7 essential skills for the digital age

September 2, 2013
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, Digital Media Skills

Recently I was involved in a tweet meet, which focused on exploiting the opportunities in digital media as a career option. As the reach and impact of digital media continues to increase across sectors, many are looking for a way to “get in”.

There are several ways to look at the career opportunities. Let us use the 3CS framework – Channels, Content, Customer Experience and Stakeholder Management – to explore the options.

This framework has a simple explanation – there are Digital “Channels” (such as websites, mobile applications, social networking sites, etc). Assume that these channels are houses. Every channel needs to be designed, prototyped and developed/built. Digital channels or platforms act as “delivery platforms” to deliver “content”.

“Content” can be in different formats – text, audio, video or a combination of one or more. Content can be created or curated (aggregated from 3rd party sources).

No matter how great a channel is or how interesting its contents are, users/visitors/customers should be able to explore the channel and contents easily. How this experience is delivered and the ease of using the channel is the focus of the “Customer Experience” part of the framework.

At the end of the day no effective channel is developed or great content created without the input of different people and groups within the organization. Great digital projects are not simply the outcome of a great team of designers, developers and digital strategists. Others in the organization can make or mar the success of the project at any stage in the project’s lifecycle. Getting the “Stakeholder” bit right might perhaps be the most important part of the framework.

Having introduced the 3CS framework, lets look at some of the different skills sets that might be needed for each part of the framework.

1. Channels Related Skills

These include technical skills needed to design and develop channels.  Examples include Web Developers, Web Application Developers, Mobile Application Developers, Web Designers, Information Architects, Online Security Specialists, etc.

A lot of good designers and developers I know were self-taught. Anyone can learn any skill if they have the interest, passion and motivation. Opportunities abound everywhere to work on digital projects. It is whether one is willing to pay the price to learn.

2. Content Related Skills

I have come to appreciate the role of content in transforming a digital platform from good to great. I strongly believe that great content is not only key but also king. Skills that are centred on content creation, curation or optimization include Requirements Analysis/Gathering, Copy Editing, Content Strategy, Content Development, Content Management, Videography, Photography, Communications, Public Relations, Translation, etc.

3. Customer Experience

The ultimate goal of any digital channel should be to create a seamless experience for its users. Every aspect of the design and development of the channel should focus on making the channel easier to use. Content must be easy to find. Navigation should be built intuitively so that even a “dummy” can find his/her way around the channel.

Few people still use user guides/manuals to operate their new gadgets. Little wonder many of these digital tools no longer come with the manuals any more. Here skills such as Usability, Search Engine Optimization, Digital Marketing, Online Research and Business Intelligence come in very handy.

4. Stakeholder Management Skills

The ability to work with and through a cross-functional team within one’s organization is a critical success factor in digital projects. Possessing skills such as Change Management, Digital Strategy, Project Management, Crisis Management, Customer Engagement, Community/Social Media Management, Employee Engagement and Product Development knowledge help to engender trust and rapport between the core digital team and other groups within the organization.

Many of these skills would take time, effort and discipline to cultivate but they are achievable. Those seeking careers in the digital space should look at their aptitude, the trends and which skills would be in demand going forward. These may differ based on where you are in the world.

Irrespective of the digital skills you decide to develop, the following are must haves for any serious digital specialist:

5. Pay Attention to Details

This cannot be overstated – every little detail matters. There are too many digital projects that are done shoddily with elementary errors in design, development and content. One of the biggest errors is to assume that a digital project ends when the project goes live. From poor requirements gathering, broken links to inaccurate and irrelevant content and insensitive social media posts, there is a critical need for every digital specialist to up the ante.

This would be one of the top 3 soft skills I recommend that every member of the digital team must have.  The sad part of a failure to pay attention to details is that a lot of personal, team and organizational resources are wasted due to the amount of time expended on correcting/reworking the errors.

Does your team pay attention to details? Get others within your organization to randomly and periodically run a check through your digital channels and identify opportunities for improvement. Then get the team to implement the changes quickly. The digital team needs to improve its housekeeping duties.

6. Versatility

Every member of the digital team needs to improve his or her general knowledge about things that might impact or be impacted by the digital ecosystem.  Digital is synonymous with change and innovation – and that is why everyone involved must take out time to research the products, services and clients of the organizations they represent.

7. Business Communication

Being able to communicate formally using emails, creating reports and making presentations are increasingly important parts of a digital specialist’s toolkit. I have seen many gifted and hardworking digital colleagues struggle to remain relevant in their organizations because they underestimate the importance of reporting their work. My advice to them has always been, “don’t work hard…work smart!” Don’t wait for your boss to ask for updates…prepare periodic reports with recommendations for improvements and help to implement these improvements.

The mark of a proactive digital champion is how s/he “Stands Up, Steps Up and Lives Up” to the standards.

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