By Matt Holt, Digital Engineer at OgilvyOne:

As changing consumer behaviour, channel proliferation and technological advancement all converge, corporate infrastructure must be reengineered if brands are to thrive in the digital age, argues Matt Holt, Consulting Partner at OgilvyOne UK. 

A study from Adobe, entitled ‘Digital Distress’, found that 76% of marketers feel that the marketing industry has changed more in the past two years than it has in the past 50.

To be honest, I’m surprised that the percentage isn’t 100%. Rapidly changing consumer behaviour, the proliferation of channels, and technological advancement have all converged to drive the biggest and far-reaching change that the world of commerce has ever seen.

The challenge is this…corporations were not designed for the digital age. The product-led, siloed and vertical nature of most corporate organisational design is not fit for purpose in an age where the customer is in control and can bypass brand communications entirely if they choose to.

Forrester has described the nature of business in the past century evolving across 4 ages. The 1900s heralded the age of manufacturing; the 1960s the age of distribution; the 1990s the age of information; and in 2010 began the age of the customer.

And there’s the rub. We are in the age of the customer, yet many of the corporations in existence today were designed for a different age. 

That’s why the digital opportunity is not being realised. According to a recent Accenture CMO Insights survey, 40% of CMOs said they thought their marketing was ineffective. Given that a lot of marketing is now digital, then what is that saying about the state of digital marketing?

So what can we do? The task is this. We need to re-engineer corporations so thatthey are able to thrive in the digital age, rather than simply survive or even die like the famous cases of Blockbuster and Kodak. Even businesses founded in the age of information aren’t safe as the demise of Friends Reunited highlights (they also had a problematic business model, but let’s save that for a different day).

So how do we re-engineer corporations so they are able to thrive? I think we need engineering thinking. Engineering is defined as ‘the creative application of scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes’. It has been applied in many different areas leading to different types of engineering - civil, mechanical, electrical, chemical... I think we have a new one to add to the list and that’s digital engineering. 

In order to flourish, digital engineering has 3 major components:

  1. A commitment towards organisational change – which is why digital transformation is so important (see my views on this athttp://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2015/06/03/why-digital-transformation-needs-reformation).
  2. The right skillsets and attitudes – engineers are able to think creatively and analytically, use their left brain and their right brain, couple art and science to solve problems. The word ‘engineering’ is derived from the Latin words ingenium, meaning "cleverness", and ingeniare, meaning "to contrive, devise". In other words, engineers are able to devise solutions AND make them.
  3. The right problems to tackle – we need to apply digital engineering thinking to more than marketing communications. The best marketing in the age of the customer is increasingly led by the development of best-in-class customer experience.

So what does digital engineering mean for marketing and the people that work in it? Well, we can easily argue that marketing, especially in brand communications, has got more than its fair share of artists. With data becoming ever more important, it’s now also getting its fair share of scientists, although this is still emerging.

What we need now are the engineers - the creative AND analytical thinkers, the doers, the makers. The individuals that have the right aptitude and attitude to reengineer corporations so they are able to thrive in the age of the customer.

Are you up to the challenge?

Matt Holt is a digital engineer at OgilvyOne UK – find him on Twitter @mattsocial