Anyone who has read business administration at the university can testify the vast amount of management books one has to read in able to pass the courses. My reflections after working for a few years I can say they are all full off bullshit. Pardon my language but the models and theories presented in these books are so complicated that I think you have no use of them in real life.
I just read a book about the secret of companies that excel in business and it brought me back to my academic years. This book was trying to identify the main factors for successful companies. To make a long story short you the time one can say it is a mixture of management style, strategy, right focus and a bit of luck.
From my experience what most of these books teach us is common sense. The absolutely most important thing for successful companies, according to my opinion, is to understand what your are good at and why. When you understand this you have the core of your success. Building on this will excel you to long-term happiness. You can illustrate it like an onion. The core is where you start thereafter you need to build layers around the core. Many companies do the mistake to start things far away from the core, which is a real gamble.
Understanding your core is in many ways harder that people think. Usually it sits with the founder of the company and when he leaves there is a real risk of loosing this insight if he has not passed on this knowledge. For example Steve Jobs understood this and tried to pass it on to Tim Cook. The founder of IKEA is planning to retire and has tried for many years to build a culture, which reflect his values. Let us see to whom he will pass it on to, his sons?
Leading people is not easy, but it is also much harder if you do not understand why you have succeeded.
I have had the priviledge to attend one of the beter leadership training courses in Sweden. This training course is rather famous in Sweden and is called UGL (Utveckling Grupp Ledarskap). UGL was developed by the swedish military to teach sergants and other decission makers how to understand group dynamics and how to get the most out of your team. After attending this course I have started seeing my team with different eyes.
My reflections touches mainly the power of dynamics between team members and the importance of having a clear path as a leader.
Since the digital space is fast paced and demands your team members to constantly upgrade their competence this puts a lot of stress on you as a team member and leader to be clear, precise and basically all over the place. I also think that a digital manager have to constantly be updated on the general develpment. For example you need to know how mobile affects your business model and how social media is evolving and what all this means for your team and resources.
There are a couple of ways to respond to this as a leader but the most important is seing your collegues as chess pieces. I mean that in the most positive way. As the digital space evolve you want to be strategically placed correctly. Move you team in the right direction. This is of course easier said than done but when you get the thinking you will be in a very good place.
So, would you say that you work in a digital company? I have now had experience with purely digital companies and non digital companies. With purely digital I mean companies that their entire business model is born in the digital world, like Spotify or Zalando. My current company is a traditional lottery with an offline business model, like traditional advertising, telephone sales, print advertisments etc.
There is a big difference working for purely digital companies and companies that try to get into the digital space. As we devolp our digital presence I have found three key difference between the two business models.
- Digital businesses are rigged to be digital. Nondigtal have to transform themselves which is a major task. To transform your business is probably one of the hardest parts. Ask Nokia or Kodak. Both giants in their fields with extremely bright people in the organisation but both of them did not manage to transform themselves into the digtial space. To throw money on consultants and technology is not enough which brings me to my next point.
- Digital businesses have digital leadership. The leadership have vast knowledge in the power of the technology and the pitfalls. Non digital companies struggle to understand how to take full advantage of technology. The digital landscape is constantly change and the pace is picking up. This means you need to invest heavily in technology and people.
- Fast and smart. The bigger the company the more complex everything is and this slows you down. But in the same time if you put your main platform in place you can rigg yourself to be a leader in the market instead of follower. You have to be smart enough to see the major trends consumer adopt. Facebook, Google and Apple are extremly good at this although they are hugh companies with hugh organisations. Non digital organistations have a much slower development cycle since their business has been ”slow”.
Of course digital businesses come and go, so being in the forefront is not a guarantee to survive. A lot also depends on timing but one thing is for sure. The digitalisation of our society touches all businesses, even lotteries.
The mobile is a big thing. Let me rephrase it. It is a huge thing. On our swedish Postcodelottery site the traffic from mobile phones and tablets have reached the 50% mark.
This upward trend is a challenge for all of us that work with digital channels since it affects everything from how your design process is to how the technology should be implemented. We are far from cracking the mobile landscape but we are working on it. Currently we are focusing a lot of making things mobile optimized. Our landing page, our sales funnel, our navigation and so on.
