Dr Dave Chaffey: New frameworks to evaluate and improve your digital maturity

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Why is a digital maturity framework essential for achieving business growth and winning higher returns? In his latest article, Dr. Dave Chaffey explores tried and tested digital maturity frameworks.

Dave in FrameContinuously developing your digital maturity should be a key initiative to compete effectively in modern marketing. Investing more in digital media and digital experiences should certainly help support the growth of sales from digital channels. However, new research from Google shows that the complexity and competitiveness of digital communications means that the companies that are most likely to get the highest returns have stronger approaches to managing the process of marketing through their in-house teams and agencies.

In this article I’ll explain how reviewing your digital maturity, or the governance of digital communications, can help you address weaknesses in your digital investments, which will help increase future returns. I will review recent frameworks from Google, Gartner and Smart Insights to review digital maturity and suggest how it’s important to get the scope and process of reviewing maturity right.

The Google - BCG Digital Maturity Framework

In August 2021 Google released Fast track to digital marketing in association with Boston Consulting Group who completed research to support the report.

Their framework recommends these maturity elements are reviewed. As would be expected from Google’s advertising interests, these have a strong focus on customer acquisition via media using a data-driven approach.

Google digital maturity framework

Since Google’s framework focuses on media investments for acquisition, there is less focus further down the funnel reviewing how to develop loyalty by improving digital customer experiences and customer brand engagement. While the focus on analytics and measurement fits the data-driven approach we use at ClickThrough Marketing it would be good to see more focus on conversion rate optimisation and data-led design. There is also a focus on the tactical activities within this framework which, apart from analytics and measurement, doesn’t consider key governance issues like strategy, resourcing and process which feature in the next frameworks we will review.

However, to review and improve your maturity you may still find it useful to complete the wider-scoped 30 minute digital maturity assessment, which is separately available to enable comparison with your peers and identify gaps to be worked on.

The Fast Track to Digital Marketing report also presents benchmarks showing how maturity is improving within the businesses surveyed. This suggests improvements in maturity made by some organisations in response to the pandemic. It also highlights the value of working to improve digital maturity, since there is a suggested correlation between growth in market share and digital maturity.

Google Growth based on digital maturity

Finally, the report highlights some recent enablers supporting maturity shown in the next visual. These do suggest the importance of reviewing your team and agency skills to innovate through an agile approach based on structured testing, measurement and automation, for example, using machine learning to optimise media investments and response through personalisation.

Google maturity success factors

The Gartner Digital Commerce Framework

More recently, Gartner have released a one-page digital commerce maturity framework focused more on e-commerce rather than digital communications, but it is similar in the governance issues it covers.

digital commerce framework

It’s a different approach to Google’s since it’s a one-page summary, more suitable for a rapid workshop review to highlight the key issues. Unlike Google’s approach of focusing on media and optimisation, it considers the human factors such as culture, organisation and operations. It also recommends the need to have a dedicated strategy, KPIs and roadmap in place for digital commerce. Gartner suggests that having a longer-term roadmap with a three to five year lookahead is beneficial.

It covers similar themes to the classic pre-digital business management framework, the McKinsey 7Ss.

The Smart Insights digital maturity frameworks

I first started creating frameworks to assess digital maturity in the early 2000s as part of consulting and training to help businesses improve their digital marketing capabilities and results. This was a natural evolution for me since, when I started working, pre-web, I was involved in managing teams of software developers creating what we now call marketing technology or ‘martech’. As I explain in this article on Benchmarking digital marketing maturity it was, and still is, common to review maturity of the processes for developing complex software in order to make it fit for purpose - and to limit errors. These concerns are also in common with digital communications which is often based on deploying martech.

To create these early digital marketing maturity frameworks used on consulting projects I adapted the Carnegie Mellon Capability Maturity model (CMM) for software. It appealed since it has 5 clearly defined stages that correspond to improving maturity. I later used these to develop the downloadable one-page digital marketing capability frameworks for Smart Insights members such including the next two examples which is available for reviewing overall digital maturity and individual channels.

  • Maturity of Governance of digital marketing

This framework covers the organisational management of digital channels including the need for a strategic, measured approach and review of staff skills, structure, process, martech and insight management for digital marketing. Capabilities F and G assess capabilities for measuring and implementing media and customer experience.

Digital marketing maturity - communications governance

  • Maturity of managing digital marketing communications

This second framework focuses more on the effectiveness of digital communications to support lifecycle marketing objectives, here shown as part of the Smart Insights RACE framework. However, it also prompts for assessment of a strategic approach, brand engagement and governance.

Digital marketing maturity - communications implementation


What is your digital maturity?

We’ve seen that there are a range of frameworks for assessing digital maturity and how they can be powerful for evaluating your current and planned use of digital media. Assessing maturity can be helpful since you can identify opportunities or weaknesses within your digital capabilities that you can prioritise for improvement as part of a strategic approach or digital transformation. It can also help demonstrate the business case and priorities for improvements to colleagues.

It’s important for you to select the right type of framework for the scope of digital within your business and it should ideally relate to the maturity of others in your sector. In larger digital transformation projects, it should have an arguably broader scope covering digital business and with a focus on digital technology and digital data.

Assessing maturity of digital marketing is a part of our process of developing a strategic, results-based approach to digital transformation. We also have a series of practical Fast Track digital evaluations that cover improvements in Google Ads, Google Shopping, Content Performance (for SEO) and Conversion Performance.

Learn more about our process for digital transformation that drives profitable change - get in touch now.

Get In Touch


Talk To Us About Accelerating your Digital Performance