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Who Owns Your Digital Strategy?

In modern companies trying to work it out can be complicated

25Nov

No business division has been untouched by technology, but marketing has been completely reshaped by it. The breadth of a marketer's responsibilities bears little resemblance to what would have been expected from them even 2 years ago, with new channels of communication and content types increasing the role's scope and value to the business.

According to Quartz, marketing has changed more in the past two years than in the last 50. The pace of change has left marketers struggling to keep up. Serious doubts have emerged regarding their skills, effectiveness and ability to measure the outcome of campaigns.

Digital is the marketer's main fragility. A new report [https://qzprod.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/adobe-digital-distress-survey.pdf] states that the majority of digital marketers have never been formally trained, with on-the-job learning commonplace. This has caused confidence levels to drop.

Confidence might be low, but marketers are determined to defend their territory. And it seems they might have a job on their hands. Research by B2B agency, Omobono, found that 88% of marketers felt that digital strategy fell within their remit. Unfortunately for them, just 28% of other departments shared their opinion. Ownership of the digital strategy, it seems, is still up for grabs.

Social media is to blame. It's blurred what was once a distinctive line between marketing and customer service, and made other departments - like sales and IT - more intertwined with their responsibilities. It's caused some to question whether marketers can handle digital. On this matter, Martin Hayward - SVP Global Digital Strategy at Aimia - said: 'Many marketers are not yet educated enough to seize the initiative, so I think people feel vulnerable.'

The same Omobono report identified that only 28% of businesses have a digital strategy, with 39% having an informal 'joined-up approach'. In an article in Marketing Week, Thomson Reuters's Head of Regional Marketing was quick to dampen beliefs that her company was in the midst of a digital turf war. She did, however, state that IT used to own the 'budget for platforms and strategy' but that it's now been handed over to marketing, effectively putting them in charge of digital.

The report also claimed that marketers weren't often 'technologists' and that this reflected in their investment strategy. Hayward states: 'somebody invents a new piece of technology and then tries to find a reason for it to be used, which is the wrong way around.' For marketing to be seen as the main digital driver, the customer needs to dictate what technologies are being invested in, or strategies will be based around the technology the company owns, not its customers.

The truth is that collaboration is essential. The scope of a company's entire online delivery is such that one department can't be responsible for it all. The marketing department's main role is to develop the brand. Claire's SVP Marketing, Melanie Berry echoed this in Marketing Week by claiming that marketing must be in control of overall brand experience, but that defining who's in charge of the digital strategy was difficult. She claimed that investment in digital should be done by 'the people that know best,' which, in all likelihood, is not going to be marketing.

While the calls for clarity are justified, no one division should have complete ownership of digital, at least not yet. An effective digital strategy comes from collaboration - with the sales, customer service and IT departments all chipping in. Marketing play an important role, but they are not the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to digital. 

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