6 goals for in-house digital teams in 2016

Paul Boag

If your organisation does not value digital and its digital team as it should, 2016 offers you an opportunity to change that.

With 2015 drawing to an end it seems like the perfect time to take stock and plan for the future. This is especially true if you are working within an in-house digital team.

Although things are changing, many organisations still under invest in and undervalue digital. 2016 could well be a turning point for many organisations. The point where they either embraced digital or begin to fade into obscurity.

This will also prove a turning point for you. You will have to make one of the most basic decisions – to fight or to flee. Do you fight to get your organisation to finally take digital seriously or do you flee to another company?

If you choose to fight here are my top six things you should be putting in place in 2016.

Propose a strategy and business case

As digital teams we often wait for management to provide leadership over digital. We expect them to give us direction and investment. We expect them to recognise the value of digital. Unfortunately this isn't going to happen. Senior management do not understand enough about digital to appreciate its value. Let alone give direction.

It falls to us to go to them with a digital strategy and business case. We cannot wait for them, rather we need to be proactive.

With that in mind one of our key goals for 2016 should be to present management with a clear business case for investing in digital. A business case that outlines the return on investment and a clear strategy about what needs to change and how.

Articles that might help:

Introduce digital triage

Unfortunately many teams are in a catch 22. They need more resources to do their job well. But they are too under-resourced to have the time to put together a business case for more resources! You must break this cycle.

The only way to achieve this is to start turning away some of the work that comes to your team. But that is not easy. Many teams do not feel they have the authority to do that. But with limited resources you have no choice. The trick is to do it in a well considered way that others will find it hard to criticise.

One way of doing this is to introduce a digital triage policy. Stop dealing with incoming work on a first-come-first-served basis. Instead assess it based on certain criteria and use that to decide its place in the queue.

Best of all you can suggest your own work that you wish to add to the queue. As long as you assess it using the same criteria then everything is fair and above board. If you use this approach it should free up time to address the other suggestions included in this post. Suggestions you have been able to prioritise in the queue of work.

Read more about digital triage.

Focus on your comms strategy

I once interviewed Leisa Reichelt about her job at the Government Digital Service here in the UK. She said that only 30% of her role was doing user research. The remaining 70% was educating colleagues about what she had discovered.

I believe this applies to all digital professionals. Our aim should be to make digital ubiquitous across our organisation. That means we should be teaching others about it.

Also if we wish others to take digital seriously we have to invest time in educating colleagues. We need to be sharing best practice via newsletters, training, blogging and presentations. We need to be out there raising the profile of digital.

In 2016 I would encourage you to redefine your primary role from implementors to educators.

Articles that might help:

Build a service manual

A big part of creating an effective comms strategy and your digital triage approach is your service manual. In fact outside of your digital strategy the service manual is one of the most important tools at your disposal. If you don’t have one then 2016 is the year to change that.

A service manual is where you outline how you work. This includes things like:

  • How you judge incoming requests for functionality.
  • Content style guides.
  • Prioritised audiences.
  • Digital objectives.
  • Your development process.
  • Digital guiding principles.
  • Your digital roadmap.

The list could go on. A service manual does three things:

  • It educates colleagues about digital best practice.
  • It formalises the decision making process and puts you in control of that process.
  • It demonstrates your professionalism to the rest of the company.

Creating a service manual can feel intimidating. But it can start small and grow overtime. It will prove invaluable in managing your workload and dealing with colleagues.

Articles that might help:

Reshape your team

You might be wondering who should be responsible for all this strategy, policy creation and comms. After all your team may be generalist web designers or developers. This is because most digital teams have expanded over time. They add more headcount based on workload, not based on missing skill sets. This leads to teams full of people who do a similar job.

This is fine when digital was simple and the requirements were nothing more than a bit of maintenance. But in the modern web we need specialist. We also need people who are responsible for specific areas. People who decide on direction and with whom the buck stops.

In 2016 it is time to change this. This might involve recruitment. But it could just as easily involve some training and reassignment of roles. As well as designers and developers you will need:

  • A digital lead.
  • Content specialists.
  • Business consultants.
  • Social media experts.
  • Project managers.
  • User researchers.

It is time to start better defining the role of team members.

Read have you got the makeup of your web team all wrong?

Improve your user research

Talking of a user researcher, your digital team should double its efforts in user research over the coming year. I can say that with confidence without knowing your team. Because no mater how much you are doing it is never enough. In 2016 look to expand your efforts.

If you only periodically carry out usability testing, schedule it for once a month. If you do regular testing, try visiting your users at the point of contact (e.g. their home). If you already do that start discovering more about who your users are. If you do user research focus on communicating that with the rest of the organisation.

Carrying out user research is a crucial component of digital. It leads to better digital services. But it is also a powerful tool in dealing with less informed suggestions from colleagues and management.

Articles that might help:

2016, the year to take action

Make 2016 the year that you stop passively waiting for direction from management. It should be the year you start shaping your own role. Sure you might not feel you have the authority or permission. But as Grace Hopper said:

It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.