Phil Kemelor has spent years at the intersection of marketing, content and customer service, leveraging analytics to guide digital strategy. 

After careers in journalism, marketing and university research, he combined what were at the time new technologies to create the country’s second largest subscription newsletter publisher. He authored The Executive’s Guide to Web Site Measurement and Testing and was lead analyst for the CMS Watch Web Analytics Report.

In 2007, he joined Semphonic, a boutique analytics practice and led the firm’s Washington, D.C. strategy. Six years later, he joined London-based EY, where he was senior manager of advanced analytics. Just recently, he was named vice president of client services for MaassMedia, a digital analytics consulting firm based in Philadelphia.

Through these varied roles he has learned the benefits of combining digital analytics with enterprise business operations and processes — and he wants to make one thing perfectly clear.

"Digital transformation is not about tools and technology. It's about people, and the cultural shift or cultural transformation that underpins this digital shift," he explained.

"Businesses can't just implement digital technologies and think that is enough. They have to consider how people are going to use them and build in those capabilities. They have to build communities around the technologies and encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing. But too many organizations fall down when it comes to these softer skills, which lie at the heart of digital transformation."

Kemelor will return to CMSWire's DX Summit for the second consecutive year this Nov. 14 through 16 to share his insights on corporate culture, new technologies and the way analytics powers digital strategies. The conference will be held at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago.

CMSWire talked to Kemelor recently about his plans for the summit and his ideas about digital transformation.

People Before Process

Walter: What's the primary message you plan to deliver at DX Summit?

Kemelor: I’ve been thinking a lot recently about digital transformation. From my perspective, digital transformation has been going on for more than 20 years. Consider that in the early 1990s email was considered transformative. Is there anything so different now since the olden days? Actually, I don’t think so. Technology implementation continues to be confused as transformative, and how to encourage adoption of technology continues to be a secondary priority. What happens if you change your focus to be one of adoption and culture building instead of technology implementation? That's what I'll be exploring at the summit.

Walter: Why are analytics so critical for digital strategy and practice?

Kemelor: From a purely conceptual perspective, analytics drive digital strategy and practice. If you don’t measure outcomes of past initiatives, you have no way to determine targets for future initiatives or how to determine whether or not you’re successful.

That being said, there are many analytics approaches. The most widely considered are digital behavior, captured by platforms such as Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics, and then survey and voice of customer platforms such as ForeSee or Qualtrics. There are really no right or wrong tools. It’s really what you do with the data. In all cases, there should be a means to test hypotheses that you derive from the data you’ve collected. Pretty much all organizations today collect data. Their challenge is in using it in a productive manner.

Walter: What is involved with leading organizational transformation?

Learning Opportunities

Kemelor: There is a huge difference in deploying new technology and building capabilities to use technology to be more productive. You lead transformation by building culture and community, making the time for people to share experiences, test and learn what works, brainstorm and collaborate. 

In a recent survey I conducted among digital analytics program managers, the biggest opportunity for program improvement was around providing people in the organization with more training and also doing a better job at communicating the value of digital analytics. This is pretty much what I see with clients and what I hear from other digital technology specialists. 

But I don’t see a lot of organizations investing in a culture building approach or really figuring out the processes that need to change. Most of the time it translates into buying classroom training and that’s about it. The thing is there is little investment in education and training, community building or initiatives to engage.

Walter: Why do you think there are so many marketing technology tools today?

Kemelor: Historically, software companies need to have new features to sell. Are they better than the last release? Maybe a bit, but software features are introduced more quickly generally than people have the ability to use them productively. Now this isn’t 100 percent the case, but it is certainly the case quite often. I also think that we are always seeing greater channel specialization. Take digital analytics for example. We used to have tools that measured web, social and mobile, and now we have tools that focus on specific digital channels. It’s the nature of the business to become more specialized and perhaps better than the “one size fits all” approach.

Walter: How does someone improve their ability to understand and interpret data and analytics?

Kemelor: Establish the goals you want to achieve and the questions you want to answer, define the metrics and the targets that will guide your answers, and then go to the data. It is much easier to do the front-end preparation than routing around the data.

Walter: What do you do to recharge?

Kemelor: I’m creating an edible front yard. I’m growing hops and training them onto a circular fence constructed with colored duct tape-coated electrical conduit and bamboo. The idea is for it to look cool, train the hops and keep the deer out. I'm growing garlic along the perimeter and tons of arugula also ... definitely a long term project!