Thursday, August 9, 2012

What it means to be Head of Digital

I've had senior online roles for way over a decade now and have met some of the best people in the UK digital industry along the way. This also includes individuals who have been given or earned the title of Head of Digital (as well as having done the role myself).

I therefore thought I would explain what I think the Head of Digital's role encompasses and perhaps give some food for thought on the subject:
Note: it should go without saying that this also refers to a significant extent to other similar titles such as head of online, vp of ecommerce or director of digital and multi-channel.

1. Leadership
First and foremost, any Digital head must possess leadership. Just because online is a relatively new route up the corporate ladder, it doesn't mean we have to ignore one of the key characteristics needed. I will also go as far as saying that they also need to have two specific leadership qualities:
a) To lead change wherever and whenever they can
b) To provide thought leadership (and not just by repeating and re-processing the ideas of others, I mean by having new and original ideas that are innovative and still add business value - and you though this stuff was easy?)

2. Strategic vision
Clarity of what online success looks like and how to get there is key. You don't necessary need an MBA from one of the top business schools, but you need to have the ability to understand where digital is going within your market and what the latest trends are. Also being able to communicate this vision is also really important (as there's no point having a vision if you don't share it).

3. User Experience insight
Its imperative to have an understanding of the key ways to optimise the online customer journey. From minimising bounce rates on the homepage, through to sharpening up the conversion processes across your site. Note: I'm not saying you need to be a leading information architect (and very few Head of Digital people I have met have actually come directly from this route), but an appreciation of the main concepts and having an understanding of when to focus on this is essential.

4. Advanced Digital Marketing skills
Yes, an understanding of the main digital marketing channels is vitally important for this role. However more and more I'm seeing the combination of data and marketing to optimise the customer contact opportunity (and therefore the revenue).

5. A passion for numbers
Sure, there's all the great innovative stuff to look at, but the data you can now pull from your web analytics and associated packages is immense, not including the challenge that comes from 'big data'. If you're a Head of Digital and you're not prepared to stick your nose into a cross-tabulated spreadsheet now and then.... you're probably in the wrong job.

6. Technical expertise
How to split your readership in one easy way..... by insisting that the most senior digitally-orientated person in an organisation has to have some technical nous. But its true!
Note: I'm not stating that the VP of Internet needs to have the same level of technical competence as your Development Manager, but I'm definitely suggesting they should at least be able to confer on a lot of technical issues.

Have I missed anything?
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