Digital leader challenges
What are the biggest challenges facing digital leaders today? An interview with Neil Thornburn.
This month Neil Thornburn popped into the studio to chat with our CTO, James Forage about the challenges facing digital leaders in large organisations.
Neil has held senior digital roles at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, the RNLI and Smiths Medical where he has led teams of between 5 and 50 people. We were keen to learn how Neil balances the needs of his projects, teams and stakeholders, and to ask what digital transformation really means in 2019.
There is room for creativity everywhere
Creativity comes in many guises. It's not just about the creative outputs, but the process too. It could be about finding a better way of handling translation for your website, or a new way of starting a conversation at an event. In any case, creativity is your differentiator.
Success as a leader even requires you to be creative in how you approach communication with your internal stakeholders because the way you might successfully sell an idea to your CMO might be very different to how you'd want to approach the CFO.
Talk to me like I'm five
Transparency and simplicity in communications is key to every relationship. Success in digital is to a large extent about being able to communicate both the current issues and complex legacy hindrances in a simple way, alongside illustrating how to resolve them and how they align to larger organisational objectives.
Break it down into small chunks
Delivering a message in small, concise parts gives the recipient time to digest it and respond appropriately
Know your audience
User-centered design is no stranger to us, so why not use the same approach to understand and adapt how you work with your stakeholders?
Avoid technical terminology
Buzzwords are often the first thing to fall into a sentence when someone is unsure of a topic. On the other hand, overly complex phrasing for something simple is the fastest way to baffle the brains of the audience. If you're talking about something new, don’t assume people will ask for an explanation if they’re not following
Show me, don’t tell me
Help your stakeholders to visualise the key message with images and diagrams
Keep it simple
The T-shaped profile
You want a team who are quick and effective in responding to the challenges in front of them. This requires them to be acutely aware of how their skills fit within the wider team.
Even at a relatively junior level, team members need to know to ask the right question at the right time of their stakeholders. They can then take steps to involve other team members and stakeholders at the right time.
This produces the need for ‘T-shaped’ characters: people who have a broad understanding of many of the various elements of digital. You don't need specialists in every single area in all meetings or projects if the people in the room have a wide breadth of knowledge and skills. They will know enough to add value to projects and will have a clear understanding of if, when, and how to involve more specialist support.
The challenges ahead
There will be a number of challenges ahead for organisations, especially larger ones that need the top-end skills when it comes to integrating digital into the business
Attracting and retaining talent
When you're competing with the likes of Google, Amazon and fast-paced start-ups, it’s very difficult to attract the really talented individuals. If you can hire them, then retaining them is the next big challenge because money will only keep them so long. You need to foster that culture of creativity and ensure there's room for growth, variety and challenge within the role. Large organisations have big projects which can often be slow to progress - but there's a need to find the right balance with smaller more innovative projects to ensure your best employees don't get bored. Each member of your team may have very different priorities and expectations, so this will be no easy feat.
Organisations created digital teams because of the need to keep up with rapid changes and new technologies. This has demanded very specialist skill-sets, but as 'digital transformation' starts to become the status quo, digital teams cannot remain in a silo. Digital skills and responsibilities will be dispersed back into the business, which forces a huge mindset change. Behaviours and beliefs of teams will be challenged, and the need to facilitate communication and knowledge sharing between departments becomes critically important.
What's your challenge?
At Yoyo we help large organisations create experiences with impact. When you need something a bit different to get you noticed and engage your customers or employees, our specialist experts can become an extension of your team. Together we can create something bold, beautiful and immersive. Just what an experience should be.
Want some inspiration?