Rob Kerr is the Director of Digital Communications at The Jackson Laboratory (JAX).
How do you define digital strategy?
For me, digital strategy is about optimizing an organization. It’s largely about people, not technology. I think there are two distinct phases in building a digital strategy. The first phase is managing change; the second phase is maximizing what you have built.
Going digital means investing in new platforms, different skill sets, and creating a flatter organization with more autonomy for front line workers. Change is always difficult in organizations, but it’s critical to get this right. People will fight change for many reasons and you have to pull them along.
Maximizing what you have built is more traditional management. Set smart goals, invest in training, and remove barriers from your rock stars.
What kind of mobile device(s) do you have, and what are your three favorite apps?
I flirted with Android a year ago but went back to my iPhone after a month. I am a huge fan of apps that seamlessly bring data across platforms. For work, I couldn’t live without Evernote, Todoist and Keeper Security. I also love when non-tech companies are able to use technology to bring a brand to life in new ways. The New York Times is doing amazing, innovative things with their content. Nobody would think of Weber Grills as a technology company, but they put together a tremendous app that lets the customer get more out of their products. I am also a huge fan of Spotify.
What do you think of the emergence of the Chief Digital Officer role?
I think it’s a reaction to the transformative nature of technology. That sounds cliché, but it’s really true. The pace of technology is forcing change on everyone. Often, the most ardent resistors to change are the technologists themselves. The Chief Digital Officer role is about navigating this change. To optimize an organization, you need someone high enough on the food chain to enact rapid change. But you also need someone who can pull organizations along. Everyone works in digital which means you need to able to manage across organizational boundaries.
What advice do you have for aspiring digital professionals?
Learn how to negotiate. Build your ability to connect with people and explain technology without resorting to jargon. Focus on big-picture goals and not the tech flavor of the month. Learn how to work with people who aren’t inside the tech bubble.
What three publications – in any format – do you read regularly?
The only publication I subscribe to is the New York Times. I follow ideas and people, but not necessarily publications. The Pew Center comes out with tremendously useful reports, as does Harvard Business Review and the MIT Technology Review.