By Kerry Lee | Director of Consulting

Digital team structure has been a hot topic over the past decade. Digital disruption has driven lots of high-profile restructures at companies such as Kellogg'sP&G and Boots. With each one of these high-profile changes, there is a different solution and a different approach to the structure of the central digital teams.

The questions Practicology get asked most often on this subject are: how do you actually go about deciding what the central ecommerce or digital team structure should look like? And what should sit in the centre and what should the corresponding local market teams look like?

The answers to these questions are often complex and require detailed analysis to arrive at the correct outcome. From the work that we have done over the years working with multi-national brands and retailers, here are three key aspects to consider when deciding on your digital team structure:

1. In or out – what to outsource

You need to agree on what stays in and what goes out to agencies and partners before you can get to the shape of any central or local digital team structure.

Practicology always starts by looking at what the organisation needs to own and what is key to ecommerce success in the future. Then we look at what capabilities the organisation already has versus what capabilities the organisation wants to have. This then leaves the organisation with the capabilities that could be outsourced. When they get to this point, they need to consider the commercial and cultural impact of outsourcing, which will enable them to make a decision.

As an example, data analysis and management, areas which were previously outsourced on a frequent basis, are now areas we are seeing being brought into organisations’ ecommerce teams. As organisations continue to recognise the value of data and want to ‘own’ it, a huge demand for data scientists and analysts has followed.

2. Carve out or integrate digital functions

Will digital activity thrive within your existing digital team structure? Are your existing processes and systems fast enough to keep up with consumer needs? And, if digital is currently only a small part of your business, then will it be given the focus it needs to deliver against business targets?

If the answer to the above is ‘no’, then taking the digital team structure and establishing an ‘Accelerator unit’ which has more freedom to operate outside the existing processes, could be the short-term solution.

If the answer to the above is ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’, perhaps digital and ecommerce could be more integrated into the wider organisation.

3. Control versus empowerment in the digital team structure

The culture of the organisation shouldn’t be ignored. You need to consider whether your organisation wants to control or empower its local market teams.  

For brands where there is a need to control and have a truly consistent global presence, the best way to do this is for a large central team to take the lion's share of development work and actually deliver it too. Local teams would merely implement as instructed, based on stringent guidelines. Apple is a good example of this kind of organisation

For organisations that are more focused on providing relevant experiences in the market and there is less of a need for brand consistency, then the situation reverses. There is a much smaller central digital team structure with larger local teams responsible for all implementation and sometimes strategy, set and delivered at a local level.

There are many other aspects that you need to resolve in order to get the right structure for your organisation. In-depth planning is therefore key from the beginning to avoid implementing incorrect structures, which will be costly to remedy in the future.  

Do you need help deciding on or developing your central digital team structures? Practicology is expert in assisting organisations to develop optimal structures for central teams that drive organisational efficiency. Contact us at hello@practicology.com or click here to discuss how we could support you.

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