digital strategy, How to, social networks

Top five skill sets of today’s digital strategists

I get a significant amount of natural search visitor traffic [a.k.a. Google] against two key phrases —  “digital strategy job description” and “resigning from IBM“.    Since I resigned from IBM six years ago, I thought I’d offer a quick update on the role a digital strategist plays in today’s advertising industry.

At first consideration, people may think that the bulk of a digital strategist’s time is spent writing digital strategies.  But alas – that is only a small part of the role today.

Being in the position to write a digital strategy assumes that you or your client clearly understands where you have been and where you want to go.  Afterall, a digital strategy & plan is just the careful articulation of how to address a gap to a future digital vision.

But indeed, with the advent of social media and with emerging technology – some organizations do not have clear picture on what the digital future should hold.   So today’s digital strategist must be able to help clients develop a future perspective.   Among future opportunities – and there will be several – a strategist needs to help the client/brand prioritize the opportunities down to a few that will make the most substantive different (based on earlier identified organizational & brand goals).  Then as social media/digital has so many owners, a digital strategist also helps with alignment within an organization. These are great consulting muscles to flex!

Given this, the top five desired skill sets for today’s digital strategist include

  • facilitation experience.  Ability to work with many cross functional groups to create alignment on objectives and plans
  • influence & negotiation.  Ability to properly articulate the benefits & risks associated with digital opportunities.
  • analytics.  Ability to conduct or source research to identify the insights that will contribute to a balanced, thoughtful review of a business.  Ability to distill intelligence from data.
  • project management.  Ability to estimate the scope of efforts required, time & materials and clearly articulate the best project approach to achieve the desired outcomes.
  • synthesis.  [a rare skill]  Ability to synthesize activity, client needs or discussions to distill to the most salient facts.
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digital strategy, social networks

Demystifying digital strategy

Often self absorbed in my own digital strategy work – I sometimes forget far I’ve travelled and the level of transition the advertising industry is in over digital strategy. 

I’ve been doing digital strategy for years – though at IBM, we called it e-business strategy, then marketing strategy, then customer experience strategy & design and now, due to how broad digital has become, digital strategy.  (I know.. its really just strategy but to limit scope, allow for digital).

When asked what a digital strategy is – my elevator answer is that digital covers mobile, social, web, apps, etc. and strategy is the ‘how’ to achieve a gap between where a company or brand is currently and where they want to go.   Arriving at a digital strategy & plan is more complicated than I’m making it sound but essentially it is a gap analysis done right.  (not minimizing the difference between strategy and good execution).  Simpler – I say that digital strategy is identifying which of the 20 digital opportunities facing a business are the right ones for business, brand and marketing.   (long elevator ride right!)

Back in late 2009 – early 2010 – I thought myself quite progressive by labelling myself a digital strategist but the actual role, its qualifications, the job description and deliverables are much confused today.   

And this was the topic of tonight’s discussion with a meeting of the minds with Paul Crowe at Bnotions , @pcrowe – a growing dev/strategy/start up into cool mobile, game things +.  Among the audience – @Ianbarnett, @michaelnus and Rick Jacobs  – all very bright, articulate and seasoned folks.

Couple great gems coming out of our dicussion. 

1. we debated over a framework for developing a digital stategy.  It was a different lense than I’ve used but it actually worked well and I’m grateful to see a new perspective.

2.  we spoke about a digital strategist being a rather senior, long tail digital/strategy experienced individual – though not to say that there isn’t a need for junior strategists and career path for this senior role.

3. there are tiers to digital strategy – that sometimes the deliverable is large and other times quite small. (or the timeframe to complete is tight)

4. I spoke of the role of a digital review or business review plays in arriving at a digital strategy.  A digital strategy often has optimization of existing digital assets as a goal and this is only best understood by reviewing performance.

5. I also spoke of how the strategy needs to be separated from the plan – which is what my own ad agency/planning department has teased out of me – forcing a focused strategy from the planning/roadmap stage.

Anyhow – the popcorn is ready.. I welcome your thoughts on the matter.