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Gartner to CMOs: you need help with digital change

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan October 7, 2013
If CMOs are going to be charged with getting their organisations into fit shape for the digital economy, they're going to need help - and that help will come in part from the traditional services and business consulting organisations.

If CMOs are going to be charged with getting their organisations into fit shape for the digital economy, they're going to need help - and that help will come in part from the traditional services and business consulting organisations.

That's according to reesarch firm Gartner, which also sees those traditional consulting firms with business transformation pedigrees starting to come under pressure from marketing services providers.

We've written in the past about efforts by firms traditionally thought of as big systems houses or outsourcing firms to re-purpose themselves as digital enterprise enablers such as Accenture's formation of Accenture Interactive, Deloitte's Deloitte Digital brand or IBM's IBM Interactive arm.

In a briefing note to clients - Leverage Digital Transformation Consultants to Adapt to the Digital Age - Gartner's Richard Fouts and Daniel Krauss argue:

"All these providers target the CMO as a primary buyer, and have delivered engagements in media and entertainment, financial services, insurance and retail.

"Now they are aggressively moving into all sectors, with pharmaceuticals, consumer packaged goods, automotive, travel, hospitality and public sector leading their next wave of digital business pursuits."

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The reason why all this matters has been aired this week at the Gartner Symposium/IT Expo where the future shape of the digital enterprise was the subject of debate as Hung LeHong, research vice president and Gartner Fellow, argued that boundaries between industries, industry sectors and industry role are being kicked down by digital technologies:

“In the digital future, a human can talk to a ‘thing’ such as requesting a driverless taxi, just as easily as a ‘thing’ such as a building, can contact a human maintenance worker because the building predicts that a surge in foot traffic means the garbage cans must be emptied soon.

“Digital technology is improving our products, services and processes, our customer and constituent experiences, and the way we work in our enterprises and within our partner. We do what we normally do, but digitalization allows us to do it better or develop better products.”

The next level of digital re-invention is created by the need to compete with unprecedented business velocity and agility, what Gartner chooses to call "transient opportunities exploited dynamically" or - slightly more prosaically - "business moments" which LeHong stated:

" can come from nowhere, yet are increasingly everywhere, and are almost never the same in product, time frame or competitor."

Are you up to the job?

But how qualified is the CMO to select a digital transformation partner out of both the 'old guard' and the new breed of marketing services firms also vying for business?

As it's Gartner that has been pimping the 'CMO assuming CIO powers' meme for the past 12 months or so, it's perhaps fitting that it's set out some interesting assessments of some of the most prominent players, highlighting their pros and cons.

For example, of Accenture it states:

Many of today's digital transformation initiatives are led by opportunities to transform the customer experience. However, Accenture is not well-known for its creative, interactive user experience and customer experience design services. But that's changing, given its recent acquisitions of AvVenta, Acquity and Fjord (though AvVenta is more of a production house versus a provider of original creative services).

Capgemini is said to be:

a good fit for clients that would like to understand the opportunities and threats of the digital age and the implications for their organization and how to execute effectively. However, the firm might potentially not be a good fit for companies looking for deep ideation and creative capabilities in particular.

Deloitte is ranked as:

a good fit for large global clients that are looking for a strong blend of a range of digital consulting capabilities. However, the firm might not be a good fit for focused local projects in certain markets because the current main penetration of all skills is predominantly in the U.S., U.K., India, South Africa, Singapore, Canada, Japan, Australia and the Netherlands.

And IBM is seen as:

a rising, formidable competitor in digital transformation due to its ability to execute its ideas through prototypes that can evolve into full-fledged businesses, especially those driven by new types of digital user experiences supported by underlying e-commerce and analytics capabilities.

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As well as detailed assessments of individual providers, Gartner also offers up some generic recommendations when shopping for transformational consultants:

  • Know your business before you transform it - and don't repeat the mistakes of traditional outsourcing engagements by letting knowledge slip away from the business into the hands of the third party provider. Gartner urges: "CMOs should develop their own scenarios of how they see their customer experience changing before engaging the experts."
  • Try before you buy or in other words test the transformation consultants skills before signing on the dotted line. Let's face it, after the self-inflicted wounds and battle scars incurred in the outsourcing market over the past few decades, this should be a no-brainer, but the providers have a new and relatively unexposed audience to pitch to now, so the danger of the mistakes being made is higher than might be hoped.

So Gartner warns:

"CMOs should not to sign an agreement until the skills of the firm’s best transformation consultants have been tested, as evidenced through references and interactive, pre-engagement working sessions.

"Take envisioned scenarios to the providers under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and ask for validation and critique. Experience their thinking and methodology first hand, before signing the contract.”

  • Finally, be ready to pay out and play for a long time. If you're hoping to see short term ROI on your investment, you're likely to be sadly disappointed.


Gartner's brief contains some interesting analysis of the potential and prowess of some of the traditional consulting providers to morph into digital transformation consultancies, even if most of these assessments ultimately reach a conclusion equivalent to 'only time will tell'.

It's tempting to dismiss this as Gartner keeping its powder dry on this - and there's probably some truth (and sense) to that - but the 'on the one hand, on the other hand' tone of these vendors profiles is also indicative of the nascent and fast-changing nature of the market.

I remain as sceptical as ever about the notion of the CMO stepping up to some of the new responsibilities seemingly foisted on him or her by the likes of Gartner.

Having seen how all too many CIOs became so disasterously hooked on the siren charms of large systems integrators and outsourcing giants, I can't help but nurture a worrying sense of deja vu at the prospect of CMOs entering into negotiations of a similar nature.

Like all good cliches, buyer beware became one for a damn good reason…






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