If you had a blank sheet, what organisational structure would you choose for marketing and digital?

There are two strategic imperatives that you cannot fail to have missed: digital transformation and customer-centricity.

From McKinsey to Accenture to IBM to Capgemini to Deloitte to PwC to Forrester to Gartner and, of course, our own Econsultancy and Marketing Week, all of the research, analysis and consultants’ advice bangs the same drum. All businesses agree they have to become more digital and more customer-centric.

All the research also agrees that most organisations feel they are far from achieving these transformations. PA Consulting’s Digital Barometer says 62% of organisations have ambitions to be digital leaders but only 8% feel they are on their way to achieving this.

Analysis agrees on the barriers and challenges: leadership, culture and people; skills and capabilities; legacy technology. Business models are being disrupted and we preach the need for innovation and more agile ways of working. The real problem is execution. We know the challenges and which direction we need to head but actually doing it is difficult. Finding and retaining the right people alone is a massive challenge.

But let us consider organisational structures. Econsultancy publishes a popular report called Digital Marketing: Organizational Structures and Resourcing Best Practice Guide. This first came out in 2011 but has been revised since. Among others things it proposes a digital maturity model that has five stages of evolution: dispersed; centre of excellence; hub and spoke; multiple hub and spoke; and fully integrated. The end vision for ‘digital’ is essentially that it becomes so much part of the organisation that it ceases to exist as a separate function. Most organisations, however, are somewhere between the centre of excellence and hub and spoke stages.

So much for digital. But what about customer-centricity? If you were designing an organisational structure that was fit for customer-centricity and also embraced digital as fully integrated, what would it look like? And where would marketing be in this structure?

I thought I would have a go.

Ashley diagram See notes below.

Obviously, it is simplified and I have not given it too much thought as I’m interested to get feedback to iterate it. Some of the key points in the thinking behind it are below.

It was created with businesses in mind that produce and sell a product or experience. ‘Customer’ can be interpreted quite broadly to include stakeholders, who might even be internal.

There is a customer director (CD) who reports to a chief customer officer on the board. To date, I have fought against the creation of new job titles and would still rather just call this role marketing director but at least it helps mitigate the risk of accusations of functional empire building by marketing to subjugate sales and service. The CD could come from any of those functions.

The CD takes control of all front office functions including sales, service and marketing. The CD envisions, designs and optimises the customer proposition and experience across all channels. You can see that there are capabilities around customer experience, including product management, and content that sit within the CD’s remit. You will note that there is nothing specifically digital as it is part of everything.

There are data and insight capabilities within the CD’s overall team but there is also a client-side technology team embedded in the customer experience (CX) function too. Infrastructural technology capabilities would be part of the back office but I think for agility and CX reasons it is important to have technologists that really understand design and interfaces as close as possible to marketing, sales and service.

Is this a realistic embryonic model to deliver true customer-centricity with digital embedded throughout? Or should we stick to the functions, roles and terminology we are used to?

Chart notes

Ashley diagram notes



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