Monday, September 15, 2008

OnlineSpin: DECE And The Origins of Digital Chi

MediaPost's Online SPIN

A little over a week ago, Max Kalehoff's "Termination Is Hard, But Avoidance Is Destructive" received a fair number of responses.

Timothy McDonald wrote in response, "So true.

So many companies simply try to make the situation so uncomfortable for the employee that the employee quits.

It's standard practice in Texas, where employers feel the tax/ insurance premium burden of unemployment insurance claims on their organization, so they will do anything to not fire an employee for something short of truly egregious behavior.

BUTÂ…it is also shocking how many employees are deemed to be underperforming when in fact they are undertrained, underappreciated, and in many cases the scapegoat for failed company strategy, policy or process.

I've worked for a lot of sales organizations and seen people lose their jobs because the product team failed to deliver the services the sales team sold.

The 'cancer' in that situation is the growing sense of mistrust in a highly connected marketplace.

All of a sudden the sales vp is in danger of a job loss because the boys at corporate didn't fund the product delivery or account management team."

Monday, September 15, 2008
DECE And The Origins of Digital Chi
By Kendall Allen

A non-story about an embargoed story caught my eye late last week while cruising the blogosphere, and spurred action and thought. This breeze of a read took me away on tangents of digital anthropology. This is a first, as far as call and response goes to something so light. What was it all about?

Reportedly, Reuters will publish a piece today whose hand was tipped across the transom Thursday night, with vague mentions of pending announcements on the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE). This system, as you likely know, is a somewhat newly minted consortium effort to enable and standardize interoperability between digital content sites and devices. It essentially strives to release the confines of formats and DRM currently stifling true digital chi.

In the longer history of related proclamations, this piece follows last month's Techcrunch coverage of Open Market, and previews whatever will be announced at CES in January by this group. There wasn't much to the slipped bit, and I'm not sure how much we'll hear this week. But, the teaser article's references to the lauded "digital ecosystem" implied a stir of builder activity that I found representative.

Ecosystem -- An Overused, Yet Still Good Word
Our industry is definitely verging on the overuse of the term "ecosystem." But, this is possibly the best word for the vision of digital harmony and interplay in its ideal state. In fact, anyone with a hand in building anything of digital significance foresees the day when we can look back and plot the origin of it all. We see a future day when we are privy to the fully juiced provenance on this big harmonious thing brewing now. If successful, movements like DECE will own part of the story of origin, when it comes to harmony.

Questions? Naturally.
Of course, looking at this enterprise, you wonder if it can even get legs, without every single one of the major studios and Apple on board and aligned from the get-go. As immersive, high-utility consumer experiences go, you ponder questions of scale and quality on the content and creative. And, when it comes to the marketplace, M&A activity, cooperation, monetization and business models, the questions are countless.  

For me, the consideration of where DECE really is right now illuminated the overall builder imperative that has heated up all around us. Building is rampant and rolls up to the bigger picture of digital harmony.

Our Own Questions
But, as with the big build implied by DECE, in our day-to-day within the sphere -- whether we play the agency, media company or client-side role -- we must take a step back and ask, where does this digital build begin and under what conditions does it advance to vision? New builds, re-boots, integrations, and acquisitions -- we are all at it in some fashion, with our own relation to the big picture. So we need to care about getting it right, by striking the full equation. Among other players, you may be:

  •     A traditional agency building a digital division or practice to service existing marketers and take them digital, or to win new digital client business.
  •     A marketing company building digital competencies to extend market opportunity, potentially through integrating or packaging existing assets, acquired companies or talent.
  •     A media product company building a digital services arm or sister business, based on client demand for an evolved digital services aspect.
  •     A client building operations for digital -- infrastructure, internal agencies, cooperative models, and more. You may currently orient around digital channels, or that may be a migration you have in mind.

    In any scenario, there are prevailing questions to ask and answer:

  •     How do we align our potentially dissonant executive vision and get to solid strategy and executable corporate planning? First, confirm you can agree on the role of digital in your business and begin mapping objectives. Tighten them to create a guiding framework.
  •     Considering the ecosystem, what is the strongest, most competitive, propelling market position? To start, look at your roots, look at the competition models and trends, and truly listen to the consumer market.
  •     What are consumers demanding? How are they wielding their influence? How do we harness this in our offering? Use the tools available, engage the consumer, shadow them in the digital sphere, cross-reference your existing or draft market position and messaging with what you observe or receive for input.
  •     How do we set the services foundation to scale; where do we begin with services to start flying this plane?  There surely are baby and then broader steps that can be identified -- pilot programs to be established.
  •     What talent must be hired first -- and where does that allow us to begin and travel? Seed your organizational model well, based on all of the above. You may lead with creative; you may lead with programming; you may lead with technology and enablement. Don't fall into conventions and models without thinking this through as a team.

    There may be more questions, but beginning with how you ask, answer and execute these will determine your path to vision within your realm of digital. And, while on the one hand, the implications of a movement like DECE seem lofty, it is a galvanizing movement happening nearby, as we do our own good work in the space, and we all advance evermore toward the digital chi.

    Kendall Allen is currently advising clients and partners on digital marketing and convergence media. Previously she was managing director of Incognito Digital, LLC, a boutique digital media agency and creative studio. She also held top posts at iCrossing and Fathom Online.

    Online Spin for Monday, September 15, 2008:

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