Making yourself redundant

Can you imagine your company having a chief electricity officer? Seems ridiculous doesn’t it, but many large businesses did when electricity first started to power the industrial economy.

Electricity is such an integral part of our working life that it is impossible to imagine life without it. Companies just couldn’t operate without power, but it wasn’t always that way. Many business leaders failed to grasp the full potential of electricity after it was first introduced. Over a decade after introducing electricity, they were still building factories by water, despite no longer needing it to power their machinery. These business leaders needed help integrating the new technology into their thinking and that is where the chief electricity officer came in.

Although we may scoff at the foolish industrialists with their shortsighted vision, most companies are making exactly the same mistake today with the Web. They are failing to grasp the potential of the Web to revolutionize every aspect of their business. Instead, many have reduced the Web to a marketing tool.

What organizations need is the digital equivalent of a chief electricity officer. They need somebody who will champion digital across the organization until it is as ubiquitous as electricity in the modern work place. Many organizations require a digital evangelist sitting on the board (even if only in a non-executive and part-time capacity) so that digital is fully utilized. However, this should only a temporary requirement.

As I have already pointed out, we don’t need chief electricity officers anymore. Once electricity was fully integrated into the organizational processes and culture, their role became superfluous. The same should be true of us as Web professionals.

At the moment, most Web professionals see their job as executing some form of digital strategy. It falls to them to build, maintain and run digital assets from websites to mobile apps. Sometimes we facilitate the contribution of others through the use of a content management system, but ultimately we feel we should ‘own’ digital.

In fact, I have heard many argue that internal Web teams don’t have enough ownership over the Web (something I have written myself) and that external teams are seen as implementors rather than providing more of a leadership role. I have also heard many argue that organizations need a digital strategy and that digital teams should be more empowered within organizations.

All of these arguments I agree with, but feel that although true, they miss the point. Yes, right now we need a strong digital team. Yes, organizations should use external contractors as more than implementors and yes companies need to think about their strategy towards digital. However, these are all transitionary principles. They are merely stepping stones towards a greater aim, which is to make digital ubiquitous within the organization. In the end, we need a business strategy that includes digital, rather than a separate digital strategy.

At the moment, most Web professionals see their job as executing some form of digital strategy. It falls to them to build, maintain and run digital assets from websites to mobile apps. Sometimes we facilitate the contribution of others through the use of a content management system, but ultimately we feel we should ‘own’ digital.

In fact, I have heard many argue that internal Web teams don’t have enough ownership over the Web (something I have written myself) and that external teams are seen as implementors rather than providing more of a leadership role. I have also heard many argue that organizations need a digital strategy and that digital teams should be more empowered within organizations.

All of these arguments I agree with, but feel that although true, they miss the point. Yes, right now we need a strong digital team. Yes, organizations should use external contractors as more than implementors and yes companies need to think about their strategy towards digital. However, these are all transitionary principles. They are merely stepping stones towards a greater aim, which is to make digital ubiquitous within the organization. In the end, we need a business strategy that includes digital, rather than a separate digital strategy.

 

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