Who Wears the Pants When it Comes to Digitization in a Company?
Who is actually responsible for digitization and e-commerce? This is a question that hundreds of companies worldwide face every day. In fact, it immediately raises several interesting subquestions: Who can make budget decisions for e-commerce? Who puts the whole thing into practice? Who decides about success and failure? Do external as well as internal stakeholders need to be brought on board? For every ten different teams there are probably twelve varying opinions on this. Let’s take a closer look.
Stakeholder Group 1: The IT-department
Traditionally, in many companies the IT-department is in charge of systems. This makes sense in that this of course also refers to data processing systems. The team has been managing the internal IT-landscape based on ERP, CRM, etc. for decades, so why wouldn't it also have key responsibility for the e-commerce systems? After all, it is just code.
So far, the reasoning is understandable and correct, but at the same time incomplete. IT-departments are usually considered to be cost centers, so a successful IT-department deals with the work it's been given at the lowest possible cost. Overachievement is noted, but rarely receives special recognition. The result is often a purely internal vision within the IT-department. In itself, this subordinates everything to efficiency and stability, because it helps achieve internal goals. This is also fine for classic IT-systems, but it runs contrary to the need to focus on the changing world of customer centricity.
Stakeholder Group 2: Marketing
Marketing has to be involved! Obviously, the marketing team has been involved with the Internet for quite some time, having launched the first corporate website 20 years ago and five more in the meantime. Compared to classic business areas, the marketing department is the digital native. And yet, not everything is always in favor of marketing. Many marketeers focus on the emotional representation of the brand. Brilliant campaigns, viral videos, and buzzwords characterize their everyday work and smoothen the way for commitment-focused strategies. But creative campaigns and brand experience alone are not enough to implement a coherent digitization package. First of all, this is because the impetus for conversion-driving initiatives is based on a mix of the right technological setup with a pinch of human intuition when it comes to understanding what the customer needs.
Stakeholder Group 3: Sales
The in-house sales team is often even closer to the customer. Our product range is evolving at an ever faster pace, and so the consulting aspect of sales continues in its constant growth. As such, we are in any case involved in a discourse with the customer—and that explicitly means listening more and more to customers. So the sales team is obviously very important in e-commerce.
However, there is a big “but”: Especially in Germany, many companies are still afraid to enter into a direct discourse with their own customers via digital channels. We are too dependent on sales partners in the multi-level sales model—because, obviously, nobody wants to muddy the waters. But many already have an idea of the bitter truth that, without direct access to the customers with their needs and desires, companies are already at a massive competitive disadvantage—not only in sales but also in further product development. Slowly but surely, companies need to think about how they can strategically gain access to the customer. To state this once again in the clearest of terms, this involves flexibility and the will to transform with regard to novel forms of collaboration and incentivization. Nobody benefits by defending the status quo to the bitter end and then losing out as a group to more agile companies with access to the customer.
Stakeholder Group 4: The C-level
And at this point, the people in the highest echelon come into play. In times of unimaginable rates of change, these are the ones who have the difficult task of steering the ship through the storm. They occasionally have to make awkward decisions that will not always be to the taste of all internal and external stakeholders. Digitization also forces us to make decisions that will ruin a lucrative business today so as to guarantee success for the future.
Accordingly, digitization/e-commerce—whatever we want to call these things—is unthinkable without support from the very top. But beware: Too much influence can also backfire. Not every board member is capable of designing customer-oriented systems. Also, they are often too far removed from direct customer contact and, by running the company on too short a leash, they risk blocking the optimum result due to the HiPPO effect.
One Ring to Rule Them All
The digitization of business processes affects everyone to some extent. This makes it difficult to find one person to be solely responsible, who can be given the burden. Rather, it affects all the departments of a company, and primarily the product-related departments. Never before have we, as a company, had to face the challenge of having to listen to thousands of customers out there. However, we have never had the chance to be told by thousands of customers what they like or dislike about our own products. If you can master this amount of data on customer opinions and draw the correct conclusions from it, this can make all the difference between being a future world market leader and taking a sure path to insignificance.
Spryker takes an all-in approach to corporate digitization. We create software that gives companies a tool to solve these problems in a sustainable manner. But that is not everything —we form a partnership with each and every new customer and see it as our personal goal to ensure the success of the company. This includes our state-of-the-art platform based on the Spryker Commerce OS, and also now more than 100 employees who provide customers with advice, support, and development as part of their daily work. With the best e-commerce platform in the world, we methodically provide support with content.
With our software, the IT-department works more efficiently, and the marketing department works with more focus on customers. If used correctly, our platform provides sales representatives with an aid for improving sales and the board with the right tool to shape the strategy of the future.
Bye-bye finger-pointing. Hello teamwork!