A recent study by Neil Perkin of eConsultancy, entitled “Digital Marketing: Organizational Structures and Resourcing”, highlights the challenges many eBusinesses face in finding “T-shaped” people for their organization.
What are T-shaped people? The concept was used extensively by management consultant McKinsey & Company in the mid-80s to describe consultants that embodied both a deep vertical expertise in some specialty (the vertical bar in the T), as well as empathy for and broad experience with related skills (the horizontal bar in the T). For example, think of a consultant who has deep experience in Supply-Chain-Management, but also broader experience and empathy for related functional areas such as IT, Finance, Change Management, and Logistics.
More recently Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, highlighted the creative and problem-solving benefits of working with T-shaped people in his June 1, 2005 article in Fast Company. (A great read, especially if you are a believer in the importance of Innovation in improving the customer experience). For Tim, the key is empathy, the ability to stand in someone else’s shoes, and be able to see the world from their perspective.
Why are T-shaped people especially relevant in eBusinesses?
Highly Specialized Skills: Success in eBusiness requires many highly specialized skills, such as Web Development, Analytics, IT & Security, Privacy, eCRM, and eMarketing. In fact, eMarketing breaks down into many specialized fields including Search Marketing, Marketing Automation, Social Media, Email Marketing, Content Marketing, Inbound Marketing, Mobile, and more. Each of these specialty fields is extremely dynamic, requiring constant skills upgrade.
Highly Collaborative Environment: eBusiness is highly dynamic, constantly evolving, requiring these “specialists” to work together closely to achieve ongoing innovation and higher-level business results. Without horizontal experience and empathy among key individuals, getting those “silos” to effectively work together is virtually impossible.
So, as Manager of an eBusiness, what should you do?
- Become a T-shaped Manager. Expand the breadth of your eBusiness knowledge so that you can better understand and manage your team of highly skilled, vertical experts.
- Hire T-shaped employees. According to Tim Brown, you’ll get more collaboration, and better, more innovative solutions from your team.
- Outsource to T-shaped consultants. If you are missing a key vertical expertise, hiring a T-shaped consultant with depth and breadth of experience (including online and offline) will ensure that their recommendations are easier to implement and will have greater acceptance within your organization.
Until next time – Axel