Ranji David, Marketing Director Asia at WFA, on insights from the recent WFA Chief Digital Officer (CDO) Forums in Asia.

Discussions at the back-to-back CDOFORUM sessions in Singapore and Hong Kong covered a wide range of topics from marketing innovation through to working with start-ups and ad fraud. It was the rich conversations around the challenges – and opportunities! – of digital transformation and the role of the CDO that had WFA marketers engaged.

1. Find your ‘North Star’ aka your digital ambition

As clichéd as it sounds, successful transformation begins with the end in mind and starts with clearly-defined digital ambitions – and definitions – to keep you on track along the journey. Take the time to define not only what digital transformation means but that it’s clearly understood by everyone in the team.

2. Be brutal when it comes to setting priorities

In the face of shrinking budgets, lean teams and a set number of hours in a day, resources are limited. A CDO needs to be very focused when it comes to charting goals and objectives for the team to achieve and as succinctly as possible. “If you try to do everything you’ll fail at it all,” stated one digital leader. Try to keep the number of initiatives to a number that you can count on one hand.”

3. Priorities illuminate capability demand & development

Transformation priorities naturally dictate resource allocation as well as illuminate the capability needs and requirements for success particularly when it comes to areas such as the management of marketing and media tech or an evolution towards data-driven marketing. An understanding of the skillsets required to deliver against these priorities is critical in team structures and talent management.

4. Break down silos with common goals that keep the focus on the customer

Traditional organisational structures don’t necessarily make sense in the face of the modern path-to-purchase where teams address different stages of the consumer journey while working independently in isolated silos. “The digital team is responsible for 80% of the journey and then another team takes over and it falls apart,” said one CDO. To address this, take a customer-centric approach that breaks down divisions, gets everyone on the same page and fosters – or forces! – a unified approach. “It isn’t easy and we resisted this at first,” said one digital marketer, “but it’s the right thing to do and we see it working in the results we’re achieving because of this new approach.”

5. Change the conversation from investment return to insight return

The process of transformation almost always involves some element of the unknown in unchartered waters. Even the best Marketer would be hard-pressed to set and guarantee return on investment but a well-defined transformation agenda will almost certainly deliver valuable insights and learnings to be ploughed back into the business. Shifting the focus to a return on insights takes the pressure off immediate investment returns and puts the emphasis on business intelligence and learning.

6. Stakeholder value = vested Interest and financial investment

Digital leaders can sometimes be guilty of crafting lofty transformation agendas in a vacuum and with little regard for the rest of the organisation. To secure the buy-in needed for impactful transformation, the CDO must be able to demonstrate the ability of digital solutions to deliver positive outcomes for stakeholders. “If you can make them successful, they’ll very naturally want you to succeed –and will only be too happy to fund your initiatives” shared one CDO.

7. Balance long-term goals with short-term wins … and celebrate them!

Transformation requires commitment and a staying power for the long haul but it’s hard to sustain stakeholder interest for the duration of time that true transformation takes. Set and deliver on quarterly outcomes and be sure to communicate your successes internally. As one CDO said “Do things. Tell people. Repeat!”

8. Be the calm amidst the storm …not the cat following the laser light

Pivots amidst transformation are inevitable, but amidst what can quickly arise to be a maelstrom of ‘all things new and shiny’ it’s important to remember that the CDO’s role is to remain unflinching and firmly anchored on the rock of business objectives and digital ambition as a beacon of light to shine the way forward.

9. Invite tech to the table

While IT departments have proven to be a bugbear for many a marketer on the path to transformation, savvy CDOs have fast realised the benefits of having the CTO along for the ride as wingman and co-pilot. “Tech is the foundation upon which our transformation plans are built,” said one business leader who had invited his CTO to the CDOFORUM in Singapore. “It would be foolish not to have them as partners or co-authors, even, in the process.

10. Work yourself out of a job

How do you know you’ve done a good job? When you’ve made yourself redundant. The role of the CDO is to influence change, inspire innovation and infuse digital adoption across the organisation. That simultaneously renders the CDO obsolete on his or her current portfolio while immediately presenting the opportunity to embrace a new challenge and begin the process anew. One Head of Innovation said, “I don’t want to be stuck doing the same things over and over again. I want to create the initiative, roll it out successfully across the business and markets, and then move on to the next thing. I can’t move on until I’ve done that.”

This article was originally published on the WFA Blog. You can find the article here.