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Where does digital sit?

Is it marketing? Is it IT? Is it customer service? Is it media?

News & Events, Strategy

Fran Brosan

FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN

Fran’s focus is advising clients on the strategic role that digital communications and technologies can play in strengthening business performance. She is author of Omobono’s award winning research programme ‘What Works Where in B2B Digital Marketing’ and has 3 IPA Advertising Effectiveness Awards to her name.

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Whatever the answer, it’s a very good question.

Omobono has been involved in a number of conversations over the past couple of weeks which have made this a very pertinent discussion, both about where digital sits within the organisation and what is and isn’t in scope for ‘digital agencies’. And along the way we got some great pieces of advice.

Exhibit 1.
Last week saw Omobono taking part in the Global Chief Digital Officers Forum in Chicago – an awesome group that anyone interested in hearing more from the mouths of experts and practitioners should look out for. Next up is CDX Silicon Valley and CDX Europe in Berlin. Highly recommended.

Discussions there covered a huge amount of ground, all under the description of ‘digital’. We had talks on arrival of programmatic in B2B, as encountered by IBM and Dell. So effectively right at the top of the acquisition funnel. We had talks on digital transformation from Kimberly-Clark – which was all about moving along a digital continuum from building an internal centre of digital marketing excellence to e-commerce and finally full transformation (still a work in progress but essentially based on the concept of using digital to facilitate customer conversations with other customers). In this example, digital sits firmly in the commercial team. We had an exploration of the IoT (very digital but owned by product developers) and presentations on platforms like Kite who put organisations together with start-ups to kick start digital innovation (owned by innovation leaders). We did a session with our lovely client Scott Hays, Head of Digital Marketing at JLL North America about their digital journey – and the challenges of bringing together a diverse and traditional business into the digital age. Is it marketing, or is it business change? Scott would argue it’s a bit of both.

“Avoid random acts of digital” – Jeff Jarrett, Kimberly-Clark on the importance of digital strategy.

Exhibit 2.
The week before we’d been talking digital at Yahoo, at The Marketing Society’s Marketing in a Digital world seminar. Topics there ranged from advertising (native in this case) and apps, through to discussing how marketers need to connect upwards, sideways and down in order to champion digital throughout the organisation. The breadth of the term ‘digital’ is part of the problem, and so is measurement. As Fran Cassidy put it ‘understanding why something happens is the first stage in being able to replicate it’.

So again. Where does digital sit? Well with marketing predominating in this discussion it seemed to be our gig. But critically, as Omobono’s research shows, commitment from senior management is essential in order to drive forward digital strategies across the organisation. So they need to engage with it, but often don’t understand it (or think it’s effectively equivalent to Facebook). There are plenty of departments that think they digital too. Our own research shows that although 88% of marketers think they should be in charge of digital strategy, only 23% of other departments agree. To them, whatever marketing is about, it’s not apparently digital. Finally we discussed managing digital downwards, focussing on the problems of bringing in the right resources and how to avoid keeping the digital talent into its own silo, with the result that it doesn’t inform and educate the whole enterprise.

“Be careful of talented arseholes” – Andrew Warner, Monster on the pressures of finding the right digital expertise.

Exhibit 3.
The Omobono sponsored dinner at The Marketing Society this week focused on how digital transformation is being managed and experienced within organisations.

Marketing Society Award winners EDF talked about their Digital People initiative, a concerted effort to make digital part of everybody’s jobs, not one single department. Mark Brayton from Barclays talked about their Digital Eagles, showing how an internal initiative to spread digital expertise within the company has spiralled into a much bigger social purpose to ensure that ‘no-one was left behind’, and amplifies a positive interaction between the company and consumer in the process.

For EDF and Barclays, digital is essentially part of the marketing structure, but both emphasised the importance of getting digital skills through the organisation. They also emphasised that to do digital well you need to be joined at the hip with the CIO. One contributor actually argued the opposite however, that digital should continue to sit between marketing and IT, as its own entity with a foot in both camps.

Wherever it sits however, one thing everyone agreed with is that technology doesn’t succeed without people being on board with it. So, no matter where digital sits in the organisation, what’s needed is to get people working together to understand digital, make the connections between what they do and what others do and understand how it can all be brought together for the benefit of the customer. So maybe that’s where digital sits, underneath the customer. As we said at The Marketing Society Dinner, perhaps in due course they’ll rename themselves The Customer Society.

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