Neil PerkinNeil Perkin is the consultant and author responsible for our recently published Digital Marketing: Organisational Structures and Resourcing Best Practice Guide.

Earlier this week, he blogged about the digital talent time bomb, which is one of the key themes emerging from his research.

Below, he answers some questions about digital recruitment and other topics covered in the guide. 

In summary, what is this report about, and who is it aimed at? Is it relevant for all business sectors?

The report set out to identify common themes and challenges faced by managers and organisations in the structuring and resourcing of their digital marketing capability.

There’s a relative paucity of good information and insight around this subject so we set out to provide some good intelligence on current and best practice across a broad range of different sectors.

What was the methodology for this research?

There were three key phases to the research, kicked off by a series of in-depth interviews with digital and non-digital marketers and e-commerce leads across many different markets.

This was accompanied by desk research, and a quantitative survey with 170 respondents.

At our recent launch event for this research, Econsultancy CEO Ashley Friedlein described this as his favourite Econsultancy report. Why do you think that is?

I think it strikes at the heart of some very key, and very real, issues facing many digital marketers right now as they endeavour to adapt to rapidly changing environments and consumer needs.

How quickly are organisations aligning themselves to harness digital as effectively as possible? 

It was clear from the research that senior managers within organisations are embracing the significance of digital and integrating digital channels into processes for setting and prioritising budgets.

There remain issues, however, around the commitment to developing a higher level of organisational knowledge of digital outside of digital teams and among senior staff, particularly in order to prioritise digital projects effectively within the confines of limited available resource.

The report talks about centres of excellence and ‘hub and spoke’ structures. Is there a wrong or right way for a company to be set up?

There is no single best practice way in which organisations should be structuring their digital marketing resource, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each structure. For example, many companies had begun by recruiting reactively in response to local divisional or departmental need leading to a dispersed structure.

As they required greater focus, scalability and speed in digital marketing, this often led to the formation of a digital centre or excellence. Motivated by a need for improved shared learning and communication, and a more integrated approach, some organisations had then moved to a ‘hub and spoke’ structure, thereby giving us a potentially useful model for maturity in digital marketing structures.

In terms of resourcing, you write about the need for ‘T-shaped’ people. Can you explain what you mean by this.

‘T-shaped’ people was a term originated by McKinsey & Company, but it was popularised by Tim Brown, CEO of design and innovation firm IDEO.

It refers to the type of people they were looking to recruit, those who possessed a strong vertical skill (the vertical stroke of the ‘T’), but who also had a broad empathy toward other skills and disciplines encountered in the business.

Feedback from the research indicated that with an increasing need for integration and collaborative working across multiple digital disciplines, ‘T-Shaped’ people are becoming ever more important.

Which areas are companies finding it most difficult to recruit for?

There was clear feedback that web analytics and data is a particularly challenging discipline to recruit for, followed by other key disciplines including social media, content marketing, SEO and website design and build.

If a senior executive reading this report takes one thing from this research, what should it be? 

I think it would be the importance of investment in order to support strategic intent – investment in recruiting and retaining the best digital talent, and in raising organisational knowledge of digital through training and collaborative working.

How do you expect things to have changed when we update this report in a year or two years’ time?

I think it’s likely that some of the challenges will have exacerbated, notably the shortage in experienced talent in some key areas.

But I also think it is probable that organisations will be further down the line toward developing more adaptive and agile ways of working and structuring their digital marketing resource in response to competitive and consumer environments that continue to be subject to rapid change.