04 May 2016 by Mark Yiu
Getting Strategic with Digital: Event Recap


A short while ago, 130 members of Edmonton’s various businesses and industries gathered at the Matrix Hotel for Getting Strategic with Digital, a short morning event discussing methods to better integrate digital teams and capabilities into their own respective organizations. From utilizing web analytics to building a digital team, what organically emerged was a pattern of shared experiences, obstacles and themes.

Governance ≠ enforcement.

The word of the day, it seemed, was ‘governance’. With digital tools readily available at little to no cost, organizations are seeing an uptake in activity at a grass-roots level. Employees are leading their own initiatives and taking it upon themselves to leverage digital channels for improving communication and engagement.

While all well-intended, the inherent fear with this type of activity is the risk of open, unregulated communication. The idea of uncontrolled exposure challenges traditional oversight used to preserve brand message, values and public perception. However, the solution as Matthew Brown (Manager, Digital Experience, Servus Credit Union) learned, is not to take away the tools they’ve created, but to leverage them, learn from their interactions and usage, and use it as a vehicle to drive better communication to customers, as well as to staff.

To do so means to change the function of governance to not equal enforcement—stated Leopold McGinnis (Website Manager at the Alberta Medical Association)—but mean a system of overarching protocols, best practices and education that guides objectives, monitors usage and informs decisions.

Digital teams provide support.

Integrating digital into an organization is more than creating a dedicated team or hiring a single individual. It is the result of an organizational shift, one that impacts every level of the organization from operational procedures and customer experience to the very business model itself.

Digital initiatives must be pervasive throughout an organization. One method, suggested by Jennifer Mitok (Assistant Director, Digital Communications, Alberta Environment and Parks), is to strategically insert digital team members into departmental silos. These team members, unlike other employees, carry a larger purview of the organization and are able to align themselves closely with different departments. By conducting research, sharing and monitoring analytics, digital team members “bring an understanding of the world” say Mitok. As a result, traditional departments are able to make data-driven business decisions.

Get analytical with analytics.

Perhaps the most obvious but underappreciated difference between traditional and digital marketing is the ability to track results and performance. Through web analytics and other online measurement tools, organizations now have access to reams of customer insight and behavioral data. The key, however is not in the quantity, but in the ability to analyze, interpret, and extrapolate.

“Everyone on our team has to have an understanding of analytics.”, says Matt Brown. Knowing how users are interacting with your digital products in real-time can mean the difference between capitalizing on success or failing to recognize a weak initiative. It means knowing what channels are working and/or shutting down the ones that don’t. And while experimentation with new tools and trends is considered a valuable activity, it is equally important to recognize which tools work best to meet your goals and which ones detract. “Not every digital touchpoint should have the same focus.”

At the University of Alberta, “nothing starts without an analyst taking a look and trying to figure out what’s going on first.”, says Tim Schneider (Director, Digital Analytics, University of Alberta). Understanding context is just as important as the data, in order to understand the external factors influencing the results.


At the end of the day, initiating change within an organization requires clear goals, clear audiences and data to back it up. “It doesn’t matter how much money you throw at technology”,  what does matter is the breakdown of silos, increased collaboration across all departments and a willingness to experiment and learn from failure.

Digital provides us with unlimited possibilities, opportunities and methods. However, in order to get strategic, “it’s better to do one thing well than ten things poorly” (Heather Hart).


Images courtesy of William Griffiths (top) and Jennifer Mitok (above)

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