In her role as chief digital officer (CDO) of Harvard University, Perry Hewitt is charged with developing the school’s comprehensive strategy for digital communications and engagement as well as establishing best practices for content, multimedia, and technology. This role at the intersection of marketing, technology, and content gives her a unique perspective on the challenges of digital transformation. During my CXOtalk with Perry, she offered the following sage advice for dealing with these challenges.
1. Start by building a high-performance digital team
Hire omnivores, not vegans to create the best multi-perspective team. A varied background better equips people to lead in the digital world. Digital tactics can be taught, but it’s important to keep a learn-as-you-go approach. The environment, as well as the business goals and objectives, will change, so find people who are comfortable with uncertainty.
2. Create an atmosphere of collaboration
There is a lot of talk about the relationship between the CDO and CIO. This important relationship must begin with trust and partnership. Shared cross-functional goals and matrix reporting for cross-functional teams can help drive this. Hewitt recalls a colleague saying, “There is nothing that prompts collaboration more than an exchange of hostages.” When you have people working side by side on cross-functional teams, they better understand each other’s challenges and capabilities, which improves collaboration.
3. Think from the outside-in
Start the thought process from the consumer experience to determine how to drive a consumer-facing strategy. Be sure to have an ongoing user experience discipline to understand how people are consuming what you are creating and optimize around those experiences.
4. Make digital everyone’s job
Digital transformation is a desired and shared vision of an outcome that is achieved through a series of projects or combination of initiatives. “There needs to be a sense of where you are trying to go and how you will get there-as well as a vision of the fundamental change you want to make and how digital transformation can deliver it,” says Hewitt. There are two types of training models: on-the-job and dedicated training. Provide dedicated training for topics like social media and email best practices, but throw people into projects to really make digital part of everyone’s job. Have them work together to figure it out as they go. Immersion is especially important for senior leadership. Managers need to be hands-on and understand how people in their organization use technology.
5. Bake data-informed thinking into the culture
Because digital is so assessable, finding people steeped in quantitative thinking is vital. Always understand what to track, and create a culture of continuous measurement. Hewitt believes that the ability to measure everything is important, but it comes with a risk. Be careful that people do not become obsessed with the numbers for numbers’ sake. Define what is actionable, and use data to drive that action.
6. Get experimental
Organizations often think there is a holy grail-one right answer for how to do digital. You don’t necessarily see the hours of practice swings and strikes that go before the home run. Identify small initiatives for experimentation and quick feedback. Planning is important, but organizations need to work in shorter cycles with quick iterations.
WatchPerry Hewitt describe the challenges of digital transformation on CXOtalk.