At the Speed of Digital.

“This is urgent. I need you to move really fast.”

These and other notional speed related immediacies are uttered in meeting rooms around the world every day. If the speed freaks who uttered them were any more full of shit, they’d probably burst.

On the day that I wrote this blog, over 400 million tweets were sent. As a rough benchmarking guide, over 4 billion hours of video are watched every month on YouTube. 72 hours of video are uploaded every minute. Over 3 billion likes and comments are made on Facebook every day. It’s fair to say that the scale, and more importantly, the speed of digital is pretty fast. This singular truth has not been lost on clients.

It’s not that there isn’t urgency to these digital or social projects – of course they’re urgent. The client should have actually started delivering them years ago, so it’s no wonder they’re a little antsy about starting long after their more agile competitors have kicked their ass. And it’s not that the agency can’t deliver – our own record for briefing, scoping, costing, agreeing and initiating an entire customer revolution is a 24 hour turnaround. We have the awards to prove it.

So we can accept that the requirement is urgent and the agency is positioned to deliver. And yet however much urgency is applied to the rhetoric, there is still a general business failure to understand the reality of ‘urgent’ in a digital context.

“This is really, really, really urgent. I mean, really urgent. It’s more urgent than the most urgent of urgent things. Seriously. It’s urgent.”

“Ok. That’s good. We do urgent pretty well here. I’m free to meet today, would you like to come over here, or should I come to you?”

“Ehh, no. It’ll have to be the week after next. A couple of the stakeholders are busy on other projects.”

“Urgent ones, presumably?”

“Oh yes, very.”

“Right, well, perhaps you could send me the brief in the meantime?”

“Actually, there isn’t a brief yet, this has to move quicker than that.”

“Quicker than the brief? Wow, that is urgent. Fine, well just tell me the available budget and we’ll, you know, ‘guess’ the brief within our proposal.”

“Ah, well normally I would, but I don’t have a budget. Sir hasn’t signed off the Business Case yet.”

“No Business Case? That’s OK; I don’t even know what ‘Business Case’ means. I don’t suppose there’s any chance of a Purchase Order?”

“Oh you crazy agency guys! Don’t be ridiculous! We won’t even get near the Purchase Order until the non-existent brief is turned into an equally hypothetical proposal which needs to be converted into a commercial contract by the legal department before being handed to procurement for price testing and market sourcing. Then, we get the Purchase Order. If you’re still in the running. Obvs.”

“Of course. Silly me. So, sensibly then, it sounds like it’s going to be a bit of time before this actually gets off the ground?”

“Gawd no, it’s urgent – shouldn’t take any longer than 6 months or so.”

“Six months? Wow. That IS urgent.”

“Yeah, I know, right? Everyone’s all over this. There’s quite a buzz around the office.”

“The air conditioning unit?”

The relative understanding of the word ‘urgent’ requires clarity in a B2B context. When you tell me something is ‘urgent’ in a digital and social economy, it means I need to clamber over my dying grandmother to unleash digital fire and brimstone almost instantly. Urgent means I’m going to connect with global communities within hours if not minutes of your call. Urgent means I will mobilize time-zone teams of international geeks in order to guarantee instant 24/7 coverage of whatever necessitated you to pick up the Bat Phone in the first place. Urgent means I need to outrun the chasing dragon.

Urgent does not mean, ‘6 months or so’. In six months or so, everything you are currently thinking about your digital and social requirement will have changed. Again. And you’ll probably be dead. For Crimes of Digital Stupidity, the penalty is death. ‘I am… the law.’

Scot McKee