Approximately a years ago we launched our responsive site which was a step in the right direction but in all honesty it was done a bit hasty. Now that w have reached the 50% mark a more comprehensive approach needs to be taken. We need to fix stuff so it runs smoothly on mobile devices. A few months ago we did our first mobile only AB test. We tested a mobile friendly landing page vs a non mobile friendly. Unfortunately the test result was inconclusive which is interesting in itself although I cannot draw to many conclusions from just one test.
The second big mobile optimized test was our sales funnel. While changing the plattform we took the oppurtunity to make it more mobile friendly. AB testing a sales funnel is always a sensitive business, but it was done with great care. Unfortunately the results were still inconclusive. In other words the old non mobile friendly sales flow was as good as the mobile friendly. Strange but it can probably be exlained by the super attractie offer we had – no matter how hard you make it for the users they want the offer so they will push through your sales funnel.
So my take on mobile is still shaping. I can see that the trend is more and mobile and the more companies offer a mobile friendly experience the higher the customer expectation will be. To sum it up my key learnings from mobile so far are:
- Depending on how you do your marketing will determine your mobile traffic volume. The more emails you send out the more mobile traffic.
- Mobile screen real estate is extremely valuable so you need to prioritize hard which makes it a struggle especially if you have multiple products/services.
- AB testing for mobile is more complicated than for computers and you need to consider several key factors such as different screen sizes, operating sytems etc.
- Going forward responsive sites it the future but my limited AB test have so far not given me numbers to support that decission.
- The big success with mobile optimization will probably come when we develop our mobile offerings further, so the value to the users are more clear.
What are your thoughts?
The online world keeps evolving every year. Lately I see more and more job ads about a title called Customer Experience Manager. The title implies that you should be responsible for how your customers experience you and your brand. I think it is a good way of thinking but the job could be huge.
First of all, what do we mean customer experience? Is it the looks of your advertising? Is the looks and feels of your website? Does it also contain loading times? What about your apps, should you be responsible for them too? Are you responsible for knowing exactly how you do the marketing? What if you are a global company with many different departments? As you can see the complexity is huge if you consider that this person should be responsible for everything.
Of course you can set it up accordingly but as I wrote in my other article about the complexity of online managers, the challenge for an online manager today is much more complex than it was just 3 years ago. And everything is connected. So no wonder that a lot of people are stressed.
I cannot stop wondering what will be the next big title within online business. Personalisation manager? Authentic experience manager? You-know-everything mananger?
Lately I have been to a couple of conferences about online business. The topics have touched everything from email marketing to conversion optimization to customer insights to relationship management and many other. Although they have been some really enjoyable sessions what hit me was the vast amount of knowledge you have to have to be able to make good decisions today. Driving online business today is much harder than it was just 3 years ago.
I have a feeling that the complexity has increased exponentially the last couple of years. This puts a lot of pressure to be able to know a bit of everything since everything is interrelated. How much more complex will it become? My spontaneous answer is much more complex.
So if it is already complex how will it be possible for a manager to possess knowledge in all fields to make good decisions. There are so many parameters to keep track of that it makes it impossible to know everything. Time has become such a scarce resource that you need to clone yourself to manage things effectively.
Let me give you an example of the complexity one faces.
If you had an online business a couple of years ago you would probably do fine with a website and some adwords buying. Then you hook up emails. After that you had to consider SEO. After that user reviews was a big thing. Then you had social media. Then you had conversion optimization. Then you have retargeting. Then mobile apps. And so on, I think you get the picture. Considering the technical aspects, such as load time, responsiveness etc you more or less need to be a super human to know everything.
Of course you have professionals in each position, but if you want to be successful as a business your top managers have to make good decisions. To make good decisions you need to know the key aspects of each area. To truly know the key aspects of each area you need to have hands on experience. No human, or at least no normal person has worked within all of these areas especially in a larger organisation.
I think that many companies today have not adjusted themselves to the complexity of an online world. The complexity of everthing being interrelated has huge implications on how you make decisions and how you create an effective organisation. The bigger the organisation is the bigger the challenge.
So if you are an online manager the only solution is that you should clone yourself ;). Then you get double time. Just think how much you can accomplish.