Interview: Myles Runham, Head Of Digital At The BBC Academy

We speak to Myles ahead of his presentation at #digileaders


The way companies approach digital strategy is changing, with emphasis shifting from a dedicated digital team to company-wide engagement with digital solutions. Ahead of his presentation at the Chief Digital Officer Forum in London this 14-15 April, we spoke to Myles Runham, head of digital at the BBC Academy about his thoughts on digital strategy and the developments we can expect to see in 2016. 

Myles has been working in and around the web for around 17 years in many roles, from research, marketing and product development through to senior leadership in a variety of different sectors. Prior to the BBC, he worked at the search engine (AKA Ask Jeeves) managing the European business. The last seven years have been spent at the BBC, first as Head of Interactive Learning running services for school pupils, teachers and parents and currently as Head of Digital for the BBC Academy, managing all digital activity of the professional learning and development functions for staff and the industry. Myles is now advising organisations on how best to respond to the digital transformation of learning and how to design a digital learning service.

Innovation Enterprise: How do you think the role of a brand’s digital leaders will develop through 2016?

Myles Runham: Probably the most important factor in defining whatever we mean by 'digital leadership' is the recognition (and hopefully realisation) that digital development is the responsibility of the entire business. Creating a special class of digital leaders misses the point of the changes required throughout any business that is serious about making those changes. The user focus, open, flat structures and flexible practices that define a digital enterprise have to be modelled by all staff and most importantly by all managers. In a sense, digital should not be seen as a specialism in 2016 but something that is expected of everyone on the team. This means that those of us in digital roles need to be selling the benefits of digital and helping others make the transition.

What has been the most challenging digital strategy to get your team on board with?

This is an extension of the leadership challenge. In recasting the BBC Academy as a digital learning service (which is not the same as a department that offers digital learning services) change in the roles of everyone in the team is required. A genuine digital service cannot be created when only a specialist team are responsible for digital outcomes. Handing over courses and learning programmes to then be digitized (in some kind of mystical process) is not a real solution. So, all of the teams of the department need to start to consider what a digital experience or solution might look like, what role they as individuals might play in creating them and start to change behaviours, as well as learning to use new tools and develop news skills. This is a significant change for many who have been part of a traditional learning function for a long time. Plenty of support, guidance and advice is required to make this change effective.

One of the most helpful steps to take towards this change is testing, piloting and prototyping. Experiments help teams understand what users really want, what it takes to offer it and how to produce these services well. Without that learning through experience bad assumptions are almost inevitable and serious mistakes are easily made.

Being present across all digital platforms can potentially lead to a dilution of brand message, how can you avoid this?

I think this come down to simplicity and clarity of purpose. All of the most successful digital organizations are very clearly focused on solving real problems for their users. These solutions are then simpler to understand and apply. Whether this be Uber, Instagram, Google, TripAdvisor, iPlayer or examples from any other sector, a singular and simple focus on helping users get something done will translate well to any channel. The strongest brands all stand for something very clear for their customers and can carry that into new platforms if it useful to do so.

People now learn for work across all platforms and at any time that seems useful, learning technology providers are coming to terms with this a little late I think. In some ways, the learning sector risks a dilution of impact from not being present on all the right platforms.

How has the way you use data and analytics developed your company's capabilities?

The learning and development world has, arguably, been late to wake up to the challenge and opportunity of digital development. The application of data has been slow to change and old models of attendance and course completion have tended to dominate measurement. New products and forms content have highlighted that oversimplification and more subtle and complex measurement techniques more akin to publishing and advertising models are starting to define the direction. The realization that user data is as valuable to learners as it is to service providers is also changing the equation fundamentally. Sharing progress data, recommendations and social connections is very powerful in a learning context and supports a sense of personal relevance to those trying to learn.

Mobile-first is the buzzword of 2016 so far, how are you developing your mobile strategy?

If mobile-first is only a dominant theme for 2016, then there is a problem. Mobile access, content and tools are fundamental to all of our expectations and have been for a few years now. This must be as true in a workplace (however defined) as it is for consumers. These are the expectations that set the pace and the expectations that we need to satisfy. The notion that a tool ‘works OK’ on mobile is no longer sufficient, they need to work best on mobile and be designed clearly for the handset experience. This is the standard that now needs to be set with all corporate systems and products – not only learning tools. Legacy corporate systems have a huge challenge in this respect and looking for alternatives, of which there are a rapidly growing number, is a good response. Our plans have been to create experiences that work on mobile, that has changed to creating experiences which work really well on a user’s chosen device.

Myles will be speaking at the Chief Digital Officer Forum in London this 14-15 April, join the discussion and register for your pass today.

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