Regardless of a company's shape or size, digital is no longer just an afterthought.

On the contrary - from customer care to advertising - it can often run through all aspects of an organisation.

So as digital becomes ever more ingrained in everything we do, will there still be a need for a specific Head of Digital role in future?

We sat down with Tom Barker from the National Trust and Andy Jones from Network Rail to get their thoughts on the topic.

To find out more be sure to watch this video, but I've also summarised three reasons why Tom and Andy think the role will continue to be in demand.

1. Digital is continually evolving

According to Tom Barker, while the rate of change remains so rapid, a Head of Digital will always be needed to make sense of it.

Citing virtual reality and mobile apps as just two of the biggest developments this year, he believes that it will continually be difficult for organisations to keep up. 

Ultimately, the speed shows no sign of abating. I don’t think you’ll be at a point within the next two, three or four years where you won’t need a Head of Digital. Probably the complete opposite.

It’s going to be even more complicated and there’ll be even more need for specialist knowledge.

2. Consumers are becoming reliant on digital channels

Digital is not simply an added bonus for the consumer – it is now an expectation. 

With a company such as Network Rail using its website and social media to inform customers about real-time updates, its digital channels are increasingly in demand.

As a result, where a Head of Digital might have once concentrated on specific projects such as website development, a more customer-centric focus means that the role will evolve to concentrate on broader strategy.

3. New platforms require new expertise

As Andy Jones suggests, the increasing demands on digital channels means that it is the Head’s job to navigate and control growth.

You’ve only got to look at the spike in activity across all of our digital channels. It’s growing year on year, and naturally, a large proportion of that is across the mobile device.

While marketers might have a base level of digital knowledge before even starting a role, the appearance of new platforms and practices will require continual learning and development.

What's more, the sheer size and scope of the digital sector means that, for now at least, the Head of Digital is definitely needed to help navigate the ship.

To find out how your digital knowledge stacks up, take our Digital Skills Index, or improve your knowledge with our range of training courses.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 15 June, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)

Jeremy Waite

Jeremy Waite, Head of Social Media at Phones 4u

Not too long I suspect. I've retired my job as the "head of digital (strategy)" at Salesforce. I also respect Mark Ritson who has always been pretty vocal about the industry cutting out the word "digital" together.

about 2 years ago


Rachel Kerr, Director at RK Social Communications Ltd

The continual development within each digital channel will provide an ongoing need for specialism combined with leadership, while keeping sight of what customers really want of course.

about 2 years ago

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