5 key themes on the 2017 digital manager’s agenda

It can be hard to figure out what is really going when it comes to the emerging role of digital and those leading digital change in organisations.

This month, I’ve had the pleasure of spending two days with smart digital managers in Manchester and Aarhus where I moderated local J. Boye events.

Your organisation is likely to be different than those who attended, but below I share what emerged from the events as the 5 key themes on the digital manager’s agenda for 2017.

1. There’s more at stake than the website

Clearly your website is important – for many even business-critical. Still it is clear that the scope for digital managers has expanded far beyond the website.

Paul Bason from Manchester Metropolitan University made the point, as illustrated in the diagram below, that there are now more jobs in the creative industry in the Greater Manchester area than the total amount of jobs in automotive, financial services and aerospace. 


While you may not connect the creative industry exclusively to digital innovation, it is a fair way to put some numbers behind the massive impact digital is having in the big picture.

It is expected of you as a digital manager to be able to bring the bigger changes together. To see digital in a broader view and be able to go from innovation to business development and onwards to real change and even competitive advantage.

To be more specific, the big discussions for digital managers are no longer about an app or say selecting a new CMS, but on key business decisions where digital plays a vital role. Digital managers today need to make tough decisions on key priorities, make sure digital operations stay up and running, build and lead teams with emerging skills, handle vendor relations and much more. In other words, the role has become much more about management than digital.

2. No longer them vs. us

“The door is open”

Marianne Kay from the University of Leeds listening to Javed Iqbal from British Council during the J. Boye masterclass

Javed Iqbal from British Council used this simple quote to illustrate the big change that has happened inside organisations.

If you’ve been a digital manager for a couple of years, you’ve likely had to do a fair bit of preaching and advocacy to build support for investing in digital.

That’s different in 2017, where many have left the digital vs. the rest of the business mindset. Instead it is now the entire organisation who wants to speak digital. That also means that expectations have gone up and the days of the enthusiastic amateurs are over.

Digital has clearly conquered the agenda in many organisations, but most organisations still have such a long way to go to truly reap the benefits.

On a related point, most digital managers still have to deal with the colleagues who have amazing creativity to find workarounds, when they feel that things are moving too slowly. Rob Hoeijmakers from Liberty Global nailed it with his question:

How to create structure without posing too many limits?

3. Measure to improve and to share your success

As already mentioned, digital managers today have to do more management than just a few years ago. A key part of this is to document your success and the value you create to your organisation.

The metrics vary from industry to industry. Marianne Kay from the University of Leeds shared relevant higher education success criteria, while Mikkel Andersen from GEA shared how they’ve turned their website into a B2B lead generation machine.

To succeed in digital requires substantial investments in resources, agencies and technology. As we have left brochure websites behind us, it is only good practice to also place more emphasis on measuring the impact.

Abdul Dezkam from Grundfos on their customer journey and how they turn insights into actions

Abdul Dezkam shared how Grundfos is leveraging data to understand, measure and optimize the customer experience throughout the customer journey. He presented a walkthrough of a customer experience (CX) measurement framework that brings the customer in the center of the business and empowers business to effectively optimize the customer journey to drive more impact on CX in a large global company.

One final point: By frequently sharing the value created by digital, you also effectively keep digital top-of-mind among senior management.

4. Projects & new tech takes time

Yvonne Hansen from KPMG on stage talking about how to deal with the extreme scope of digital

Yvonne Hansen from KPMG in Norway hosted a session on how to deal with the expanding scope of digital and among the key points was that you can’t only manage.

There are so many topics you need to cover, including strategy, digital marketing, multiple websites to just name a few. Specifically her point was, that you need to invest time in ensuring project success and trying to stay on top of emerging technologies. This was validated by other participants who had gone through 30+ workshops to bring key projects forward and ensure organisational alignment. A huge investment in time. 

In terms of new technology, media expert Steffen Damborg shared several examples of how technology is still changing everything. Examples included using small data to truly understand customer intent and measuring customer emotions while browsing your site to optimize for conversions. 

In terms of projects, Louis Georgiou from Code Computerlove, a leading UK digital agency, took us from waterfall, to agile, to lean, and many different flavours of governance models in-between. According to Louis, the growth of lean start-ups and digital product businesses has created the ‘product mindset’, a better way to develop digital platforms today.

5. Privacy & security

With the clock ticking to the enforcement of the new EU privacy directive, privacy has finally become a clear priority.

Collaborating with legal used to be restricted to when engaging with new vendors, but now collaborating with legal is a part of every day life for digital managers.

One of the leading experts on privacy and the EU General Data Protection Regulation is Berlin-based Tim Walters. He has previously called GDPR “a ticking timebomb in the digital marketing plumbing” and urged everyone not to underestimate the impact of the new legislation.

