Digital transformation

C-Suite Tasked with Creating 'Digital Culture'

KIMBA defines the 5 core dynamics of any business as: Vision, People, Culture, Process, and Technology.  All operations and scenarios fall somewhere under or between a configuration of those elements.  

We look at Culture as a result, or byproduct, of how a company's Vision lives and breathes through its People.  The very nature of Culture as a concept is less predictable and containable than the other 4 elements classified.  Therefore, creating a 'Digital Culture,' a buzztask with which nearly every CEO/COO/CMO has been challenged over the last 5-10 years, must start with an examination of both a company's Vision and its People.  

Tasked with redefining their corporate Culture, most organizations' impulses have not been to look inward at their own Visions and People, but instead, look elsewhere for new "Digital Talent" to recruit.

The hunger for Digital Talent has swelled over the past 5 years.  It used to be that anyone who had an entry-level position servicing ads on DART ended up fighting off recruiters with a stick just 2-3 years into their careers.  At KIMBA, we are always asked to refer the best "Digital Talent" to mature businesses, agencies, and startups alike.  As the demand mounts, the reality becomes more clear -- not only is Digital Talent hard to come by, but due to demand, people who qualify as Digital Talent are incredibly difficult to retain.  In some cases, the existence of and need for Digital Talent as a remedy is entirely mythological -- like hunting for Digital Unicorns.  

Thanks, Google Image for this "Digital Unicorn!"

McKinsey recently published an article on the difficulties of holding down solid Marketing Analysts.  In it, they stated only 3.4% of Senior Marketers feel they have the right Digital Talent!  Just a month prior, ADWEEK published a similar study, citing interviews with 750 Fortune 500 Ad Execs and did an elementary infographic to help showcase the grim findings.  The title of the piece was "There is a Digital Talent Gap."  

So, here we are, after all the effort and momentum put into the deep sea scour to acquire Digital Talent, and still NO ONE is satisfied!  In fact, the scarcity of talent has become even more bleak and troublesome!  Why is this?

Adobe Research recently conducted interviews with 1,004 U.S. Marketers.  Their findings boiled down to two key concepts:

1) All Marketers know they need to adapt and change

2) These same Marketers don't believe they know how to change.  They don't have the resources or training to meet the challenges that await them

The Adobe findings speak to the missteps made in addressing the Digital Talent shortage.  They speak to the reality that KIMBA has examined for some time now.  

What most people fail to recognize is the skills they are hiring for have not existed until now. The training for the positions they are trying to fill isn't linear and prescribed as it is in most traditional industries.  The training often takes place amidst new business challenges, born from new technologies, and treated with new solutions -- all of which have yet to be traditionally defined or analyzed.  This means recruiters need a deep understanding of the business functions for which they are filling roles.  That way, they can identify hybrid and cross pollinated talent with a breadth of experience primed for refinement within their organization.   

Those fortunate enough to have worked exclusively on forward-thinking, cutting edge Digital projects and products, throughout the past 10 years that such opportunities have even existed, are in a unique class.  And within that class, those who live to innovate may never be satisfied working for a traditional organization.

We believe, and have so developed services against the idea, that most companies actually have more "Digital" resource and Talent than they are aware.  With the right training, attention, alignment and process implementation against current employees (People), the hunt for Big Foot Digital Talent may not be as necessary.

Realignment of and investment in personnel is an integral part of any Digital Transformation process.  Adaptation to the reality of rapidly shifting consumer culture must start on the inside, with an organization's Vision and People.

Weaning OFF the Bolt-ON

Do you see "Digital" in the above value chain? Neh.

The vast majority of Fortune 500s scaled to success without any help from Digital.  Sure, they invested in IT overhauls every 5 years, but those were tedious, required employee adoption (often unsuccessful) and were usually avoided like the plague.  So, when new technology began altering market landscapes, from consumer behavior on down, they just continued operating in their historically successful fashions.  To speak to the hot topic of "Digital," they decided to focus any enhancements on the sore thumb -- Marketing, where the shifts were too loud to be ignored.

This meant that agencies (Marketing, Advertising, Promotions, etc.) were immediately hit with urgent requests to become overnight experts in disciplines they'd yet to study, work in, or test.  Reactively, rather than responsively, they had to become Low Hanging Fruit Wizards, just to keep their own businesses healthy.

Outside of the traditional agencies, countless opportunists seized the pandaemonium and opened their own boutique firms in SEO/SEM, Social Media Management, Display Advertising, Affiliate Ad Sales, Email Marketing, App Production, and Mobile App Production.  Since the demand was so high and the need so dire, the overwhelming influx of services made sense.  Pretty soon, everyone on LinkedIn who worked anywhere near Media began referring to themselves as a "Digital Strategist." 

