Every week when I sit down to write this blog I try to change things up a little. Working with a range of clients and sectors gives The Exponential exposure to a variety of business problems, which in turn means a good understanding of the challenges facing New Zealand businesses. Every week I try to find a different subject, or a new way to consider something I’ve already covered.

In reality, there’s an underlying theme to almost all my pieces. Whether I’m talking about the death of barriers to entry (such a good theme I covered it twice) the travails of media (another good topic… nine posts), or even the impact of millennials in the workplace (yep, nine more!) , what I’m really talking about is change…

Dig a little deeper, and you’ll probably notice the second theme, lurking just beneath change – the role played by technology and digital disruption in accelerating that change over the last decade or so. Again, this is something we’ve looked at before, most obviously here (yes, our inspiration for The Exponential Agency).

Disruption and transformation are constant companions to change. Disruption is a great word, unsettling, suggesting chaos, confusion, disorder (my personal favourite), and a dangerous lack of consistency. None of those words apply though, when you think of transformation. Transformation is all about a flowering, a seizing of opportunity, and an opening to possibilities… disruption and transformation are the Jekyll and Hyde of change, and which face you show to the world largely depends on how you configure your business to deal with change.

So, if most organisations these days are investing in digital transformation initiatives, how are they structuring that? Initiatives are playing out across various parts of the business, and usually as a direct reaction to disruption. Prima facie this is a good thing – any action is better than none, right? But too often these initiatives remain stubbornly discrete, managed by unit heads, and not guided by an overarching organisational vision of transformation. As we’ll see later, these initiatives make some progress… but usually they end up confused or disordered – in stark contrast to genuine transformation. Ultimately organisations approaching transformation like this struggle to get off first base.   

Which leads us nicely to the CMO…

Last week we covered two emerging themes on today’s CMO.

  1. As businesses increasingly become customer focused (driven by technology and changes in customer expectation), CMOs are stepping up to the leadership plate  
  2. Hand in hand, they are now owning spend and technology decisions outside of their traditional “creative” verticals

Thinking about these themes, especially when considering the threat rapid change poses to a disjointed business, a third theme starts to emerge. Smart companies are increasingly consolidating digital transformation with single owners, reducing the threat of disruption and optimising conditions for transformation. And more often than not, that consolidation is happening beneath the  CMO.

To test this idea I asked The Exponential’s CMO group who owned digital transformation in their organisations… a whopping 66% said they did.

This isn’t just “an NZ thing”. Sampling 528 US and European digital strategists and executives for his 2016 State of Digital Transformation report, Brian Solis identified a clear gap between businesses leading on digital transformation, and those struggling. Most of those struggling shared a common trait – they were investing in transformation disparately across the business. Most of those succeeding also shared a common trait – they had given ownership of digital transformation to a single leader… our old friend the CMO. Driven by the increased focus on customer, 34% of the organisations were building their digital transformation programmes out from the team that knows customer best – marketing.


I said last week there had never been a better time to be a CMO. Working with The CMO Group has reinforced that for me – although most businesses still face a looming dark cloud. When we discuss disruption within the group, even though 66% own digital transformation only one CMO characterises themselves as “totally disrupted and seeking a way out”. To me that suggests two things – if much of the group still has hard yards ahead of them, they are at least structured well to meet the challenge. As we’ve explored in the last three weeks, the Group could not be better placed to compete and crucially, act now before it’s too late




Key Takeaways:

  1. It doesn’t matter where you are in the disruption cycle, now is the time to change. Be bold, and remember the business is expecting you to lead.
  2. Don’t believe disruption won’t reach your business anytime soon – whenever you’re tempted to fall for this just drop me a line. I have plenty of businesses I’ve worked with happy to share scars and war stories with you. Their experience is compelling – hindsight is always 20/20…
  3. Now is the time to build your mandate in the business
  4. Now is also the time for you to build your structure and capability


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