Everyone acknowledges the global business environment is dynamically changing with the adoption of digital technologies, globalization of the marketplace, and changes in the global workforce (75% of the workforce will be Millennials by 2025).  As organizations respond to rapid-fire changes in the global digital business environment, they are forced to restructure to compete and survive, facing the challenges of digital transformation.

But are executives prepared to manage their organizations and seize the opportunities?

In three recent studies, executives speak out candidly on their state of un-preparedness!

  • A recent Forester study  noted, “Today’s executives know digital is a threat. More than 90% of global business executives believe digital will disrupt their business in the next 12 months, and nearly 75% are taking action with a digital strategy, yet only a third of executives believe that their approach to digital is correct.”
  • A 2014 Adobe study of 1000 executives reinforced this finding: “Only 14 % of marketers who want to reinvent themselves for the new digital world actually know how to,”
  • A 2014 IBM Global CMO Study compares global CMOs’ level of digital preparedness: in 2011, 71% felt under-prepared to deal the explosion of marketing data, as compared to 82% in 2014. Moreover, 66% reported that they’re not ready to cope with social media, marginally less than 2011. 

The Need 

Study after study concede there is a growing need to better prepare our future executives and managers to integrate  the customer experience, digital technologies, and global opportunities with  marketing analytics and automation

“It’s evident that digitization has become a critical asset in many companies’ quest for growth…But organizational challenges and a dearth of talent are common, significant hurdles that prevent companies from scaling up their digital efforts or seeing clear returns on their investments.”McKinsey’s Global Survey

“By 2018 the US is predicted to lack around 1.5 million managers and analysts with sufficient technical and digital know-how to make effective decisions, and the picture in the UK is similar. Big data, web analytics, mobile, content marketing and social media are the future of marketing but they are also the most difficult skills for which to recruit. This presents a challenge for both marketing employers and educators.” Lorna Walker, senior lecturer and programme director in the Business & Management faculty of Regent’s University London Business School’

Accenture’s “The Global Agenda: Competing in a Digital World, based on a late 2013 survey of 1,041 C-suite executives across 20 countries, relates how 75% “say they are likely to scale up their investments in human capital (recruitment, retention, training or other skills development), as 35% cited skills shortages as one of the biggest barriers to implementing digital technologies.”

Three Approaches to Digital Transformation

As these studies bear out, there is a need for business training to prepare students, participants, and managers for the wholly transformed business climate they will face as they enter the global digital marketplace. There are three approaches to digital transformation that address this need and the pervasive feeling of unpreparedness: “buying expertise,” “enriching expertise,” and “developing expertise.”

A short-term fix is acknowledging the challenge and “buying expertise,” or collaborating with groups that have the technical knowhow. This addresses the immediate technical challenges but does not focus on the comprehensive need to develop the strategic capacity of the executive team to respond and compete in the global digital world.

A mid-term approach, “enriching expertise,” focuses on transforming the organization by hiring new talent and retraining existing employees. It begins with establishing a new company culture based on a digital mindset and restructuring the organization to facilitate innovation and collaboration.  Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes suggests, “The reinvention of marketing starts with reinventing the marketing organization.” She shared in Adobe’s digital marketing journey that created a massive transformation of the company, including a reinvention of the marketing function, hiring the right people, and reskilling—or reinventing—existing employees. This approach leads to digital transformation, a critical step for an organization to remain relevant and competitive.

Finally, the long-term approach, “developing expertise” through business school training, contributes to the development of existing and future managers of businesses facing these challenges and preparation of participants entering the workforce. This training builds on the transforming effect of the digital mindset as it unveils strategic doorways to creative actions, essential to the growth of sustainable businesses. As Ashley Friedlein, CEO, Econsultancy, suggests, “Marketing departments need to have a balance of team members with both analytical (data-driven) and creative skills. Those rare individuals who are adept in both areas are set to inherit the digital earth.”

A Hybrid Solution

Business Training in the Global Digital Age

To address this need to prepare some 3+ million digital managers by 2018, we need to focus on the mid-and long-term approaches. Traditionally, executives turned to Business Schools for this training and education. But are B-schools seizing this opportunity and answering this challenge?

  • According to Rakesh Khurana, Professor, Harvard Business School, business schools are facing “a crisis of irrelevance,” as they don’t teach rules of engagement in developing markets.
  • Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, UCLA’s Social Media Executive Training Program Director contends, “Universities are totally out of touch with the reality of the social business transformation occurring in today’s organizations. They are teaching the old business models which are no longer relevant; and issuing degrees for business past.”
  • Finally, after studying GE’s approach to Digital Literacy, McKinsey & Company concluded,“[Digital] Social-media literacy… has not yet found its way into the curricula of business schools and leadership development programs.”

Business training must reflect the current business environment, digital technologies, globalization, and the culture and expectations of those being trained. Much like corporations and non-profits, business schools must adapt and transform to stay relevant. Business training must adopt innovative training methodologies, blend traditional face-to-face interactions with online learning activities and best practices into the learning process. Moreover, these new approaches must meaningfully address the real-world challenges of the current business environment to prepare participants and managers to succeed in an increasingly interconnected, global digital marketplace.

Digitally Integrated Learning Environment

After many years developing digital marketing trainings, the Digitally Integrated Learning Environment (DILE) has evolved as a foundational training methodology. In both content and delivery, the DILE incorporates five core principles: participant centricity, social community, collaboration, integration, and applicability.
 Core Principles of the DILE

  1.  Participant Centricity – The learner experience (LX) is the primary focus. Participant-centric training requires instructors to actively encourage and respond to participant input.
  1. Social Community – The training is a living digital laboratory. Participants are part of a “social learning community,” utilizing the latest digital tools to foster communication and collaboration.
  1. Collaboration – In collaborative learning, the instructor and participants are partners in learning. The instructor serves as a guide and consultant rather than just a provider of information.
  1. Integration – Integration permeates the entire training experience: integrating media as well as integrating values and goals with actionable strategies and tactics.
  1. Applicability – The training must be easy for participants to relate to and practically apply to hands-on projects and real-world scenarios.

The DILE in Action

As a real-world proof of concept for the DILE, Chris Horton and I have designed a new learning resource to prepare and train executives and managers for digital transformation. Digital Marketing: Integrating Strategy and Tactics with Values is a guidebook that encourages organizations to harmonize their core values and business goals with their digital marketing strategies, tactics, infrastructure, and information systems across all business functions to generate sustainable outcomes. It focuses on marketing as an expanded business function traversing IT, HR, finance, and management. As an innovative leaning resource, it integrates traditional print with digital video, internet, and mobile to create a Connected Digital ExperienceHere is a zapcode that employs augmented reality to deliver five pieces of digital content to allow the reader to expand the learner experience (LX).

Hover over the zapcode to discover the basics of the Digital Marketing guidebook. Click here for the Executive Guide, “From Traditional Business to Digitally Integrated Organization.”