The fundamental error was that the services they developed and sold only treated symptoms identified in the Marketing process.  Now, new companies, and companies born within the last 5-7 years, have a radical advantage of being Digitally Native, and are using their holistically Digital structures, and innovative systems to literally take down industries, one at a time.  

In short, the first departments to be tasked with the burden of digital, were the ones least capable of handling true Transformation.

For KIMBA, this time is so exciting because as a collective conscience (businesses and agencies) we can no longer deny the need for drastic revision.  We can no longer deny the need for Digital Transformation.

For CEOs, CFOs, COOs, and CMOs, the areas in need of immediate evaluation are the areas in which you've invested in "Digital" or in the illusion of "Digital."  And what all C-levels should mind, is that the CMOs and their departments are not to blame.  They have been in reaction mode throughout the market changes and have been backed into a heat sandwich, between consumers and their companies who are looking to build efficiency on ancient (and broken) foundations.

We love Forrester.  We love them most because once they say something, it's branded as fact.  They embark on tireless research to prove our observations and intuitions.  So now, in their latest (March 2014) reports, they've said what people like Bud Caddell, Faris Yakob, and ourselves have been saying for quite some time in regards to the need for deep rooted business transformation.

A few weeks ago, Forrester published a handy "Six Steps to Become a Digital Business." 

In this report, Forrester isolates, as promised, 6 business areas in need of drastic revision.  They offer concepts for change and a synopsis against each business area identified.  However, what the article doesn't indicate is that each of the 6 areas is its own Pandora's box.   It's like saying to companies, 'hey companies, there's only 1 thing you need to change: Everything.'

KIMBA works with clients in the weeds of these areas because we know each needs its own set of objective attention and expert guidance.  We know this work takes time and our methods make use of that time in a way that no previous consulting method could.  We know this because the proper insights, lessons, and tools have not been available until now.

March Bloody March: Disney's Massive Digital Layoffs

There was a time when all I wanted was a Disney business card.  Really.  So legit.  Right?

This month’s massacre of a quarter of Disney Interactive’s heads – the division in which I would have most likely been placed – is another beat in the Dubstep anthem for Digital Transformation.

Disney Interactive, Disney’s media arm, was an answer for Disney for as long as it could be.  When the founding vision and dollars didn’t align, it was only a matter of time before Disney leadership dropped the hatchet of reconsideration.  Why?  Bolt-on vs. core business solutions.  Bolt-ons add bloat and adding additional weight to an already slow organization kills forward momentum.

How can we be sure?  The formula is industry agnostic.  When Digital as a discipline isn’t holistically weaved throughout the fabric of an organization, it has no shot at working effectively.  When organizations treat it like "Digital" is always somebody else’s job or just a quick hit generator, instead of a path to better operations, we eventually see things grind to a halt.

The bird’s eye view makes things simple.  In the late 90s, Disney reacted to a market need for “web presence,” then “digital ad sales,” and finally, the most ambiguous of all for traditional organizations: “digital products.”  Their reaction was Disney Interactive.

Disney Interactive’s admission of cluelessness and defeat came in the form of various acquisitions over the years: Infoseek (1998, Internet Portal), Living Mobile (2005, EU Mobile Game Developer), Kaboose (2009, Website Properties), Playdom (2010, Social Network Game Developer), Tapulous (2010, Software Developer), Togetherville (2011, Pre-teen Social Network).

Now, with yet another purchase, Maker Studios for $500M, it seems Disney hasn’t learned their lesson after 17 years of sheer insanity.  If all you do is hunt trends and fads, your solutions will be trending solutions, not longstanding ones.  As creators and owners of arguably the greatest “content” in history, they should know better.  But again, the cycle of bolt-on surface fixes is insidious.  Disney's become addicted to chasing shiny objects and quick solutions.

But there might be hope.  Disney is making a smarter business decision by having Maker Studios report directly to James A. Rasulo, Disney's CFO, as an independent business unit to serve all other business units.  This means they know that technology, data, programming capabilities, and online brand building is crucial to more than just the web and games divisions.  Investors should be happy even if there is a slight dip while Maker becomes profitable.

It is for this reason that Disney makes a comeback as a candidate with whom KIMBA would like to partner. They are making smarter business moves with their acquisitions and this might just end up working out.  We’ll certainly find out over the next 12-24 months.

Lastly, big shout out to Ynon Kreiz!  Yo Ynon, what’s next?  Lots of DIS money to be spent.

How'd We Get HERE?

