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Structuring digital marketing teams

Reviewing how to integrate digital marketing into marketing team structures as part of Digital Transformation

The latest Smart Insights research study shows how common Digital Transformation projects or programme are today with 30% already having a programme up & running and 31% planning to within the next year.

Yet, digital transformation doesn’t occur overnight. There are a series of steps to go through to get there and the critical factor is the staff. Imagine a world where your Digital Working Party, Digital Group or Digital Collective is in place, they’ve had several meetings and agreed an action plan! What’s next? In this series of posts on digital transformation, I’ve looked at what it is, how to start, getting buy-in and catching up with the competition. In this final post, I take a look at options and examples of how you structure your digital team - see this Smart Insights Expert template for more examples of team structure looking at the roles required in each team. Smart Insights also have a guide giving more details on alternative structures for marketing teams.

Creating and managing digital teams

Where does the responsibility for managing digital teams lie? It’s an interesting question and one I’ve had to answer several times. The answer?

It depends.

  • It depends on the size of the business.
  • It depends on the business locations.
  • It depends on the appetite for digital within the business.
  • It depends on the nature of the business – b2c often have to move faster than b2b.
  • It depends on the skill sets within the business.
  • It depends on who the senior team member is and to whom they’ve given the authority to get the job done.
  • It depends on negotiation between departments.

Nigel Fenwick author of the Forrester State of Digital Business report, which polled 1,591 senior business leaders in the UK and US, revealed major disconnects between the marketing and technology sides of businesses, with responses signalling a “digital strategy execution crisis”. He recommends CMOs and CIOs working together to ensure businesses don’t adopt a bolt-on strategy. I'd agree that this is essential, if not, it can go wrong:

It started so well. We all agreed our tasks, a timescale and at the very next meeting, the head of sales said they couldn’t do their tasks because they were busy with sales! I could have screamed!

You may have experienced this and it’s all about getting the team in place before embarking on digital transformation. Jason Mogus, Michael Silberman and Christopher Roy defined 4 types of digital business structures which are useful for considering the type of Centre of Excellence structure which could work best for you. You will see they are presented as an evolution.

1. The Informal Model

The informal model is where most businesses start or started. One lone voice spreading the digital word in the building. You would think this is rare today, 25 years after the launch of the web, but we meet members who at least feel it is this way.

Governance_Models_Informal

2. The Centralised Model

The centralised model tended to follow next as there was a knee-jerk reaction to ‘do digital’ and often separate departments were formed. The challenge with this model, and I’ve seen this first hand, is that other departments adopt a ‘nothing to do with us’ approach. It also means digital is siloed in one area.

Governance_Models_Centralized

3. The Independent Model

Independent was the third model and this is common in mid-sized organisations where they do not have the luxury of larger teams. Again, this works relatively well, the challenge here is the lack of overall control and coordination.

Governance_Models_Independent

4. The Hybrid Model

Hybrid is the nirvana where there’s one team in overall control: delivering training; providing support; and strategic guidance. In the field, there are individual digital experts.

Governance_Models_Hybrid

 

The evolution of social business

In 2013, in their manifesto “The evolution of social business”, Charlene Li and Brian Solis identified key methods of organisation of social business which ranged from decentralised to holistic. The multiple hub and spoke is effectively where Mogus, Silberman and Roy stopped. In Li and Solis’s version, the nirvana is a holistic model. This looks very much like the future, rather than the present.

evolution of dig business

In the Smart Insights Guide to Managing Digital Transformation, Dave Chaffey, Sophia Ahrel and James Carson look at different ways of managing digital transformation. They also identify that the holistic version seems difficult to achieve. They look at the concept of centralisation, commonly termed ‘Centres of Excellence’. Whilst the concept works well with international organisations, it also translates easily for large and mid-sized enterprises, where staff may be in the same country (or same office). This concept recommends a centre of excellence, where key skills that may not be needed in each department on a daily basis, are pooled. In the same way, companies have one HR team, but there may be one specialist in recruitment techniques. The other advantage of this approach is that a central team may provide training, manage websites, brand development of social spaces and support other computer-mediated environments whereas country managers create content, maintain the social media networks and organise local implementation.

central hybrid local

The Guide also looks at the T-shaped marketer, understanding a wide range of disciplines but with deep skills in one specific area. In my view, the ideal business scenario comprises a centre of excellence and individuals throughout the business with digital expertise, which may be T-shaped, depending on the business needs.

For examples of job descriptions and digital roles, see the Guide to Managing Digital Transformation and our digital marketing Job Description Templates and Role Definitions.

Selecting the project

It can be overwhelming knowing where and how to start and to avoid this situation, it’s essential to focus on one specific project to start. In 2014, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet and Andrew McAfee, a team at MIT interviewed 157 executives in 50 companies to identify digital opportunities. They discovered three key areas that benefit from digital intervention:

  1. Customer experience;
  2. Operational processes and
  3. Business models.

For your business, this could include:

Operation processes and Customer experience

Respond faster to customer queries by moving customer services to a social platform.

