Decentralising Digital - Daring or Disaster?

26th May by Deniz Hassan

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The next instalment in our ‘Deniz’s Digital Surgery’ series offering help from Deniz Hassan, lead of the global digital fundraising team at the UN World Food Programme and founder of Clockwork Pie, the UK's first digital fundraising agency: Deniz has some firm advice for a digital professional struggling under a new decentralised restructure with no overall strategy.

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Dear Deniz 

We’ve had a restructure and all Digital functions have been ‘de centralised’ and integrated into teams across Fundraising, Marketing & Communications, Policy and Operational Services (which covers Digital Transformation).

Each functional Director now has targets for digital but there’s no overall strategy apart from some very top line thoughts in our new 5 year organisational strategy. The CEO now has ultimate accountability for delivering our digital goals (again very top line IMHO)

We used to have our own team, with the Functional Director being the Director of Marketing & Communications.

Whilst I understand the change – in some ways its very radical and needed to propel change  – but I am struggling a bit with the lack of overall focus and I miss the wider team. I now sit in the Fundraising team, which is fine (we worked with them a lot anyway) but I feel a bit lost.

 What do you think about this structure? I want to be positive….how can I make it work? If it’s helpful - we are a national charity working in the area of social change, working with disadvantaged groups across the whole of the UK. We are over 100 years old.

Rizwan, London

Sorry Rizwan, I just read 'we're going to inexplicably create a bunch of disparate silos led by someone who has no skills to do so'. You've asked me what I think and I'm going to give it to you straight. Mainly because you deserve to but also because I'm cutting back on my mid-morning sugary snack.

Your CEO has made the mistake of assuming everyone that engages with you knows what internal segment they fall into and that they only fall into one distinct segment. You have replaced sharing and collaboration with the wild west. And I say this from experience sadly. What happens is, at worst, unhealthy competition is created as everyone is solely focussed on delivering their team's objectives. At best, you have a general understanding of each others' different areas - but without any formal link things fall through gaps and get prioritised from an organisational point of view rather than our supporters/beneficiaries. And confusion reigns.

This certainly isn't to say I advocate a 'centralised' model. In fact I think centralised models are rife with other issues such as resourcing and levels of niche expertise. But in my experience (and probably world history!) dividing up and being left to our own devices only ends badly. In reality, you need to work harder with your wider teams and CEO to come up with a model which gives the organisation, its beneficiaries and its supporters AS A WHOLE, the best experience.

If you have any burning issue you'd like to ask Deniz advice on around your digital programme or development, drop AAW a line at