If I had a penny for every time someone asked me where a digital team should sit within an organisation I’d have a lot of pennies. The debate has changed over the years as digital has become more important but the core consideration remains the same.
So I always find it useful to start with my own personal context. As someone who has worked in digital for my entire career I’ve been ‘all over the shop’:
- At the Multiple Sclerosis Society digital was part of the Services directorate, a sub-team of Research and Information.
- At RNID (now Action on Hearing Loss) digital was a sub-team of the Marketing and Brand team, and after I left the team moved into an External affairs also within the Comms directorate.
- At the British Heart Foundation digital was in the Policy and Communications division, at one point as a sub-team with Marketing and Brand, another point just a separate Digital team, and then a part of a Multimedia team that includes traditional media officers who were spreading out into digital PR.
- At UNICEF UK the Digital hub sits in the Fundraising division, following the merge of a Digital Marketing team from Fundraising and a New Media Resources team from Comms.
But in my experience the digital team have always been a cross organisational team no matter where the line management happens. So back to that core consideration I mentioned; “Where will the team have the influence and resources it needs?”. A question you could ask about any team in any organisation, but it’s the need that might be different.
A digital team needs to be more than just a service team during this time of transition between traditional and digital mediums and ways of working. A digital team which is only about direct delivery misses the opportunity to catalyse the skills and behaviour change that is needed for the whole organisation to embed digital.
As I alluded to in my post which mentioned the hub and spoke model, there will be a time when everyone needs to ‘do’ digital and it’s not far off. I often use two analogies to explain this:
- When electricity was first around every business had an electricity manager. Now they just call in the electrician (experts) every so often.
- Businesses used to have typist pools, now everyone (ok – almost everyone) does their own word processing. It’s only when you need to do something complex or special that you get expert help in.
Any organisation which isn’t leveraging the expertise of its digital team to change the ways of working and spread digital skills across the organisation is, in my opinion, going to be left behind. So the team should sit wherever in the organisation it’s possible for this to happen, and that depends on the organisation.