At this point, every company of some level of scale is online. Some businesses depend on their website to grow their initiatives, and some are online only because they know they need to be. I see more of the former than the latter these days, as there are very few industries that haven’t been digitally disrupted in one form or another. Fact is, being online is more and more critical than ever before.
Since most businesses have been online for a substantial period, we’re now in an era where many companies are falling behind, mostly due to the fact that keeping up is difficult. Large organizations that made substantial digital investments in the past 10 years or so are behind the curve to an extent as the digital space has evolved. There are new tools, techniques, and strategies that have been developed rather quickly, leaving companies in some cases not even aware that they are running on an outdated methodology.
This is the inspiration for this week’s post… What are some signs that your company may be due for a digital transformation? In no particular order, I have a couple of signs that to agencies are obvious, but potential customers a bit more obscure.
Technical Best Practices Not Observed
This is somewhat unfair – in most cases, best practices aren’t followed because people aren’t aware of what they are. Not because they openly plan to be rebellious and do their own thing – most of the time business owners and marketers just aren’t able to keep up with the latest and greatest. And, if they have relied on help that wasn’t up to snuff, or tried to go it alone, they may find themselves way behind where they should be.
Fact is, “best practices” are called that for a reason – they allow for the highest standards of redundancy, risk mitigation, and scalability. Among the areas that we see most often neglected during a digital transformation project:
No Deployment Procedures: This means that there may not be a development, staging and live environment running. This infrastructure allows for the safest possible development scenario, ensuring a separation between environments and proper testing and quality assurance procedures. It also provides a level of redundancy – if something goes wrong with a live site at the very least you have a staging environment to fall back on.
No Code Management: Code repositories such as GIT enable development teams to properly manage a codebase amongst various developers, in addition to store and maintain code reliably and responsibly. At the enterprise level, almost every client I’ve seen has some degree of code management in place. At the SMB level, unless they are working with an intelligent agency or a well-qualified freelancer, this is nearly non-existent. Code management makes it easy to track changes, rollback if necessary, and manage multiple developers when required. While this was less of a “thing” years ago, today it is more and more necessary.
Backups: I’m pretty much continually amazed at how many companies don’t have a procedure in place for backups that are within their own control. Many people just think their hosts will manage this. However, when things go awry, having a backup under your own infrastructure can be a lifesaver. Case in point – we’ve had issues where CMS updates have broken site functionality – it’s easy to restore this from your own backups. However, if you have to rely on your host, you are looking at a lengthy restoration process that may take too long to be of much good. Running your own backups is easy – and there really aren’t any good reasons you aren’t maintaining this simple insurance policy.
Software Not Up-To-Date: Another no-brainer: Ensuring your software is actually updated. So many times we see clients who do not keep their CMS and other packages updated, leading to security flaws and vulnerabilities. There is NEVER a good reason to let this go by the wayside unless you absolutely cannot afford it. But also think, what is the price of inaction?
When prospective clients come to us about a redesign or holistic transformation project, its not unusual that we uncover severe gaps in their reporting and gathering of critical metrics. Most clients by now have integrated analytics tracking software such as Google Analytics. However, it’s incredible how little they know about how it actually works, what the statistics really mean, and how they all work together. Furthermore, placing the tag isn’t enough – to get the most out of these platforms you really have to configure them individually to your requirements. This way you can track key metrics such as conversions, cost analysis of paid campaigns, and other analytics that matter to your business.
Sometimes clients come to us and understand where those gaps exist, but most of the time they don’t know what they don’t know, something that can be quickly remedied via some discovery work and quick implementation of effective changes.
One of the signs I have that can give me some insight into the sophistication of a company or their marketing team is their approach to tagging. Tag management isn’t something new yet even to this day we see large digital operations going it alone, hard coding or using other CMS-based tools to perform this essential operation. For those who don’t know, tools such as Google Tag Manager make it easy for marketers to manage tagging throughout their site, as opposed to having to implement every time a tag is added or deleted via changes to the codebase. Installation is a tag itself, which is positioned via your developer, and from there you manage all subsequent tags via the tag management interface. Tag managers make it much easier to manage this process, though, you probably need a bit of help in the implementation because it can get complex around conversions and certain triggers (actions that call and activate a tag). Chances are, if you aren’t using a tool like this, you are behind in other areas as well.
Lack of Integration Between Platforms
This is another way we can judge the sophistication of a marketing effort – how well integrated together are the tools that embody the “marketing stack”? Today, marketers are utilizing more technology than IT folks – and each tool needs to somehow, at a certain level, integrate to each other and work in tandem to be successful.
At the most basic level, you can successfully integrate tools by utilizing services such as Zapier, which were designed for this purpose. What we’re looking for when judging these integrations is how well the data is preserved throughout the process of integrations. For example, if you are using third-party landing page tools to acquire leads and then integrating to a tool such as HubSpot, it would be expected that you are attributing those leads correctly, and segmenting as necessary with the CRM. If you aren’t, then you are losing a crucial part of your data.
If it sounds as though your integrations are not preserving data, or you aren’t integrating at all, this is another sure sign that your company could benefit from some changes at a high level.
No Escalation Plans
If your site goes down at 3am, who do you call? If your CMS is hacked, who can help? What formal procedures do you have in place to handle the unexpected?
For many companies, there isn’t an answer to those questions. This is problematic – downtime that lingers for too long, or sites that are compromised and contain malicious content are catastrophic issues when they happen and aren’t addressed.
How can you best prepare escalation plans? First, have effective monitoring solutions in place. Make sure your site is monitored at the very least for downtime or load speed, and at best monitored for other key indicators as well. This also includes monitoring for malware, attacks, and infiltrations – these are all issues that you need to be aware of quickly.
Secondly, escalation must include a response. Who will respond, and how quickly will they do so? There must be a formal process in place so that either team members are on call to respond or there is a service that will do the same.
Finally, those team members must know what to do – who to call – who controls what. Without that information, then the response is useless. By following these (relatively simple) steps, you can ensure that your company is covered for the worst case scenarios – which happen more often than you would think.
How to Right The Ship
So what do you do if the above points apply to you? Well, some things are easy to fix, and others a bit more difficult. It’s easy to formulate an escalation and response plan – you can do this yourself with just a bit of planning and preparation. Fixing reporting, installing proper tag management, or adhering to technical best practices is an entirely different story. The best way to approach those is to dedicate yourself to actually fixing the problem – and that usually starts by admitting there is one.