Digital Adaptation

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Digital Adaptation: Help me, I’m stuck in 1940.

The reality is that many of today’s large companies were formed pre-web. Their foundations and decision makers are ill equipped to adapt to a digital world – creating a digital divide.

This digital incompatibility between digital marketers and senior management is something I can relate too and after much frustration I can lament that there is no silver bullet to bridge the gap. It’s a balancing act between education and ego. The electrical wholesale industry is a prime example of this antiquated approach. Its footings are firmly planted in bricks and mortar with highly regulated distribution channels and pricing structures.

This incompatibility has allowed younger, leaner competitors to rapidly overtake industry stalwarts and change the focus to meeting customer expectations as opposed to management expectations. The digital divide is about so much more than a failure to adopt technology; it’s a combination of processes, systems, egos and management techniques shaped by a completely different economic environment.

The gap between the past and the futures evokes a sense of fear, where senior management can be found desperately seeking anything or anyone with the promise of an online strategy. It brings to life a lack of control and understanding on behalf of senior management. An arena where experience is threatened and buzzwords are clung to like life rafts. This vulnerability can be undermining for both digital marketers and senior management.

Where there is weakness there is opportunity.

The NSW department of Fair Trading recently issued a warning to businesses and individuals not to sign up to firms promising them they can get you onto the first page of Google. This is where education and patience come into play. There is so much more to achieving digital success than to plaster your website with keywords. The main issue in my experience is an inconsistency of organizational structures.

The web is reactive, its pace can be dizzying, it requires swift yet measured decisions, it simply does not fit into rigid hierarchical structures where proposals must be written and approvals sought. No one ever knows where to place the digital department in relation to the larger corporate structure – is it sales, marketing, is it I.T or is it an entirely new department with it’s own set of outcomes?

It needs to be a collaborative approach, as the digital strategy will represent the company and work towards achieving the goals of the business as a whole – therefore requiring input for all departments. This is an adjustment for senior management with rigid company structures and can present as an unproductive source of frustration for anyone in a digital role.

Here’s a few tips to survive the digital divide

• Be shaped by the future and not the past
• Destroy preconceptions
• Educate by inclusion
• Adopt a clear digital strategy
• Digital strategies should be proactive and disruptive, not reactive
• Invest in team building exercises and collaboration

Simply telling someone they need to change is not going to effect positive change, there needs to be a shift in attitude, a constructive way of overcoming resistance through education and a realignment of priorities to accommodate digital.

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