Digital Directions: The Third Rail
Programs are the domain of editorial (product development) and marketing groups, not technology groups. With a clear delineation between programs and platforms, organizations can avoid the turf battles that often arise surrounding digital media.
It takes much longer to select, integrate and roll out a platform than it does to launch a program on that platform. New platforms require a long lead-time for implementation, on the order of 12 to 24 months. On the other hand, digital media programs need to operate within the tight time frames of the marketplace, with delivery usually within 12 months of conception. Digital programs need to use the platforms that are currently available to them, while providing input to IT staff on their requirements for the next platform.
The Third Rail: People
The digital track has a third rail: people. The human dimension is a critical, but often overlooked aspect of digital evolution. As technologies mature, they become more accessible to all competitors. The technology becomes commoditized, the playing field levels. People will emerge as the true differentiators, not the technologies. Those organizations that develop comprehensive organizational strategies in support of digital media will become leaders in innovation and grow their market-share.
A couple issues relating to the human dimension are:
• Training: Marketing and product- development teams need training to maximize the value they can get from digital platforms. Training need not be expensive, and is often best delivered by peers. Technology teams also need to continually assess the skills needed to deliver and support platforms—such as in the area of XML—and train in areas where there are skill gaps.
• Compensation: The business model for digital offerings often represents a departure from the past. For example, publishers in the education market have long struggled with the issue of sales compensation for digital offerings, sometimes with drastic strategic consequences. If a sales force is compensated on physical book sales, the digital ancillaries get bundled in “for free” when the book is adopted. A sale is made, but the revenue contribution for the digital component is hidden. The long-term strategic impact is a lack of digital innovation, since a business case cannot be made without revenue recognition. Alternatively, sales plans and goals can be modified to drive the sale of digital offerings to support moving toward electronic delivery. Digital strategy must be supported by organizational behavior, which in turn needs to be reinforced by compensation plans. Those organizations that get this right will realize a larger share of the digital market.