Earlier this week, I talked about what it means to be a mature company with regard to optimization. This year is being touted as one of “digital transformation” and everyone’s forging ahead—some with abandon, others more cautiously. Great news for all niches of the industry, sure, but it’s important to keep an eye—and meaningful resources—on optimization. The organizations that can spread the testing and optimization love across all aspects of their business will be the ones in prime position to make this transformational period count.

So let’s assess where you are. The Adobe Target team has identified six dimensions that, collectively, are good indicators of optimization sophistication. What’s unique about these dimensions is that, when working well and in tandem, they fuel the kind of momentum that drives businesses forward.

As you’re reviewing each dimension, keep in mind that an organization that thrives in a few areas and lags a bit behind in others isn’t dead in the water—that’s far from the case. Think of the two maturity indicators discussed here and the upcoming four as a combined scoring system, where a strong showing in one area can make up for some weaknesses in another. Let’s break it down.

Culture

One critical dimension in assessing maturity is the culture of your organization as it relates to testing, personalization, and overall optimization. Very simply, does the culture exist to get it done effectively, efficiently, and across all channels of commerce and engagement? Are you and the key stakeholders from every corner of the business primed and ready to make data-driven decisions?

It might sound good at first glance, but remember that those decisions may challenge existing assumptions and already-implemented “best practices.” In other words, what you unearth through testing and optimization initiatives may not only surprise you but may go against some of your organization’s core values and the status quo of your brand, your business, or even your industry. Are you prepared to not just stare down those realities but to take the conflicting—but supported—knowledge and findings and implement them throughout the business.

Lenovo’s Senior Manager for Optimization & Personalization Siping Roussin explained that optimization culture is so embedded in the Lenovo.com organization that “gut feelings” simply don’t apply. Lenovo’s is a crawl/walk/run philosophy with pilots launched for every single optimization program, and as essential components to securing the organizational buy-in, she and her group need to move ahead—something we’ll touch on in a later dimension.

Pilots are pushed out across less dense regions, launching fast and early, with small teams to drive greater, more clear-cut wins that provide the foundation she needs to evangelize within the larger stakeholder pool.

A good example of Lenovo’s optimization culture at work? The company partnered with Adobe recently, tapping into our Audience Manager product to gain a complete, consolidated view of its Australian audience and then cluster consumers accordingly. Once clustered, they could be targeted with price-point-specific offers and machines, selected based on the company’s deep understanding of its buyers and prospective buyers.

The result? Massive lifts in conversion over 20 percent. The culture exists at Lenovo—the company set its sights, put plans into action quickly, and immediately leveraged telling wins to gain the organizational support it needed to weave these types of optimization and testing into the fabric of the company so it can do more, faster, better, and bigger than ever.

And it’s got the ROI to prove it.

Although your optimization efforts might not yet be at the scale of Lenovo’s, think about your organization and, culturally, where you stand with regard to optimization. The biggest thing, I think, is committing to making those data-driven decisions once the data exists. If you’re simply going to fall back on what’s worked—or, worse, what exists—give yourself a low score for culture. If what’s keeping your culture score down, though, is the institutional buy-in, take a page from Lenovo’s playbook and start small, building the street cred you need to get the necessary buy-in from the decision makers who matter. That’s the first step in shifting corporate culture toward testing and optimization maturity. That’s a great goal for 2014.

Leadership

In that vein, another core dimension for assessing digital optimization maturity is leadership. A culture of testing and optimization is great, of course, but without an unwavering commitment from the executive insiders who move those fiscal- and resource-based needles, your organization won’t be able to bust through the hurdles that lie ahead.

Trendsetting music gear company Skullcandy is a great example. Over the last 12 months, the company has focused on making strategic changes in the leadership arena to support the editing and amplification of its existing online initiatives and rollouts. Rather than making a few small tweaks here and there, conversations have shifted to be decidedly high level and long term—and that means careful consideration of resources, timing, and implementation implications.

For Skullcandy, leadership alignment meant focusing on the customer across all levels of the business, understanding who’s out there, and understanding who it’s marketing toward—and it’s a mandate that comes from the top down, filtering its way into all areas of the company. That means aligning testing software, building out platform-agnostic experiences, and staying laser-focused on the site functionality that needs help—and knowing there’s executive support to back it up and get it done.

Building up this dimension has helped the brand get out from under the data. It’s something many organizations are guilty of. Skullcandy has it, now how can it work harder? And how can it play in every organizational sandbox? The company has this dimension really buttoned up, but it all started with some testing software. For months, it was installed, in place, and available, but the company almost immediately recognized the need to beef up in this dimension to maximize its culture, commitment, and resources.

The takeaway? Having an influential and engaged executive sponsor is clutch, as is pulling the optimization efforts and know-how through all areas of the business via that leadership. Don’t have one? Go back to “start” (a.k.a the “culture” section of this post) and test, test, test, then evangelize, evangelize, evangelize.

So those are just two of the six areas we use to assess optimization maturity. These assessments are critical steps toward setting your company on the right path to deep, meaningful, ROI-producing testing and optimization efforts.

Stay tuned—four more dimensions, some easy-to-implement recommendations and insights, and a comprehensive tool to help you assess, align, and move forward to come.

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