5 Ways to Get Leadership Buy-In for Digital Transformation

Digital Strategy Article
20 mins

If you’re reading this, you already understand the importance of digital to your organisation, now and going forward. For many brands, it’s the difference between growth and stagnation.

According to IDC, two-thirds of Global 2000 company CEOs will place digital transformation at the centre of their corporate strategy by the end of 2017. You need to make sure your boss is on the same page.

In this article, we’re going to talk you through five ways to get leadership buy-in for digital. Each strategy is designed to strike a balance between persuasiveness and respectfulness – so you can be a digital champion without treading on anyone’s toes.

Digital Transformation – Balancing change with continuity

Digital transformation often represents a radical change in an organisation – so much so that some commentators now use the term ‘digital business transformation’ instead. It can go so far as to redefine an organisation.

Change is good, but within every successful business, there’s a legacy worth keeping – including brands, strategic positions and audiences that may have been whole careers in the making.

Showing leadership that you understand this is key. These are the people who made your organisation what it is today. You need to reassure them that digital change will carry the brand forward, rather than erasing and replacing it.

This point will be easier to get across if you can provide case studies of other companies that have successfully implemented a digital strategy without compromising their existing brand.

LEGO’s recent history is a great example. In 2004, the toymaker was on the verge of bankruptcy due to a sustained decline in sales. In a bid to turn around its fortunes, LEGO embarked on a digital transformation journey that saw its offering branching out into digital products including video games, movies and a digital builder.

The genius of LEGO’s transformation was that the brand’s legacy proposition – iconic toys with a special focus on creativity and problem solving – was carried through to its new digital products. Customers responded well to this brand-sensitive implementation of digital, driving revenue growth at a CAGR of 20% from € 1,6 billion in 2009 to € 3,8 billion in 2014.

If you can show your leaders how your digital project could strike a balance between continuity and change, you will likely improve your chances of getting their buy-in.

Demonstrating strong ROI

Digital marketing and sales are brilliantly measurable, which provides digital champions with a prime opportunity to make a fact-based case for digital.

The simplest way to do this is to use batch testing or case studies to demonstrate the ROI for a digital project. For example, if you were pitching responsive emails that use CSS media queries, you could send a test email to a small sample of your audience and measure the conversions it receives. Compare this with the equivalent results from other email marketing campaign types to create a measure of ROI that you can present to your leadership team.

Digital projects usually grow in profitability as they scale up. If this is true of your project, finish off your presentation with a projection showing this benefit.

If your corporate leaders are particularly focused on ROI, you might also consider proposing that your team will work using the agile methodology, which uses ROI as the measure to determine which job gets done next. On a regular basis (typically weekly or fortnightly), the team’s financials are measured and the project/activity with the best ROI gets put straight to the top of the to-do list.

Make sure they’re up to speed on what you’re doing

Senior people in any business are often ridiculously busy. If you’re involved in a complex digital project, they will often be coming to it cold whenever you meet up.

With this in mind, try introducing your progress meetings with short, sharp recaps on the project’s status (“As you remember, last time we met we signed this off; this session we’re doing X, Y, Z.”).

Most agencies do this sort of thing as a matter of course, but when you’re working within an organisation it can be easy to forget that your project may not be as fresh in everyone else’s mind as it is in yours.

Make digital fun, familiar, interesting and engaging

There’s an incredible variety of ways to engage, inform, and even delight audiences using digital. Making the most of these opportunities is an absolute must when you’re pitching a digital project to leadership.

A key rule to bear in mind if your audience is non-technical is to highlight the most important functionalities and outcomes, rather than technical details. Offering and outcomes are what matters to corporate leaders.

Key rule #2: it always pays to know your audience. Who are your leaders and what do they like? You can use this information to identify cultural touchpoints that will help you connect with them.

Finally, dedicate time and effort towards the presentation of your digital pitches. Consider using video, infographics and interactive graphics to make your presentations exciting and engaging. These are the tools of your trade – and they offer an ideal route to differentiation from other departments in your organisation.

Make them look good

We’ve talked a lot about how to convince leadership that digital is in their organisation’s interest – but what about their self-interest?

Everyone likes and expects to be rewarded when their actions benefit the company. In a corporate leader’s case, this means getting credit for making smart decisions on key issues like digital transition.

This is a sensitive topic, as directly offering a corporate leader the credit for a digital innovation in return for their buy-in may be regarded as crass. In our view, a better approach is to pitch them the opportunity to act as a figurehead for the project, or even as a bridge between the digital team and top-level management. Through such an arrangement, they can earn fully deserved credit for their role in the project.

If you’ve ticked off all five points from this article, your corporate leaders should now be convinced that your digital project offers the right balance of change and continuity, and will deliver strong ROI for the business. They will have a good handle on what you’re working on, and they’ll think of your team as engaging, interesting stakeholders in the organisation. Finally, they’ll understand that digital is not a threat to their career; it’s an opportunity. These factors combine to provide a great chance of corporate buy-in for digital.

If you’re now setting out to convince leadership that they should give the green light to your digital project, we hope these tips will stand you in good stead. Go for it. You have everything to play for.

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