The 20th century was rich with great decision-making paradigms. At unique moments in history, global businesses were pushed to respond to a rapidly changing reality or fade into obscurity. In these sink-or-swim moments, crucial management processes and strategies emerged that would enable the next great innovations.
In the mid-20th century, for example, the Kaizen principle for continuous improvement enabled Toyota to increase productivity despite substantial resource constraints. Later, the Six Sigma process presented a path for companies to gain an advantage in an environment of intensified global competition. And in the post-Cold War era, a new sense of unpredictability led businesses to embrace the leadership philosophy known as VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity).
Now, with feet firmly planted in the 21st century, businesses face the daunting reality of our modern age: a hyper-responsive digital reality wrapped around every person, object and process. To thrive in this cyber era requires a faster, more collaborative approach and decision-making model.
And leading this model, soon to be sweeping the C-suite, will be chief marketing officers.
To meet the moment, look to marketing
Business leaders must embrace our digital world or be left behind. In particular, this signifies a sea change for marketers, who must now be driven as much by digital tools and processes as they are by traditional marketing tactics. And while digital marketing technology has promised smooth sailing, the reality has seen rough waters. It’s in this storm that a new paradigm will emerge.
There’s currently no collective understanding of what a digital experience platform is and how best to leverage it. This has created a widening rift between what business leaders and users expect and what teams can accomplish. All the while, growing technological constraints leave behind diverse perspectives, revenue and the potential for creative progress.
Without science-led systems to guide teams forward, new value creation remains out of reach, and organizations struggle to think bigger, but without insights enabled by quick iteration and easy experimentation. Navigating the unprecedented complexity of this digital reality requires marketers to be at the forefront of innovation.
Ultimately, all business leaders will benefit from an end to mostly gut-based decision-making. The way forward is access instead to streamlined insights gleaned from embedded intelligence and frictionless collaboration.
Digital defines the moment
Traversing disjointed tech stacks and dealing with unorganized data can feel like navigating the open ocean without a compass. To be a marketer today entails experiencing and embracing tremendous change. The future of work will undoubtedly thrive on optimized insights drawn from the limitless digital potential that defines the present moment.
The rise of digital has accelerated changes in customer expectations—every time customer demand shifts it impacts the way marketers must reach them. Mobile technology, for example, has created a seemingly infinite number of customer touchpoints. The face of a brand no longer belongs to a customer service representative or a static web page that’s essentially a brochure on a desktop computer.
Future-facing digital experiences require meaningful personalization, community, interactivity, immediacy and the ability to look beyond the bottom line to cultivate a positive social impact. Marketers need purpose-built tools and processes, not hand-me-downs from developers and manufacturers.
To stop treading water and gain forward momentum, marketing leaders must become digital leaders and develop a deep understanding of the tech that fuels contemporary engagement expectations. They must have the capacity to anticipate where trendlines lead and, in doing so, construct a cultural and management ethos that will enable their teams to stay atop the crest of the constantly breaking digital wave.
Where marketers lead, the business will follow
Without a great marketer experience, there is no great customer experience. To unlimit what marketing can do, we must unlimit how marketing works. It must be prepared to converge with the only global constant, which is ever-accelerating metamorphosis.
The future of corporate decision-making begins with a management framework specifically created to elicit a free flow of high-touch, data-informed marketing creativity—not in spite of, but thoroughly enabled by, our present technological evolution.
When there’s actually space for everyone to work together easily, we can chart a course to a future where neither team member nor customer is left feeling at sea.