Digital Transformation – Emergent Technologies versus Entrenched Orthodoxies

Don Philpott☘️ in Digital Marketing Global AR/VR Digital Strategy Director☘️ at • http://www.AD

Digital Transformation - Emergent Technologies versus Entrenched Orthodoxies

I’ve wanted to address this topic for some time. Maybe today is the right day. There are tangible elements to digital strategy.  What we have is a project. A project is defined as a set of objectives governed by scope cost and quality. Any digital transformation will initially start as a project. Very rarely is there a complete investment in change across business lines, unless the company is already a web based entity (Hi BeBee!).

More often than not, a digital initiative comes from the external environment and is championed by key stakeholders(or not). The competition have it, why don’t we?

One of these statements is the starting point; what is the motivation for change? This question will bring us to question 2. Who has the power to make change and conversely disrupt change? This is the risk analysis phase.

One of the fallacies of modern business, is that business is a well oiled machine – this is rarely true. What you often have are personal fiefdoms, alliances and power states, similar to Europe of the middle ages.  There is a patina of overall peace, but in many companies each department works within their own silo, budget allocation, or perceived area of expertise. Much like the military, or in this instance, a social media company.

Lets have a look at how digital strategy is supposed to work…

Image courtesy of

Lots of nice lines, colours and neat graphical layout. It reminds me of a favored quote; “those who love excel, love neat little boxes.”  I’ve seen this at first hand many times.

The person accountable is usually not the person responsible.

Take the classic case of what I call “Facebook Intern” – a young person who’s sole job is posting dour corporate shite on Facebook. The person who hires them thinks; “I can’t get in trouble. If you do well, I get credit for training you, if you do badly, there’s always another hungry intern waiting in the wings.  I win – you lose, either way.”

What you get when you come in as the outside “expert” is something more like this …

In fact “martial arts” is not a bad metaphor. You will have to do the “tunnel of pain.”

You’ll get to go through the “Ghandi process”and the Tuckman model. 

Here’s a quick aside (relevant in this context – content creation and distribution). I was at a conference for 400 sales people a few months ago. One of the key speakers, the company marketing manager, stood up and said… from now on we’re all going to be more inclusive, collective and purposeful with our social media. This tool – Gaggle gives “us”(meaning C level) the “power” to maximize our social reach using “your”social profiles.

Along with 400 others, at the same moment,  I thought; you’re fuckin not!”- you cheapskate wankers. Yes they had shelled out for a fancy hotel and paid for the room, but they’d need a bit more lube before developing their passive plastic love doll concept. That manager left the company to build a “clock” soon after, accompanied this week (Aug 7/17) by their perma-positive CEO, who got a watch ;).

Shoplifting made easy –

So does it work,… this social media stuff? I could show you some results, but your preconceptions will drive your beliefs either way. If you buy stuff online, you’ll of course say; ebay, amazon, netflix, linkedin, dominos and ali baba work. If you don’t you’ll dig your head in the sand and whistle dixie.

Usually in a corporate setting it goes with the “politics of scarcity.”  Sales say we could spend the money on a better outbound calling setup.  Marketing says we could have done a few more events, seasonal offers or promotions. And upper management loses patience in the training time it takes for their novelty investment to work. So, often – you”ll get exactly what’s paid for, not a penny more or less. Not some massive market breakthrough, but digital “tagged on” to the conventionally educated marketing manager’s CV.

Sorry to be a bit old fashioned, but most companies build hierarchies to protect the profit margins and high salaries of top earners (either internally or externally). They’re simply not focused on innovation and transparency, even tangentially. I would argue this is why Michael Dell is a “good businessman,” while Steve Jobs is still a “creative maverick,” five years after he died.

Our three big boys today, Facebook, Apple and Google are silo based, highly hierarchical, entities. Meaning they’re following the traditional pattern, not opening up a new era of corporate accountability and social responsibility. In this environment, social media is only social advertising – so cheap ads, basically.

While we’re here, lets look at versus Linkedin. Two social media channels that ostensibly compete for the same space, but do they?

My personal view is that Linkedin has specific tools which are valuable for recruiters and sales people – long form CV uploads and downloads, contact import and export, excellent search filters, external profile viewing and a solid internal messaging system. I would argue that neither Jeff Whiner nor Reid Hoffman built a platform with this intention in mind, the technology was emergent…it met a burgeoning customer need.

Note: I didn’t say job seekers, I said recruiters, specifically. As an individual, I have more interest in for job search or local sites which send me targeted notifications, like Recruiters want to avoid extra work, so LinkedIn works like a filterable “google for talent,” contact point and messaging service.

I have a good example here. My ex boss speaks three languages fluently (Spanish, French and English), built a global sports network before he was thirty, has a solid MBA and my recommendation as one of the best people I’ve ever worked for. I forwarded this information to a “recruiter” who previously worked with me (in a headhunting company), but now for HP. Her response – he doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile! I was blown away by such intransigent stupidity from a 27 year old. For me jobs are won and lost at interview, the CV (or Linkedin) is only advertising foreplay. This anecdote does illustrate the nuanced difference; Linkedin cuts the workload out of recruiting, but its extra effort for you.

Similarly, the BeBee boys have hit upon a niche that works – writing plus readership (+ external sharing). Long form blogging (with all the SEO magic that implies), an interested, engaged, audience, that is self selecting and self censoring effectively, at this time.  A nice mix, that’s been tried many times before. So the value of community/peer group, social sharing, a “captive audience” and/or SEO value is enough of an incentive to develop strong content? I’m not 100% sure. Even for the “talking heads,”it seems to be a proving ground for something bigger, say a job in Linkedin/Microsoft.

But here’s a heads up – its not 12 million v 500 million, its platform v platform (utility). For now, here’s where the “engagement”(read utility) is, if you’re a (free content publishing) writer.

The primary issue is that the ability to view high quality content will get diluted as the project gets bigger, without better search filters. Filters are what made Linkedin a power player and makes Facebook Groups important.  Here is the social media formula; the more control(read functionality) you give to your key users, the more they value and use your tool – easy eh!

The BeBee Tweeps don’t like issues – but lets roll with it anyway. This might sting, but it won’t hurt:) Where we have an issue, is in the quality of engagement versus the quality and amount of content.

I login to BeBee to see the consistently good work of less than fifty people. Usually their stuff is interesting, so I’m happy to share it – “paying it forward.”

But here is a question; 12 million people and 50 regular contributors that I like. What gives?

And why are all the good people slightly older (sorry ladies) – where are the “young turks?”

They can’t all be on Instagram.

There are some answers…

The hive function is still not up to standard. Tumblr is a better blog platform (currently).  Dean Owen was right a few weeks ago. All the boosters won’t drive engagement, that comes from utility and functionality.

BeBee is not a business platform per se, its a creative community and sharing hub. That might not be so bad either – Facebook is hardly “creative,” nor is Linkedin (unless you count job titles), so why not bee emergent. Bring the groups function up to speed, take over where Linkedin left off and build that “engagement.” Artists of all kinds draw people back into previously denuded inner cities, consequently pushing up rents and driving business.  Social should work the same way. The cool “old” kids are already here …soon you’ll be able to push up rent and get the young yuppies too.

IMAGE: BOB AL-GREENE (Rise of the Yuccies)

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