“What am I?”
I kept asking myself this question every time I went on to update my LinkedIn profile after a big project. I have been dealing with digital projects since 1999, adding communication in 2002, marketing in 2003, business in 2004. Mixing digital project management, web development management, art direction, business management, business strategy, marketing strategy, market analysis and many, many, many other things I soon became one of those intricate professionals in the industry that had no way to define themselves.
I was more than an Art Director, more than a business manager, more than a marketing manager. Yet, I was none of these things. I was deeply connected with everything that was digital, craving a new way to approach business development. And I always felt weird. The world didn’t seem to understand me. I had this mixture of talents, yet nobody felt compelled to tap into them as a whole. I had to invent my own situations to be able to fully use them together. When I worked for other companies, it was always partial. It was frustrating, infuriating and demotivating.
Times have changed in the past 15 years, and we are now in a digital era that sees the technology as the new normal (on this matter check out this Peter Hinssen Next Talk). In the past couple of years I have been hearing about “Digital Media Specialists”, “Digital Strategist”, “Digital Strategy Director”, “Digital and NewMedia Research and Development Specialist” . Each time what they meant was “a professional figure with the skills, the knowledge and the mindset to help a business develop trough the digital world, able to propose today and tomorrow products, always on top of the latest news and cross departmental”.
Then I read this piece wrote by Dowshan Humzah (Do we need Chief Digital Officers and what role can Marketing play?) and it struck me. A CDO! That’s what I was when I had my fashion company and I was leading the implementation of all digital channels from sales to admin, from advertising to operations. And I was doing it years before the advent of “social media”. Even if Humzah gets to the conclusion that a CDO should be a short term role, something I partially agree with, it doesn’t change the fact that some who will lead the “digital embrace” is needed and that that someone must have a diversified proven set of skills.
They “feel” that something is not quite right, but they can’t pin it exactly.
What many companies need is guidance to discover a different mentality. They are stuck in the 20th century (to paraphrase Peter Hinssen). They “feel” that something is not quite right, but can’t pin it exactly. And even when they get someone on board, they struggle to change, because, let’s be honest, change is hard. A CDO is here exactly for this reason.
To me, this is natural and clear as the air that we breath or as a tablet to a 4 years old, but for many Directors, managers, CEOs and Owners, it’s not always the case.
It is a proven fact that digital should not be supposed to serve only one part of a company. It’s supposed to be interdepartmental, changing minds and attitudes and helping the company to go from an old outdated classical structure to a modern, ever evolving, adaptable and, most of all, FAST company.
It’s the same thing as with social media. A social media team should not sit inside any specific department, because social media activities are interdepartmental by nature. They serve brand equity, but also communities, PR, Customer Service, lead generation and so on. To have them sit inside a specific department means sacrifice the objectives of the other departments (a good read on this is this piece by Will Bond called Where should social media sit in an organisation).
Digital and social will become outdated concept, one day. Maybe 10 or 15 years in the future. Or maybe more, when the actual CEOs generations will pass the testimony to younger digital-native generations. On that day, talking about “digital” will be superfluous: of course they will deal with it. Talking about social media will be useless: all media will social.
For the time being, companies need help in embracing this landscape, to fight old fashioned stakeholders who, unfortunately, don’t realise that they are just harming the same companies they work for. CDOs could be this kind of digital leader many companies need so much.
So, if you are in your 30s/40s and have a background like mine and always struggled to define yourself… if you didn’t know where to fit… well, rejoice! Because the world is starting to acknowledge the value of people like us. Now it’s up to us to keep the promise.
(posted by me on LinkedIn at this url https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/finally-world-recognising-our-worth-how-digital-leader-valentini?trk=pulse_spock-articles)