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

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