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Digital Marketing: Organisational Structures and ResourcingEconsultancy has today published an in-depth report entitled Digital Marketing: Organisational Structures and Resourcing aimed at senior marketers seeking to deal with the increasing complexity of the digital landscape and associated staffing challenges. The best practice guide has been written by blogger and consultant Neil Perkin, who previewed the key findings in front of 60 leading brands at the Savoy Hotel in London last week.

The video below, shot at last Tuesday's roundtable-based launch event, gives a flavour of the report which is based largely on 30 in-depth interviews with marketing directors and heads of digital or e-commerce (among other senior job roles) across a range of different business sectors.

The report, which supersedes our popular Managing Digital Channels Best Practice Guide, also includes the findings of a survey of client-side marketers working for more than 170 different companies. 

Digital centres of excellence  

As part of his desktop research, Neil Perkin has done a great job in identifying existing examples and models which are relevant for those thinking deeply about digital resourcing and structures. 

As alluded to in the video, the research looks at how digital marketing resource is positioned within the organisation, including whether companies have a digital centre of excellence, resource dispersed through different divisions or a 'hub and spoke' approach which combines these approaches.

After establishing a centre of excellence (CoE), an increasing number of companies are working hard to disseminate digital expertise across the organisation in order to ensure that digital is integrated with divisional and departmental priorities and doesn't sit within its own silo. 

Some view the CoE as a short transitional phase, with digital people eventually being dispersed back into the organisation. At our roundtable-based event, some companies already equipped with a CoE talked about a lack of support from their board to help them move to a more mature digital structure. 

One roundtable concluded that there is no definitive or 'correct' organisational structure for harnessing digital as effectively as possible, with structures, job roles and titles different from organisation to organisation, depending on the business vertical, geographical structure and the aspect of digital in question. 

Balancing consistency and localisation

Some attendees expressed the difficulties experienced when balancing a brand's need for consistency of approach (which benefits from a centralised digital operational structure) with a desire to localise content and the approach to marketing across markets (which benefits from a hub and spoke model). While internationally expanding brands are keen to instil digital excellence in every region, it was pointed out that best practice in one market may not constitute good practice in another. 

Roundtable participants stated that the provision of guidelines addressed the need for consistency whilst still allowing for localisation. Though admittedly difficult to achieve, a technical infrastructure with a consistent back-end across the organisation with a changeable front-end for local or specific market teams can help facilitate the right balance between consistency and the ability to adapt and differentiate in particular business divisions or markets. 

The need for digital specialists and 'T-shaped' people

Another theme of the report discussed during the roundtables was the need for companies to have 'T-shaped' people who have a deep knowledge of particular digital skills combined with a breadth of experience and commercial nous outside their online area of expertise. No-one disputed that such people make excellent employees and recruits, although it was agreed that these people are often hard to come by. 

According to one attendee, 'Generation Y' or 'digital natives' were not proving to be the digital-centric drivers of change that many had hoped they would be. 

Some companies face a shortage of all-rounders, while the development of capable employees can by stymied by rigid organisational structures which result in people switching companies in order to keep progressing. It was agreed that it takes more than a salary to keep good talent, with environment, location and the opportunity to develop skills all key ingredients for retaining and developing talented employees. 

Delegates on one table talked about the value of employing digital specialists though one participant stated that while they do work with specialists in specific areas, they are attempting to up-skill all their 'traditional' marketers to be digitally savvy. The report looks in detail at which types of digital function or discipline companies are outsourcing, and which they are managing in-house. It also looks at the balance of specialists and generalists.  

The report and video also talk about the recruitment 'time-bomb' and this will be explored more fully in a separate blog post by Neil Perkin. 

Linus Gregoriadis

Published 6 December, 2011 by Linus Gregoriadis

Linus Gregoriadis is Research Director at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn or Google+.

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