5 Questions with… Michele Frost of Blackboard

Michele is the Director of Digital, Campaign Performance Center at Blackboard, an educational software company. Prior to Blackboard, she helped Boston Children’s Hospital launch its digital transformation efforts and worked at Forrester Research on the digital and social teams.

Question 1: How do you define digital strategy?

When members of the senior management team coach us to be more customer centric, I quickly pull up our digital strategy (thank you Dropbox) to make sure my team is driving change or at a minimum, lending a hand.

My checklist is short: Are we listening to customers? Responding with relevant content? Connecting them to the right, next best step?

Why we do our jobs is clear. How we do it takes alignment with the balance of the business. And that’s what fuels a solid digital strategy.

Question 2: What are the three most significant trends that will define 2014?

We tend to adapt to digital change by first focusing on differences. Remember when email marketing was its own department? And when web development was a separate division? While it’s a fast way to jump in, it’s a hard model to rationalize long term given staffing and collaboration challenges.

So for the foreseeable future, I recommend we focus on the similarities. And then take on digital listening, customer service and sales-enablement.

Question 3: What kind of mobile devices do you have and what are your 3 favorite apps?

I’m hooked on iOS and can’t disclose, for fear of incriminating myself at home, how many devices I own. That said, I want my next Keuirg to be app-operated, I think my dog needs a Wi-Fi fitness device, and my justification for a new high-tech home thermostat is almost iron-clad.

Between Dropbox, Evernote and Shazam, I do a pretty good job remembering all the things my boss and wife expect me to know.

Question 4: What do you think of the emergence of the Chief Digital Officer role?

I’ve seen two types of digital leaders emerge. On the one hand, I’ve seen digital-types thrown into the mix to ensure the organization embraces digital and makes up for lost time. And I’ve seen digital leaders added to the roles to ensure digital leads to breakthrough change.

Either way, if you need this type of leadership change to improve outcomes, then you need a dedicated, empowered, senior manager with a healthy budget and talented team. Call it what you will – CDO or SVP Digital or CMO – but go all in.

Question 5: What advice do you have for aspiring digital professionals? 

1. By definition, you are a knowledge worker. What you know is what you have to offer. Build learning into your day to ensure you stay current. Bottomline, you should be able to explain what the next new digital thing is and what it will do for your company before you are asked. Don’t get left behind.

2. The only way to know if the juice is worth the squeeze is to lead with ‘why’ questions. There’s a time and place for ‘how’ questions but only after you really understand ‘why.’ When you lead with ‘why’ you’ll know if the how much, how long answers are worth the squeeze.


For more information about Michele Frost, follow her on Twitter (@MicheleFrost) and check her out on LinkedIn.

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