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Don’t Undervalue Digital Expertise

Expanding your in-house capabilities to include digital is no easy feat. It is a gradual evolution, usually initiated by a few random requests fielded by your print design team, most of who are delving into the discipline themselves for creative growth and self-development. Typically these team members are self-taught and are able to meet the needs of low-complexity digital work.

If your goal is not to expand into increasingly complex digital work, sourcing and hiring generalists or cross-training print designers will sustain meeting this demand. However as your team does more of this type of work, demand quickly increases and complexities start to creep in. These complexities require specific expertise and skill sets. Taking on digital work without investing in team members with digital experience limits your team’s potential. It’s possible for print designers to support some digital requests, and even for some print designers to fully transition to digital designers, but this is most successful when you invest in external talent to mentor those team members and to guide the department’s foray into digital services.

There are a multitude of digital competencies, and your first step will be to prioritize which your team will deliver against. From there you can better determine which expertise and skills sets you need to bench (hire as full-time employees) versus source freelancers to meet the short-term demand. Keep in mind that finding someone with expertise across all digital competencies is rare, and the more specialized the role, the more candidates you will find. In other words, if you are looking for a digital creative director who is able to code in HTML5, edit in FinalCut Pro, shoot video and develop creative concepts, you may only have one or two people to choose from, and they are going to come at a high price point. Rely on your staffing agency partner to better understand which skill sets are regularly found together in nature and at what seniority level.

Hiring and growing the right talent is only part of the equation. To truly succeed, you will also need to invest in the proper equipment and software. Launching digital capabilities requires having the right systems and tools in place to succeed from creative development through to testing across multiple platforms and equipment. As your group’s digital capabilities expand, so will your hardware and software needs.

Strong cross-functional collaboration and alignment with other internal groups, such as IT, will also be crucial. You will need to understand the organization’s technology, requirements and constraints in order to clearly and properly set your clients’ expectations and deliver against their requests.

Designing for the web or multi-channel campaigns is a specialized practice. Multi-channel campaigns can be especially tricky if you haven’t addressed the creative development process: who owns this process? Who determines the creative direction for the campaign, the print or the digital team? In all likelihood, this is not a consistent answer, rather a case-by-case determination based on the weight of the various components and the order you need to deliver each. If not addressed early, this can quickly become an issue creating a division within your team and possibly frustration and discontent. The two teams can work in harmony if process is clear and collaboration fostered.

Starting from scratch when building digital capabilities is challenging. Get a leg up by hiring a team member who can help forge the path. In addition to their technical knowledge, their advice and experience in being a member of other digital start-ups will be greatly beneficial.

Please see Part II of this article at http://www.cellaconsulting.com/blog/dont-undervalue-digital-expertise-part-ii/.

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Cindy Ponce

As Cella’s Creative Services Practice Lead, Cindy Ponce is the lead author of the In-House Creative Industry Report. In addition, she consults with Fortune 1000 clients whose in-house teams span from small and mid-sized groups to large and global service providers. Cindy’s management competencies lie in building and managing internal agency model organizations globally and effectively managing cross-functional teams worldwide. She’s known for her passion and tenacity in delivering optimal solutions with exceptional service and quality work using proven methodologies. Prior to joining Cella, Cindy built and led an international team of 65+, servicing more than 40 countries. During her tenure, she spearheaded increased service offerings to include content development and interactive capabilities.

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