The interim steps include mapping out the social media tools to be used by the group: start by observing competitors; listening to conversations; formulating best practice – with external advice and preparing a timed plan to take this forward. The advantages are that in the past there may have been many customers making telephone calls about one subject and moving to digital means sharing that response online so that it can be spread amongst many customers.

A great example of this is UCAS, this is the UK’s university admission service. In the past, they had hundreds of people taking phone calls, often the same call, from many students. Today, they’ve got a great Facebook page and promote online events, such as this Q&A session.

ucas

 

Business model

Save product development time and costs by gathering new product ideas via social media.

The interim steps are similar to above: observing competitors; listening to conversations; formulating best practice and preparing a timed plan to take this forward.

Many companies have used social media for product development, especially food and drink brands including Walker’s Crisps, Cadbury’s Chocolate, and Vitamin Water.

Where is product or service development needed in your business? Can a new idea make your business disruptive and provide a greater, stronger, online value proposition?

Customer experience

Sharing documents with clients in the cloud so they can access anywhere, anytime.

I’ve been working on a new website and the web team, iWeb, used Trello, a cloud-based project management system, for the entire process. Once signed off, every step was added on to the ‘to do’ section. As milestones were approaching, individual tasks were placed on cards and the project manager appointed team members to do the work and set deadlines. Everyone in the team – and there were people in several different locations involved, received regular updates and reminders when tasks were due. Every item needed for the project; artwork, images, content, was all uploaded into this central system – this stopped the issue, which I’ve seen many times, where people haven’t received the items or can’t find them, as they were all in the central area.

Other cloud project management systems include Basecamp which is used by Smart Insights. The key factor with these cloud-based systems is that clients have total access to every step of the process and can see all the questions being asked. There is more transparency and greater understanding when there are issues.

The ideal situation is identifying one area of the business where a digital improvement can take place which makes a difference to the business. Gartner’s Hype Cycles has looked at areas where most change is predicted. With the ‘internet of things’, growth of cloud and technology. Of course, it’s often the clients who are demanding the change before companies are ready to adapt.

Gartner hype cycle

Getting started

Instead of creating major pieces of work which many will postpone on the basis that there’s so much to do and difficult to see where to start and then waiting until you get to the meeting to find out where you are, take smaller steps:

  • Break up big tasks into many smaller actions to be shared
  • Get all the actions on to a cloud-based system with one overall project manager who assigns tasks and liaises with all departments
  • Appoint ‘product owners’ for specific tasks
  • Identify the quick wins that can easily be achieved, so the team sees results sooner
  • Have faster, shorter meetings – the 20 minute catch up – this can be face to face or Skype
  • Encourage product owners and their supporters to meet to get the work done
  • At the meetings, say ‘thank you’ to people who have carried out their tasks – acknowledgement matters!

And one key issue is that the team may not know each other well. Where possible, organise an external event, even if it’s drinks after work or a working lunch of coffee and cakes. Anything to get people talking and finding common ground. If it’s a remote team, send doughnuts!

If it’s a larger project, especially with an international company, a start-off meeting in a central location is a great way to start, foster community spirit, put names to faces and create motivation.

When and what to outsource

Finally, there’s the question of what to do in-house and what to outsource. Many companies use agencies for design, creative and ads which is great, but don’t forget to include them in the relevant meetings so they know what’s expected of them and how it all connects.

I’m seeing more and more companies managing their own video production. Two recent examples, both multi-nationals, where the target audience was b2b and they’ve brought video skills in-house. This was part of a wider ‘reach’ strategy and considering that YouTube is still the second largest search engine, for both it was a wise decision.

Content creation is an interesting area. If we consider content as purely words, not images, video or sound, in the USA it’s popular to outsource, in the UK it’s in-house. This decision depends on your business needs and target audience. I’ve worked with both scenarios as well as a blended mix where some content is created in-house and other content is outsourced.

So what are the key areas to outsource? Here are my picks of the top four areas to outsource to get your digital transformation started:

  • Non-written content – images, design, style guides to ensure the team follows a consistent theme. Ensure the style guide addresses offline as well as online. And if you’re not a multi-national, you may wish to outsource video production too.
  • Training – buy-in training in key areas such as digital strategy, managing Facebook pages or whatever social media you’re using. Expert trainers often have a wider breadth of skills and examples they can share with you. In-house training courses can also be great ice-breakers for teams working together for the first time.
  • Project launch – consider an expert to facilitate the project launch, acting as part-mediator to transfer knowledge, agree ground rules and develop the road map.
  • Set-up – if you’re setting up analytics or other dashboards, get an expert and save so much time.

By Annmarie Hanlon

Annmarie Hanlon is the Smart Insights expert commentator on online and offline marketing strategies for business. Annmarie is the MD of Evonomie and author of Quick Win Marketing, and co-author of Quick Win Digital Marketing. She runs social media workshops in the UK and Ireland and shares marketing tips and news in her blog, B2B Marketing. You can follow Annmarie on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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