So far, the approach taken by most, has been to collect as much visitor data as possible, to potentially enable them to create a better and more relevant experience. With privacy-by-design and the right to be forgotten, we need to fundamentally rethink how we address privacy in our digital projects.

In terms of security, one J. Boye member who shall remain anonymous termed their website a hackers paradise. Making management aware of this had been a huge eye opener.

Learn more and meet other digital managers

You can join one of our many J. Boye groups for digital managers. In the groups, you can learn from your peers and discover new possibilities.

You can also make the trip to Rovinj in late August for the digital manager masterclass or in Aarhus in November for the biggest J. Boye event of the year – the annual international J. Boye conference.

Good luck with your projects and your career as a digital manager

10 Employee Experience Professionals to Watch in 2017

10best2017`collageMost organisations are undergoing radical changes on many fronts. Rapid evolution on the digital and technological fronts and changing demographics within the workforce are challenging conventions across sectors and industries. The combination of a new generation entering the workplace with fresh skills, approaches and expectations and experienced seniors staying on for longer means that we need to fundamentally rethink the workplace – and how we design the employee experience to make the best of this new reality.

Creating a harmonious workplace is not a new discipline, but it takes more focus and cross-departmental effort and coordination than ever before to get it right – given the rapid pace of change. Creating good customer experiences and mapping smooth customer journeys have been ways of gaining market share across sectors and industries  for ages. Many organisations are becoming acutely aware of the importance of creating equally good experiences for their workforce if they are to attract and retain the best talent now and in the future. This growing focus on the employee experience requires skilled and experienced professionals to take the lead, bring together the may strands and pave the way ahead.

At J. Boye we have identified 10 pioneers who in their respective ways are making waves in terms of improving employee experiences. Some lead software start-ups, some are independents and some work for complex global organisations – privates as well as NGOs – where they are making a notable difference.

We’ll be watching these bright individuals:
Elina Reinholtz

  1. Elina Reinholtz, Philips (DE)
    Working at the regional Philips headquarters in Hamburg, Germany, Elina has been instrumental in redefining the workplace. Philips has globally rolled out new corporate meeting spaces, which fuse productivity and wellbeing. They have totally redesigned the workplace for an improved employee experience.Frank Wolf
  2. Frank Wolf, Staffbase (DE)
    Frank is one of the co-founders of Staffbase, an employee communications app start-up spun out of T-Systems MMS in Dresden, Germany. If you’ve worked with an employee app, you’ve likely experienced how push notifications changes the game. Now with investor funding and a NYC base, Staffbase has been able to secure an impressive client list, including adidas, Daimler and Siemens.Hanna Karppi
  3. Hanna Karppi, Skanska (SE)
    Hanna has almost ten years’ experience in communications and change management positions on both a Nordic and a global level. Currently she leads the development of Skanska’s global digital workplace. Hanna is an energetic “never giver upper” who enjoys driving change and engaging people around the organization. Meet Hanna Karppi in November for the J. Boye Aarhus 18 conference.
    Jason Jacobs
  4. Jason Jacobs, RBC (CA)
    Jason is director of strategic and online communications and heads up the internal communications efforts at Canada’s largest bank. He constantly pushes the envelope and tries and tests new ways of utilising existing and emerging platforms and channels to engage RBC’s global workforce and improve the employee experience. 
    Jonathan Phillips
  5. Jonathan Phillips, ClarityDW (UK)
    Jonathan is a power house in the field of employee communication. He has extensive experience of leading both internal and external digital communications efforts in a large enterprise. He spent almost two decades at Coca-Cola Enterprises in the UK and has constantly pushed the boundaries and tried new things. He has generously shared his experiences through blogging, speaking etc. A true thought leader. He now flies solo with ClarityDWSara Glick
  6. Sara Glick, Discovery Communications (US)
    Sara and her team deploy a wide range of tactics to enable cross-pollination of ideas, talent and inspiration across the multi-faceted organisation. Storytelling, culture-building, talent meet and greets, experiential events, campaigns, outreach and much more; all used to recognise and highlight the creativity and excellence of the talented employees at Discovery.Sharon Dea
  7. Sharon O’Dea (UK)
    Sharon has held numerous internal communications posts – including as intranet manager at Parliament in the UK, Head of Digital Comms at Standard Chartered Bank and Digital Engagement Lead at the Department for International Trade in the UK. She is constantly exploring new territory and assessing the value of emerging tools and technologies and ways of deploying them successfully in the enterprise. And she is great at sharing her findings and thinking with the World – through blogging, tweets and other outlets. She is currently freelancing around the World. Wictor Wilén
  8. Wictor Wilén, Avanade (SE)
    Office 365 from Microsoft is hard to avoid as a key technology and game changer for most employees. Few manage to combine deep technical understanding and business acumen like Wictor who is also acknowledged in the Microsoft eco-system as a Most Valuable PlayerSarah Livingston
  9. Sarah Livingston, Oxfam America (US)
    Sarah is a highly dedicated connector, facilitator and communicator. She highlights and promotes many of the extraordinary achievements of Oxfam’s activists, campaigners and front line staff to stakeholders and supporters everywhere. Her enthusiasm is contagious and she manages to make impact and facilitate meaningful collaboration and conversations – and introduce innovative and empowering new initiatives despite having very limited resources at her disposal.
    Shaun Randol
  10. Shaun Randol, Bloomberg (US)
    Shaun and his colleagues on Bloomberg’s Employee Innovation and Communications Team navigate and use a plethora of tools and channels to inform, engage, enable and inspire their global workforce. He is constantly exploring new styles and formats and is obsessive about measuring the impact and effectiveness of the team’s endeavours; he has an inspiring approach to using data and insights to constantly improve, adjust and make better informed decisions.

