The role of your digital team

What is the role of your in-house digital team? Too often they are either a digital silo or a service department for the rest of the organisation. Neither is healthy.

One of the most important things I do working with in-house digital teams is encourage them to write a description of their role. A role that then gets approved by management.

The problems with an ill defined role

Too often there is no official role for a digital team. Instead their role has evolved over years from being a service department born out of IT. They end up implementing the ideas of other departments rather than provide digital leadership. Unfortunately few others in the organisation have their understanding of digital. Nobody is as well equipped to provide digital leadership.

In other organisations digital teams have become the seat of all power when it comes to digital. This is also unhealthy.

When digital exists within a single business silo it does not help the company adopt a ‘digital by default’ culture. It doesn’t help the organisation make digital as ubiquitous as electricity.

Writing a clear mandate for your digital team helps to address these issues. What then should go into the description of the teams role?

What follows is a generic description that you can tailor to your own organisation and situation. I hope it helps.

A mandate for a digital team

Person writing in a notebook
It is time to sit down and define exactly why your digital team exists.

To provide better service to connected consumers

The main role of the digital team is to improve the service your company provides to connected consumers. They exist to increase awareness of this group’s needs and ensure that the whole company is seeking ways to better serve them.

To provide digital leadership

The team exists to set and execute digital direction, not act as a service department for other parts of the organisation. The team will form its own vision, set its own priorities and execute that vision.

To work inter-professionally

The digital team must form a digital direction in collaboration with other departments. The digital team cannot become a silo working in isolation.

The digital team must work with business specialists on specific parts of the company site. For example, HR staff will need to join the digital team while it works on the jobs section of a website. This expanded team will together make decisions about the best direction for the HR content.

To set standards for the use of digital

The company cannot continue to manage digital on an ad hoc basis. It needs a framework within which to operate. The digital team needs to set these standards and draw up accompanying policies. This will ensure consistency and high quality.

To provide editorial control

A distributed content creation model does not work in an organisation lacking in digital experience. It needs replacing with central editorial control. The digital team should include content specialists. Specialists who work in collaboration with business experts to write content for the website. These content specialists should also provide training and oversight for the use of social media.

The digital team should create policies about content. In particular they should form guidelines about tone of voice, writing style and the management of content.

To educate colleagues about the use of digital tools

Although the formation of a digital team involves some centralisation, this is not a long term solution. Eventually, the entire organisation should be using digital tools as part of their everyday work.

To achieve this end the digital team should have a mandate to educate colleagues about their use of digital tools. This happens through an ongoing program of training and engagement.

To be open and transparent

Because collaboration is the key to success it is important that the digital team operates in an inclusive manner. This means being open and transparent in their work.

They need to be promoting their work through workshops, presentations, internal blogs and newsletters.

This encourages collaboration and feedback. It will also help educate colleagues about digital. This will help achieve the mandate to ensure digital becomes ubiquitous across the institution.

To work in an agile, iterative and data driven manner

The digital landscape is constantly changing and connected consumers’ expectations are continually evolving. In such an environment the danger is that any new structure put in place for digital will be too inflexible and slow moving to adapt.

The digital team needs to operate like a tech startup and work in an agile manner. In particular they should be able to make fast decisions based on data about user behaviour. They need to be able to form hypotheses, test them and iterate without seeking the approval of management.

The benefits of a clear role

Having a clear mandate like the one above helps bring order to the chaos around digital. Chaos that has evolved over years.

It helps to define your digital team as more than a service division. But most importantly it empowers the digital team to take ownership of the digital direction.

That said, this empowerment has to be tempered by being educators. The ultimate aim should always be to make digital ubiquitous across the organisation.

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