The Real Barrier to Change

February 25, 2010

Our biggest barrier to change is not technology, but our entrenched way of thinking about a given circumstance.

This holds true even for me, as I am reminded of my early days as a programmer. We were cutting edge, my colleagues and I, building powerful applications that would—once installed on a user's personal computer—talk to centralized servers where a thoughtfully designed database waited to return requested data. The technology, known as client-server, marked a revolution in computing and the decline of the mainframe.

Then came the Internet. As much as I wanted to "get it," I first struggled to understand how it worked. I was so comfortable in my client-server world, building my Visual Basic applications and deploying my SQL Server databases. Intellectually, it was difficult to get my head around this notion that I could open up a browser and actually run a program that sat on a server a thousand miles or more away.

I also failed to grasp why web-based architecture was such a leap forward. I couldn't see that by moving the guts of an application from a user's desktop to a web server and serving up the same capabilities through the context of a web browser, businesses could accelerate release cycles and slash costs. So I put it off learning more about it as long as I could.

These days, the web provides us with resources that I never dreamed we would live to see. At Digett:

  • Our very capable phone system is a hosted solution by Aptela. We talk to our prospects and customers using a headset and computer. The party on the other end doesn't know that we might actually be working at the coffee shop while they're talking to us.
  • We've moved all of our document, spreadsheet, and presentation editing and storage to "the cloud" using Google Docs.
  • We have now done away entirely with our internal file server, opting instead for another cloud solution called JungleDisk.

Each one of these moves has reduced cost and risk while improving the experience associated with their use.

Powerful stuff, this Internet! And to think that I—normally an early adopter—resisted this new paradigm. But as I look around, I see business after business still stuck in a similar rut, refusing to try to understand how and why emerging paradigms are so important. I can look no further than San Antonio to see, for example, that local ad agencies' failure to embrace digital marketing has effectively handicapped that industry in this small town.

I speak to prospects and customers every day who refuse to believe that social media has any role to play in their own marketing strategies. And even many so-called "savvy" marketing execs think their jobs on the digital front are done once they've deployed a good-looking website, when the real work of building a successful digital marketing program has just started.

Little has changed more in business during the past five years than the way successful companies reach out to and engage prospects and customers. If you don't understand this shift, it's okay. But it's not okay to continue to bury your head in the sand.

Take steps toward building an insights-driven integrated marketing strategy. Learn the significance of words like authenticity, transparency, and conversation as they relate to marketing. Wrap your arms around the notion that if you can't measure it, you can't improve it. Get help where you need it. You won't change everything overnight, but if you start now, you'll likely avoid the disaster of being left behind.

Comments

Great Article

Mark, this is a great article because it strikes at the core of the real problem with agencies that are just now waking up to the fact that the internet is important-change. They see the web as simply another advertising channel when in a reality it is a whole different way of engaging customers. The old one-way communication of the ad world does not work well anymore with the internet (maybe back in the mid 90's but not today). The big question in terms of change is how do agencies shift from a one-way communication with customers, one in which they put out a headline or idea and expect results, to one where they invite customers to a dialogue and conversation about their brand. That is where the change needs to occur and until they embrace it and run with it they will not succeed.

AG