Welcome home. Oops, we meant, “Welcome to work.”

welcome-home-spacesThis was the sign that greeted me, when I entered the excellent co-working location called Spaces in late March.

Spaces was the venue for the very first J. Boye event on “Workplace of the Future” held in Amsterdam in late March and a fitting location to think about how to make true progress.

Clearly most organisations are not designed for a digital age. The line between home and office is blurring, and together with the participants we identified key problems, co-created potential solutions and discussed lessons learned.

The Human Resources department was identified as the missing stakeholder in most organisations. Below, I share some of the notable discussions for each session.

Your company culture is already changing

During the past years, organisational culture and issues around it, has been a common topic in many J. Boye group meetings around the world. A popular HBR article from 2016 titled Culture is not the Culprit, helped shape my view on the topic by saying that culture is not something you fix. Rather it is something that evolves over time.

At the event in Amsterdam, social business expert Monique van Maare from IBM, shared their story of igniting cultural transformation for the future of work. IBM was founded in 1911 and has managed to reinvent itself more than a few times. Monique showed this brief video on the new IBM:

Monique shared some quite impressive examples of experimental learning and cross-company collaboration. Some of the key questions we tried to answer were:

  • How do you sustain new ways of working?
  • What’s the role of e-mail? In particular with the advent of many new tools

Improving the employee experience using apps

impossible-signAt the German-based T-Systems MMS, more than 70% of employees use the employee app. Susann Wanitschke is their Internal Communication Manager and travelled from Dresden to share a glimpse behind the scenes.

Learning from success stories is always helpful and clearly they’ve done something right when it comes to ensuring adoption. Having an element of fun seemed a crucial element in moving the employee experience into the pocket, onto the smartphones and far beyond the usual legacy intranet.

An often overlooked point, when it comes to the app vs. no app discussion, is that push notifications is one of the real game changers for internal communications.

Finally: The T-Systems app is available in the Android Marketplace and iTunes Appstore and developed by Staffbase.

The Philips journey into a digital workplace world

Similar to IBM, Philips is one of those giant companies, which have managed to radical change in recent years. When they can do it, why can’t your smaller organisation?

Dennis Agusi is Communication Channels Lead with Philips. He shared key parts of their journey in moving away from their legacy intranet. Read more in the documented case study on how Philips moved their intranet from 123,000 to 5,000 pages.

As a part of the discussions, we arrived at this slightly adapted and simple definition of the digital workplace:

“Provide best access to people, data and tools”

A new approach to knowledge management

workshopSimilar to e-mail which was discussed throughout the day, knowledge management also carries a fair amount of baggage in most organisations. We realize knowledge is valuable, yet we tend to treat it carelessly.

Herman Limburg of CGI took us through an eye-opening workshop where he made us think different about knowledge management. In particular, he helped us see the many non-technical means that are essential to knowledge management.

Do you want to become a learning organisation? The simple advice was to start writing up lessons learned.

We also discussed missing governance around finding subject matter experts and how to ensure that content becomes validated and remains valid and trustworthy.

Making it a productive workplace

The final session was by Casper van Amelsvoort from Rabobank, who shared how they work to increase productivity, collaboration and agility.

Shadow IT might be great for productivity, but what about governance, training and security? Casper offered this advice on how to deal with it:


Discussions in this session focused on trying to achieve 2 major objectives:

  • How to realize big cost savings
  • Speeding up innovation while staying in control

The conversation continues

Thanks to everyone who participated and helped make it a most interesting day. Feel free to share a comment below with your reflections and insights on the workplace of the future.