People first, technology last

Originally posted in Avaus Marketing Innovations website

In early February 2017, Avaus hosted the first ever Marketing Tech Summit in Stockholm, where thought leaders within the field convened and shared their knowledge and experiences. The examples and cases heard show the way ahead for a truly digitalized world.

Even though the speakers were very successful in emphasizing the required changes needed to embrace new technology, they all also pointed out that empowering the organization and obtaining sufficient support is vital to implement the changes successfully.

The three key takeaways from the Marketing Tech Summit concerning organizational development were:

  1. Aim to develop your organization;
  2. The best transformation stories focus on people;
  3. Achieving change requires selling an idea.

1. Technology will always develop quicker than organizations

Scott Brinker - Martec's Law

Figure 1 Martec’s Law. Source: Scott Brinker 2017


Scott Brinker, the author of Hacking Marketing and CTO of Ion Interactive, presented a principle he calls “Martec’s Law” to clearly describe the gap in digital change, whereby technology develops exponentially, while organizations develop much more slowly. After noticing this gap, many organizations urgently begin implementing changes that ironically may even slow down the organizational development if all the members of the organization are not made aware of the reasons behind the changes.

The goal for every organization should be to steepen the curve of organizational development. In a technology-heavy society, this can happen using the same methods that are used in developing technology. Organizations should aim to act openly, transparently and in an agile manner.

The best way to create an agile organization is to allow decisions to be made locally, i.e. where the action is. By communicating a clear vision and repeating it continuously, individual decisions should reflect the overall goal of the organization. This naturally requires a two-way openness that makes people share their thoughts both up and down the organizational structure.

2. The best transformational companies focus on people


“The Digital Advantage: How digital leaders outperform their peers in every industry”

Figure 2: Source: MIT Sloan/CapGemini, “The Digital Advantage: How digital leaders outperform their peers in every industry”, Nov 2012

Sven Törnqvist, Head of Digital Business Development at EQT, described in length the benefits of becoming a “digirati”, i.e. a pioneer in digital activities. It is accepted that most companies will surely want to increase their financial results, claim a larger share of their markets and even potentially disrupt their businesses, but when asked about key success factors, almost all companies give a simple answer: focus on people over company strategy, and strategy over technology.

This “people first, technology last” approach seems quite counterintuitive to bring about changes where the goal may be to reduce man hours and increase automation. However, it should be remembered that people are always the ones implementing the technology and people are the ones making sure the best possible benefit is acquired from the technology, while it’s also people who may be the ones standing in the way of progress.

The actual financial benefits of driving digital change is an interesting topic and I will be touching upon it in a separate blog post. But to keep you interested, here’s a great graph by BCG:

3. Driving digital change is selling an idea

Most companies have strategies and personnel focused on external marketing to increase their brand awareness and customer base. These same methods can – and should – also be used to market the need for change within an organization.

This can happen, for example, by customizing intranet pages for key opinion leaders, curating content for company newsletters and by finding the most motivated members of the organization to champion the change.

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