external experts

One of the hottest topics for debate is whether businesses are best off bringing expertise into a business or training existing staff up versus outsourcing.

“While I wouldn’t like to see digital expertise in silo, there is a need to bring expertise in from the outside world, according to Antonia McCahon, global digital acceleration director at Pernod Ricard, who also chairs the World Federation of Advertiser’s digital forum.

“We can’t repurpose everybody,” she adds.

Pernod Ricard is in the midst of a “huge road map in media transformation” and therefore the brand requires specialists who understand advertising technology, how trading desks function and the key dynamics of advertising agencies.

McCahon explains: “That’s expertise we didn’t have in-house. To boost, and boost that quickly, we do need to bring expertise in from the outside world.”

You need to have a good mix of people who understand the heartbeat of an organisation but you also need the best in the industry.

Jon Mansley, LV=

However, there must be a balance, according to Julie Dodd, director of digital transformation and communications at support and research charity Parkinson’s UK.

“You want to have expertise in-house and a solid team of experts, but we also work with [agency] Manifesto on creative ideas and digital strategic support,” she says.

“You have to have someone inside that can help make the right choices, but for an organisation like ours, having the strength and depth of digital expertise that you get from an agency – our sector is a long way off that. Except for the mega charities that can maybe afford to build very expensive team of staff.”

Insurance brand LV= recently appointed TH_NK agency to work in partnership with the company to develop and implement a digital transformation strategy that will help shape the future direction of its general insurance business.

Jon Mansley, head of digital strategy and propositions at LV=, agrees with Dodd about a balance of outside expertise and in-house champions. He says: “You always have to have a hybrid for any successful delivery. You need to have a good mix of people who understand the heartbeat of an organisation but you also need the best in the industry. You need people who are digital experts working alongside the people who are LV= experts.”

But Mansley warns that the challenge with digital transformation for any organisation is “the expectation management of what is possible and how quickly we are able to deliver against that”.

He says: “The biggest mistake financial services organisations make is that we tier reference ourselves to other financial service organisations. We are talking about being able to build an LV= customer experience that would hold itself against an Amazon, Airbnb, or – that is who our peer group is and that’s the customer experience that consumers take in their mind as their expectation when they come and interact with a company like LV=.”

The digital skills challenge

The skills needed therefore are not sector specific. Research from Arrows Groups shows a 15% uplift in demand over the past 18 months for development platforms like Ruby on Rails, Hybris and Go from a range of fast-growing technology businesses.

CEO and founder James Parsons, says: “These front-end skills weren’t even on businesses’ agenda a few years ago. Now we’re finding our clients are constantly on the hunt for those who will be able to help them expand and tackle technical challenges.”

Finding the right talent for digital transformation projects is also strained by the UK’s decision to leave the EU, according to Parsons. He says: “We’ve noticed a reluctance in the top digital talent coming to…