With digital media playing an ever-growing role in marketing, many UK companies have sought to invest heavily in its use.
However, while investment in digital spend is up and companies are becoming accustomed to using such channels, suggestions they are being used in the optimal way are often greatly exaggerated. In our experience, and particularly from conversations with senior digital candidates, it would seem that many UK businesses are not as digitally savvy as many perceive.
True, the UK is very advanced in its use of digital, but many departments are nowhere near as far forward as they should be with digital integration.
One reason for this is the familiar problem of silos. Just as many functions are isolated from each other in businesses, so the pattern repeats itself when digital is introduced. In many cases, this is treated as the sole domain of the digital team, which is not integrated with the rest of the business.
The result of this is that digital cannot make the impact it could and should, because other parts of a business will not have gained an appreciation of how it functions, what its uses are and how it impacts everyone else. As a result, despite increasing investment it can still be argued that digital as a function is largely under resourced in many businesses and opportunities for its effective integration with wider activities are being missed.
Another common observation is that many businesses do not have the right systems in place. Add to this a lack of talent with the necessary skills and it is no wonder that many companies do not make the most of digital.
Finding the staff with the right skills is a clear priority for a company whenever it understands what is needed. The danger is that such a lack of understanding means these requirements are neglected in digital. Many reasons might lie behind this; the boards of companies may lack knowledge of digital and even be suspicious of it, while in many cases a lack of investment is a key issue.
One of the most effective steps a business could take to tackle these problems is to appoint someone with digital knowledge and experience to the board.
This would mean that companies would have someone involved at the highest level who has the necessary experience and understanding that others may lack. They can act as a champion for digital, ensuring their colleagues understand what can be achieved through it and help secure investment. All this, of course, will help remove digital from the silo and bring it into the heart of the business.
Above all, this move would remove the ignorance of digital that leads business leaders to fear it. Rather than being reactive to developments in this fast-moving sector, companies will be able to plan ahead and take a lead, investing more in terms of finance, recruiting the right specialist digital staff and training people across the business.
By being pro-active, a company will soon find it moves ahead of the competition, but to do this means a significant culture change. Companies bold enough to give digital expertise a voice at board level will find this amounts to a big step towards achieving this transformation.