Research conducted for the new Econsultancy Best Practice Guide to Digital Marketing Organisation Structures and Resourcing reveals a new level of maturity in how companies are structuring their digital marketing capability.

Is this another indicator that we have reached the end of the digital beginning?

In his annual digital marketing and ecommerce trends post at the start of the year Econsultancy CEO Ashley Friedlein referenced a quote from the PWC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook report that described how we are at the “end of the digital beginning as companies reshape and retool for life in the new normal".

With digital now at the core of business-as-usual, experimentation and execution are no longer sequential but will proceed in parallel:

The technology to deliver the enterprise with digital at its core is here now. The main challenges are around leading and marshalling the talent and innovative culture needed to make it a reality.

In 2011, the first iteration of the Econsultancy guide to best practice in digital marketing resourcing established a model for maturity in how organisations structure their capability in this area.

This incorporated four distinct structural archetypes (dispersed resource, centre of excellence, hub and spoke, multiple hub and spoke) and a model for the most common of these archetypes: the centre of excellence.

Our new research into this area confirmed the continuing validity of these models, but there were some notable areas of change that relating to the growing emphasis placed on certain functions and the balances in the mix of resourcing approaches.

In particular, there were four key trends illustrating how we may indeed have reached the end of the digital beginning. 

The desire for greater integration and potential devolvement of expertise

Since the first iteration of this research in 2011 there has been a notable shift in emphasis in the priority given to digital training for both traditional marketers and other staff in non-digital roles.

Companies, it seems, are making far greater efforts to up-skill non-digital roles, perhaps showing that they have finally recognised the benefits this brings in terms of integration.

Hub as strategy, spoke as execution

Aligned with the greater desire to broaden digital knowledge beyond the digital team, many interviewees in the new research reported that they were making efforts to devolve more executional expertise and capability to local divisions or departments.

In this scenario, the centre remains focused on building organisational capability, big picture strategy, governance, standards, best practice and support.

A trend toward taking some key functions in-house

The research revealed a notable trend toward more capability being developed in-house in some particular vertical specialisms including SEO, analytics, social, email, and mobile.

As the importance of owned and earned media grows, it's becoming clear that many digital marketing organisations want to maintain closer control over capabilities that relate to these areas.

Moving on from effectiveness – a trend towards efficiency

Many companies spoken to in the research were focused on leveraging existing assets and resources rather than increasing headcount, and had also moved from focusing on making marketing activity more effective (improved campaign results), to making it more efficient (achieving better results with the same resource, greater impact to the bottom line).

Whilst this may well be reflective of tougher economic times, it's also likely to be illustrative of greater maturity in the use and combination of many digital channels 

It seems that whilst the fundamental structural models have remained broadly similar, there have been some significant changes within that that show not only the growing importance of digital marketing to organisations, but growing maturity in its resourcing and practice.

For a more detailed look at best practice in digital marketing resourcing, download the new report.

Econsultancy currently has a range of services available that can help guide organisational change, business restructuring and digital transformation strategy.

Neil Perkin

Published 9 September, 2013 by Neil Perkin

Neil Perkin is the founder of Only Dead Fish, and a consultant and contributor to Econsultancy. You can read his blog, and follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (2)

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Neil,

Thanks for posting, I'll read the report when I've got some time.

When you did the research, did you unearth any trends based on company type (size, vertical etc)?

For example, the 'Hub as strategy, spoke as execution' I'd expect to be typical of large companies, often operating in multiple countries where ecommerce started off in the parent country, then gradually evolved outwards.

I've also seen the most effort on integration in multi-channel companies where the interaction between non-digital and digital can have a far greater impact on performance e.g. store teams working with ecommerce to deliver true multi-channel customer service.


almost 5 years ago

Neil Perkin

Neil Perkin, Founder at Only Dead FishEnterprise

Hi James
Yes, that's an astute observation. The Hub and Spoke structure can take different forms (global, regional, local or some functions centralised and others not, for example). Generally it's fair to say that the trend for devolvement of executional capability out from the centre is reflected in larger companies, although there were also some mid-sized organisations that also are focused on improving executuional knowkedge and ability in the local teams.

almost 5 years ago

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