4 Ways to Reimagine Your Company’s Organization and Keep Pace in the Digital Age

First step is clarifying business objectives

Chief digital officer. Center of excellence. Digital by design.

Large companies with entrenched organizational dynamics are struggling to figure out how digital plays into their business models. It's been more than 20 years since the Internet entered our lives, but only recently have business leaders internalized the inherent importance of digital in driving communications, inspiring product development and influencing consumer and employee behavior in significant ways.

Sarah Hofstetter Alex Fine

There has never been a more important time to reimagine how to achieve organizational success. Ongoing and rapid advancements in technology and consumer behavior are creating a gold mine of opportunity for the businesses that are putting digital at the center. However, the path to success requires business leaders to do two things: recognize digital as a strategic driver of business success and change organizational patterns built around digital as a channel, to treat digital as a multidimensional ecosystem. By loosening the grip on entrenched strategies and assumptions and opening up to different ways of thinking, any business can unlock new audiences and opportunities to grow.

We often see three barriers to digital success. First is that despite shifts to organizational integration, many companies are still held back by traditional ways of doing business—like outdated budgeting, ways of working and talent models—that are keeping them from taking advantage of new opportunities.

Secondly, data, analytics and performance-driven practices have become extremely sophisticated, with the ability to drive impact far beyond direct-marketing departments, but these practices are often disconnected from the C-suite and even brand-marketing teams.

And lastly, organizations continue to keep digital at the "edge," putting responsibility either on junior employees or those at the core of a stand-alone group, sometimes called a "center of excellence."

If any of these challenges sound familiar, it may be time to reorganize. To succeed will require business leaders to first clarify business objectives and aims and then recruit the right teams, champion a culture of curiosity and advocate for new ways of working both internally and with external partners.

Here are a few areas of focus to help business leaders evaluate what's right for their organization:

Objectives
As with all business planning, the first step is to clarify the objective and North Star—identify where the organization wants to be and how to achieve that outcome. For example, P&G Fabric Care wanted to build loyalty, move faster and improve processes without having to disrupt or overhaul the larger company, which is why it launched its "always on" environment. This led to fantastic marketing from Tide and Downy. Recently, it evolved internal practices so the mindset around being digitally led and culturally relevant could be further ingrained into its communications planning, budgeting, activation and measurement.

Talent
Finding the right talent that can embrace change and digitally led approaches is essential (even if this really isn't new). This has nothing to do with age or experience level—it's all about mindset. Facebook and Google do this by hiring for aptitudes, such as drive and the ability to think creatively, rather than just discrete skills. This leads them to bring in talent who are hungry to make an impact, natural cultural fits and ultimately gives them the ability to identify better ways of doing business.

Advocates
Ensuring success requires multiple members of the C-suite to champion organizational change by inspiring others, demonstrating curiosity and openly showing they're learning and adapting. If an organization doesn't have this leadership already, it should cultivate it. When leadership makes digital and integration a priority, so does everyone else. For example, GE encourages development by having its management generate "Imagination Breakthroughs" during its twice-a-year meetings of senior executives. This spurs ideas for growth and creates a process to encourage talented people to participate.

Capabilities
Look at the strengths and weaknesses of the organization's culture and capabilities, and re-evaluate which functions would be better incubated or fostered in-house vs. outsourced. If a particular capability is core to its operations vs. core to its marketing, is it worth considering incubating it from within?

The key to success is looking beyond the complexity of digital to drive better organization, strategy and change management. At 360i, we are exposed to how many large companies are organized, and it's clear that every business must find its own way toward organizing better for the digital age.


Specs
Claim to fame Kosher from birth with a Pez dispenser collection exceeding 800, Sarah Hofstetter, CEO of 360i, was on the Adweek 50 2013 list and recently named one of the most powerful moms by Working Mother magazine.
Base New York
Twitter @Pezmeister1

This story first appeared in the Nov. 2 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.