To answer this question let’s, ask another and go right back to basics, what does ‘Digital’ mean?
My title is Digital Director so I should surely be a voice of authority on this subject. But I’m going to go out on a limb and admit that even I’m not sure of the current interpretation. As a word, it simply refers to storing information as 1s and 0s. Today, it can be interpreted by the IT department as the entire IT landscape, but wouldn’t that mean eCommerce, mobile apps and CRM are also digital? But with diverging interpretations, other departments have started to take ownership of the word with ‘digital marketing’ teams cropping up.
Why is defining digital important?
I’ll run through a scenario to demonstrate. I go into many organisations and I often meet the Head of Digital, and sitting next to them is the Head of IT, and I’m left wondering what the difference is?
> IT say, “we make the business systems work”.
> Digital says, “we do the web and mobile apps”, and they’re usually wearing jeans!
OK, but why aren’t they the same department?
> IT’s response; “I report to the CIO”.
> Digital’s response; “I report to the CMO”.
Hmmm… interesting. But I think my original question still stands, why are these functions not integrated into the same department?
Back to the scenario, let’s say I’d been brought in to help with the click and collect integration. Customers don’t perceive any difference in a brand whether they interact with them online or in-store. Bringing eCommerce transactions into the store can increase sales and increase footfall and present opportunities for greater cross-sell, a natural progression of good business.
> IT says; “well, the store systems are old and don’t integrate with anything other than POS and our CRM is different to the eComm CRM.”
> Digital agrees; “yes, orders are processed differently and CRM information won’t integrate”.
Right, so we need to do some integration.
> IT and Digital (together); “that should come out of their budget, we are very busy and don’t have time for this.”
This is a frustrating conversation I’ve had time and time again. These organisations have created two silos of people, information, data and systems.
Why has misdefinition caused this silo effect to happen?
Firstly, focus on the customer has been lost. Instead, talk centres on channel strategies, multichannel, omnichannel, etc.. The good news is that it appears that change is afoot, John Lewis’ decision to promote the ‘Marketing Director’ to ‘Customer Director’ is a clear indication of the rise in importance of facilitating an easier customer journey.
Secondly, the rise of digital marketing departments is arguably borne from frustration with IT departments, stuck in the 80’s keeping their servers fed and watered, and a history of poor delivery and a lack of focus on the end customer.
How do you fix it?
Chief Information Officer (CIO)
1. Regain control of all the IT within an organisation, including anything calling itself Digital, recognise that project work requires different skill sets and recruit accordingly.
2. Create an innovation stream and demonstrate to the organisation just how user-friendly and innovative IT can be.
3. Recruit or re-train business relationship managers so that complex tech can be easily explained by the company.
Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
1. Promote the customer journey within the business – focus on what makes their life easier not what makes IT or Marketing’s life easier.
2. Push the IT requirements back to the IT department and work with them in a more collaborative fashion, having a belief in their problem solving and creative ability.
3. Focus on single systems approach like CRM that can be used for marketing, social, the web and in-store, avoiding the creation of more silos.
What’s the future?
Well, who knows? Currently, we look at trends to comply with the 2012 prediction by Gartner that by 2017 CMOs will spend more money on IT than CIOs. This presents a danger where CIOs become a supporting role rather than a strategic one that, from my experience of IT operations, does not make sound business sense and does not look to help digital integration throughout the company or in retail.