“Many firms proudly point to their mobile app and proclaim “Hey, we’re digital!” While they may be driving incremental revenue, all they have done is bolt on another touchpoint. Real digital businesses go much further, integrating the two sides of digital strategy: digital customer experience (DCX) and digital operational excellence (DOX).” - Forrester

Out of Operations, IT, HR, Manufacturing, R&D, Business Development, Product Development, Marketing and Sales, Marketing was the first Business discipline to get struck by the rapid changes in consumer behavior and technology.  A chain reaction was set in motion where:

1.    Businesses’ Marketing Departments needed new solutions (like, yesterday)

2.   Agency partners then needed to transform their core capabilities to meet the new and rapidly evolving demands of their clients

3.   Agencies priced themselves out of New Media categories and capabilities because their infrastructures had been built on supporting Broadcast and Print work (much more expensive).

4.   Businesses scrambled to find solutions in house, find new agencies that boasted a more “Integrated” service set.  Meanwhile, Procurement departments stepped in to monitor Third Party spending, which made contracting new agencies and consultants even more difficult.

5.   While hunting partners for help with Digital Creative, Marketing departments were hit on every side by eager technology startups with platforms to automate various aspects of Social Media community management.  Every other day was a training session or a free webinar (sales pitch in disguise)

6.   Businesses are left with a result of the scramble and in a state of overwhelm.  Now, in 2014, there is a choice to make.  Disruption is eminent across all industries.  

The choice is simple.  There are those who will continue to implement bolt-on solutions, ignoring the necessity to transform.  Those businesses will be disrupted and will fail by 2017.  Then there will be businesses who want to do THIS WORK and take real inventory of their organization.  Those will compete and in many instances innovate outside of traditional category constraints.  Yes, this all results in growing sales #’s and ROI.

Strategy Skimpin'

OMG WTF! How exciting is the INTERNET!? 

My loves, sometimes I feel like companies should just be thanking the internet all damn day for giving them such rich opportunities to better know themselves, and to better understand their consumers. Like, they should just be tweeting @ and hashtagging the shizz out of mother INTERNET, all damn day.  


But wait a sec, my friends, the INTERNET can be pretty scarrrry, too.  There's just so much going on inside of it!  Sometimes I even feel this impending doom, like there's a 7,000 man-strong prodigy hacker army determined to undermine or overthrow all societal stability.  Sometimes I want to download the secret prodigy hacker army password from a bit torrent site.  Other times I fantasize about moving to Walden Pond where I can live thing-less like HD Thoreau.  


Sometimes this same scare factor propels companies to do stuff on the INTERNET very quickly.  Reactions instead of responses.  In this rush, strategy is always the first step to get cut.  Strategy doesn't return quickly enough to meet quarterly sales report deadlines.  Strategy skimpin'.  The irony is that strategy is now more integral than ever before.

We think a lot of organizations are strategy skimpers because strategy can't be seen like a picture, video, P&L doc, or product packaging can.  Strategy is a thought process and rationale system that underlies and works through all the things we can see.  It's the insight-driven creative backbone that weds human behaviors to existing and emerging products.

We see the result of strategy skimping everywhere we turn.  Aside from spawning insanely dull microsites and banner campaigns, for our agency brethren, it's made life increasingly difficult.  The more complicated technology becomes, the more competitive markets get, the more strategy is needed to produce successful work.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, clients' INTERNET-stuffs marketing/advertising budgets get smaller and smaller.  OMG WTF, you say?

Read on, for good news...

The silver lining is very real.  Smart people everywhere are pissed off.  They know how to use technology and they don't want to be advertised at anymore.  On message boards, comment chains, social media channels, and in plain conversation, they've been debunking the many lies which permeate our marketplace.  They've done their homework to be certain they're no longer susceptible to traditional methods brands have been relying on for decades.  Through ratings and reviews, they're making sure truths surface. 

So, the chief disconnect.  How do we help speed brands along to catch them up with the collective consumer conscience, behavior trends, and expectation set?  How do we help them meet the desires of consumers who wish to be engaged, valued, and treated humanly?

Well, my dearies, there's been a North American and European renaissance in brand strategy and interactive marketing.  An uprising, I say.  All over, we're seeing likeminded thinkers emerge in clusters with a determination to bring creative excellence and strategic thinking to brands.  In fact, there are so many of these little shops popping up that we had to name ours after Mike's first dog KIMBA because names like Prophet and Audacity were already taken!  

We believe it's actually socially irresponsible, and just plain OFF TOPIC to launch a program, campaign, or product without a thorough strategy.  The people can smell its absence from a text ad away! 

Brands must be smarter and more deliberate when it comes to positioning themselves, offering value, and turning an empowered shopper into a lifelong customer.  

This state of affairs excites us.  We relish its multiple challenges and the fierce competition and opportunity it inspires.  We like to partner with folks who are up for the challenge and who know they need to start thinking like strategists or expect significant loss of market share.  Who's down to defy impending doom? #KIMBA