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Digital Maturity Insight

How to structure a digital team

by Redweb, 24 June 2020

Read Time: 5 minutes

With digital maturity increasingly at the top of many organisations’ to-do lists structuring a digital team, and defining its place, are challenges being faced with an ever-growing regularity. We explore some of the strategies and considerations you should make when approaching this with your organisation.

Start at the top

Leadership, and by extension workplace culture, is often seen as a key barrier to digital success, as evidenced in research carried out by Deloitte in 2018 on the topic of modelling digital maturity. This can be a problem, as an appetite for real digital transformation and commitment to a vision and strategy that supports it are needed as a vital starting point.

Deloitte’s research suggests that less than half (44%) of organisations feel ready for digital transformation, or that they are succeeding in achieving it. Those that are, however, invariably boast a board that values digital literacy and empowers those tasked with delivering transformation to lead the necessary shifts in organisational culture.

The whole C-suite needs an awareness, and an understanding, of the role digital plays in delivering an organisation’s aims, be it CEO, CMO, or CIO. Next, there must be agreement on appointing a digital leader for the organisation. This may be an internal appointment, but ideally it’s a specialist role – a Head of Digital, perhaps.

This role should be charged with being the voice of digital for an organisation and owning the process of defining a digital strategy aligned with the wider organisation’s goals and aims. Crucially, they must be customer-centric, market-aware and given the freedom to challenge and change the status-quo. Furthermore, they need to bring a broad range of experience and understanding of the digital industry, and the skills and specialisms within it.

How to structure your digital team

With leadership and strategy accounted for, the next big task is building and structuring a digital team – which is not an exact science. There are a wealth of roles, specialisms and buzzwords to consider, but we’d consider two key approaches:

The Centralised Model

Building a centralised team of digital practitioners is often the most accessible starting point, and something you may have also heard referred to as a ‘Centre of Excellence’. Think of it as a hub for digital expertise and output, led by the Head of Digital and viewed as a service provider for the wider organisation.

The centralised team takes responsibility for:

  • Establishing and documenting digital guidelines
  • Ensuring the digital vision is realised
  • Ownership of digital delivery

The key to success, of course, is identifying the roles required. Once the roles are in place it’s important to avoid the most common pitfall associated with the model: the siloed department.

Too often digital can be considered ‘nothing to do with us’ by the rest of an organisation, but this perception is untrue, and limits the impact your digital team can make. If you started the process correctly, with leadership buy-in, this should easier — but still poses a potential problem.

The Hybrid Model

Perhaps the most effective way to combat the risk of digital ending up siloed, is the Hybrid Model. You may also have heard it referred to as the ‘hub and spoke’ model.

In essence, the centralised team is still key, and ultimately still owns the responsibilities identified above. The key difference here is that they support digital champions embedded in teams throughout the organisation.

You could assign someone already in the team the role of digital champion, or create a specialist role focused on digital insight or delivery. The decision depends on the size of your organisation, your budget, or the skillset required – but the end result is the same.

While the Centralised Model is the likely starting point for building your digital team, the Hybrid Model should be the goal for most organisations. That way, you’ll ensure digital literacy is embedded throughout the organisation, and that its role and importance is better understood.

Summary - Making it work

So, you’ve identified digital as an opportunity to drive success for your organisation, and you’re ready to embark on a digital transformation programme. How do you ensure success?

First and foremost, digitally-aware leadership is vital. It really is the key to empowering digital experts to succeed and represents one of the main tenets of your organisation’s digital maturity.

Next, you must ensure cross-organisation support for digital, primarily by:

  • Ensuring digital does not become siloed, and avoiding a ‘nothing to do with us’ view of digital in other teams
  • Establishing a digital strategy that is aligned with the organisation’s aims and establishing the outcomes that it supports achieving.

Finally, it’s important to understand the skills you need represented in your digital team.

With strategy in place, outcomes established, and support for digital ensured, it’s time to execute and deliver. Alongside leadership and workplace culture, an absence of digital skills can be another barrier to success for many organisations.

The problem is, there are many different roles and specialisms, and a dizzying number of variations for digital job titles. The next article will take a closer look at the digital roles you need to consider.


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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