Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with my argument that most digital activities within a smaller business are being incorrectly allocated to the ‘IT department’.
Don’t get me wrong. Most IT departments or resources perform an increasingly critical role with organisations large and small. Without it many organisations would simply fail to exist – so fundamental is it to the day-to-day functioning of the business in question.
But for many in smaller business, digital activities are seen as an IT responsibility when in most cases they belong firmly elsewhere.
The thinking being that because it occurs on a computer, it must be IT right?
Speak to our IT guys
As an illustration of this thinking, I often wheel out the story of the significant Australian industry body whose entire industry was being disrupted by eCommerce a few years back.
In meeting with them to try to identify some training and technology solutions to help combat the ‘scourge’ of the internet our team was escorted into a dark and fairly dingy room where the systems admin guy was operating on a number of gutted PCs.
I guessed we’d been taken there to await the arrival of the online strategy executive. But I was wrong.
It was the systems admin guy that had been charged with leading the organisation’s several thousand members into the digital age. And it was he that we were meeting with.
Needless to say the meeting was short and not overly productive.
What did you call me?
It still happens today. I often get called an “IT guru” when I know about as much about IT as a 13-year-old computer studies student – and possibly less.
(In case you were wondering I’m more of a marketing and communications person specialising in digital communications as they apply to smaller business).
So this week, in an attempt to clarify just who should manage the various digital communications tactics, I’m going to have a crack at allocating them to the correct ‘departments’ of your organisation.
Because websites are now an essential component of a business’s operations, I think it’s evolved into an ‘operations’ responsibility. But it doesn’t end there.
It’s critical your website creates a relationship with your customers (marketing) and performs well technically (IT). So really, if your organisation was large enough, you would have all of your operations, marketing and IT representatives working on the project, with ultimate responsibility going to the marketing person.
But this will vary from business to business.
2. Social media
This discipline has been a controversial one because it breaks so many of the traditional rules of business and so has had many business operators pulling their hair out in desperation. It also depends on what you are using social media for.
When you look at its fundamental role – to communicate directly with your customers on behalf of your business, it appears to be a PR role. But when it evolved, most PR folk had a collective coronary as social media threw all of the normal checks and balances out the window.
But as they have come to understand and work with it, they have rightly brought it back under their control. But sales and customer service have also used social media effectively and so may manage pertinent aspects of it.
3. Email marketing
Pretty much a no-brainer. Marketing should plan, create and execute it, though IT may be consulted to help identify the correct email creation and broadcast technology.
Again, strange as it may appear to the PR department, it is best suited to overseeing blogging activities because its core purpose is to act as a voice of the organisation to the public – clearly their domain.
5. Search engine optimisation
This one isn’t so easy because it requires reasonably sophisticated technical skill to understand how relevant keywords need to be organised in order to provide the most prominence among search engines.
But for most businesses, the core purpose of SEO is to attract new business leads and enquiries, which is firmly the domain of Marketing.
6. Online advertising
By its nature, advertising is a multi-media activity, so the addition of the online world to the array of advertising media is not a huge stretch for most businesses. Therefore the people co-ordinating your traditional advertising should also co-ordinate your online advertising – providing of course they are prepared to take it on.
And given online advertising is remunerated more in labour time than in the traditional commission structure, your traditional providers may not be set up to manage it.
7. Website maintenance
This breaks up into three core responsibilities – technical, creative and communication. A representative of your IT department or resource will be needed to maintain the technical integrity of your website, while the written content should be managed by the person who managed your traditional content requirements.
Similarly, the creative aspects should be managed by the person who does the same with your traditional creative requirements.
While I’ve chosen traditional business roles to illustrate where different digital activities belong, the ever evolving realm of digital communications has meant that there are now new or morphed roles to help manage the new communications requirements.
For example, many organisations now employ a content specialist to manage the various digital content development and distribution requirements.
For many, a social media specialist now co-ordinates this increasingly important communications channel.
But once the core purpose of a digital communication tactic is understood, it becomes easier to delegate it to the right person, instead of lumbering it – often incorrectly into ‘IT’.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.