Who owns digital in our organizations?

A spectre is haunting us as we work to move our organizations into the new digital era.

That spectre is a question: Who owns digital?

The answer is we all do. We all own digital.

Even though it seems that many of us are becoming quite established as “users” of the Internet, tablets and smartphones and so on, the concept of digital as an infrastructure is still new to many of us, and its implications for organizations of all kinds – and for departments or areas of work – aren’t widely understood.

I think there is a struggle going on. It’s a just-below-the-surface drama of our daily digital lives as workers, members or volunteers of organizations. In some groups, it’s a creative tension. In others, it’s a conflict.

Communications departments see digital as their turf, for obvious reasons. The marketing folks see it as theirs, for obvious reasons. IT personnel of course also lay claim – technology and web applications are their domain (no pun intended, honest).

Now upstarts like educators and researchers and member services staff and community developers want to go digital, and all heck is breaking loose.

Everyone is right. Digital belongs to every department. In fact, digital belongs to us all.

Of course, everyone being right is only a problem if the departments (or branches, or teams, or silos) can’t manage a productive conversation to sift through the implications of our new “connected” world for how we organize and publish our work.

Organizations that can’t manage to have that conversation and bring their silos together may find it harder and harder to create the capacity to connect with their own members. After all, our members are increasingly becoming accustomed to engaging with digital tools and to connecting, learning and communicating electronically.

In short, our groups need to be able to connect in an increasingly connected world. That said, our world might be increasingly connected, but our organizations aren’t necessarily so.

Clearly, digital tools give us new powerful ways to learn, work, share and mobilize. But before we grab these tools like they’re our cyber-saviours, we first need to remember all those great lessons we learned in kindergarten about sharing and working in community.

We need to bridge any competitive or disconnected silos in our organizations. Silos discourage cooperation and thwart collaboration. They squander resources. Silos suck.

Like it or not, digital is the new connective tissue of our society (or so the story is going; let’s go along with it, for now). If our organizations are to connect with the outside world, then they’ll have to connect inside as well. The challenge here is not technological. It’s social.

The challenge is about how we share and organize the work (same as it ever was).

Contracting out this work will not serve groups in the long run. Building capacity will.

Chances are other people in your organization are thinking similar thoughts. Connect with them.

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