Digital transformation: The World Vision story

By AdNews | 16 August 2018

A recent study found that about $45 billion worth of contribution to Australia’s GDP over the next three years was going to come from Australian businesses engaged in the process of digital transformation.

Digital transformation is about improving the efficiency and effectiveness of a business and its operations by using digital technology and data.

In Australia, about 82% of businesses are in the midst of a digital transformation, although most businesses are struggling to execute, according to Havas Melbourne MD Matt Houltham.

Houltham, who has been working in digital, creative and digital agencies for nearly 20 years, says a lot of the talk about digital transformation in adland is a ‘sales pitch from consultants’.

“One of the problems is that everybody is doing [digital transformation] and most people are struggling,” he said.

“Prior to the commencement of the digital transformation process, it's fair to say that the agency partners that World Vision were using were service providers, not partners. They often didn't have a very defined role in terms of the projects they were working on or indeed where their remit on a project started and stopped, particularly as the field of communications becomes more blurry between what different agencies do.

“So, they weren't necessarily aligning very well with World Vision's objectives and it made it very hard for them to do their job.”

Four main challenges

The four most common challenges businesses face in the transformation journeys are skills and resources gaps, cultural barriers, poor leadership and ambition and inadequate data and analytics.

World Vision recently embarked on its own digital transformation program.

The charity has been an innovator in the NGO sector; the first to introduce child sponsorship 60 years ago, the first to leverage shopping centres as a channel and one of the first to use peer-to-peer fundraising techniques in its 40-hour famine initiative.

World Vision chief marketing, data and product officer Teresa Sperti says the charity needed to evolve to the digital era to remain competitive in an industry where 54,000 not-for-profit organisations operate in Australia and one where trust is at an all-time low and the expectations of transparency are high.

“The net effect for brands like World Vision is there's never been a more critical time for us to actually transform to meet the challenging marketplace,” Sperti said.

“What's really fundamentally important in a transformation is that you have a really clear vision and strategy to deliver on your transformation efforts.”

At World Vision, this is focused on strategic enablers, such as data, insight, people and culture, process and partners.

The role of tech

Sperti explains that a major challenge for World Vision is ensuring supporters are able the impact of their contributions, which are often channeled into projects overseas. In other words, “making the invisible, visible”.

“Technology really plays a critical role to deliver on that experience-based approach, but our landscape wasn't really supporting our ambitions,” she said.

“This really led us to focus our initial investment where we were going to gain the greatest benefit. And so, this has led us to invest in areas like marketing automation, data and analytics, content platforms and most importantly, the integration that exists between those platforms.”

Sperti said it is critical to focus, qualify and act upon the two of three biggest gaps to get the project moving otherwise a lot of value will be lost through inaction.

Another important focus is to make sure technology is aligned to strategy.

“Too often I see platforms and tech are really chosen without the organisation or marketers really understanding what role does that platform play and what are the requirements that it needs to fulfil,” she explained.

Data and insights are the ‘glue’ of a digital transformation project; insights provide a foundation to build a strategy upon.

World Vision has more than 40,000 different data points and more than 2 million past and present donors.

“When I started at World Vision, it actually took us six weeks to actually get a customer list out of our database and it was one list, no segmentation. There was no clear ownership of data within the organisation and that often meant that decision related to data were often deferred to our IT team, which usually take a lens of security or risk mitigation,” she said.

“We'd invested heavily in research, so we were rich with insight, but we weren't actually acting upon it. And there was very little reporting in place to monitor and manage campaign performance, product performance and donor value.”

To fix this, World Vision made marketing as the stewards of data strategy, who work closely with a team of data analysts.

“Value is really only created from new models and segmentation when it's actually operationalised,” she said.

The 'personal touch'

Sperti said is also important to make sure marketers are getting close and personal with customers because analysts will only tell you what happened or could happen, but not necessarily why.

She added that the most important challenge is people and culture, which most organisations ignore.

“We have a digital team that was there to manage digital and I'm sure many of you can relate to that. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just for digital transformation to lead and fundamentally evolve your organisation, it needs to live beyond the actual digital team,” she explained.

“Traditionally, we were strong as a marketing team in direct marketing and above-the-line marketing, and the team wasn't really equipped with the skills or expertise to operate in new ways and effectively leverage digital.”

Although resistant to change, World Vision has found that hiring several senior executives with solid digital and data experience has helped drive change, as well as flattening organisation structures to make sure rank and file workers are closer to the decision-making process.

“We've also focused on shifting the culture to one of test and learn and one that encourages innovation,” she added. “We've had success through things like - we did quarterly showcases that enabled us to showcase new thinking and celebrate new thinking.”

Operational changes include a new campaign strategy process that uses a lean strategy approach where cross-functional teams come together, including agency partners, and we actually workshop a strategy collaboratively.

There’s also a new product development process, which leverages “design sprints, and we define and develop on the basis of the donor journey”.

“When I started at World Vision, both campaigns and products were built largely on the basis of internal needs verses marketing science and the donor journey. Collaboration didn't really exist, whether it was developing a new product or campaign,” Sperti said.

“The organisation's natural tendency was to operate within silos and that's probably something again that everyone in this room can relate to. Even our own marketing team operated in silos. We had the acquisition team that never spoke to the retention team.”

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