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.
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.