Five things you should do before you start your digital strategy

Starting out on your first digital strategy can be a daunting task (I know it was for me). There are five key things that I always talk about when I’m helping people to get started. They are important because they set the scene for the transformation process you are about to embark on and because they also have the power to save you time and money down the track. They are worth spending a bit of time on:

  1. 5thingsbrainUnderstand your drivers.

If your digital strategy conversation has started because someone has seen a piece of technology that they think they need because:

    A. A competitor is already using it

    B. Someone on the Board of Directors uses something similar and likes it

    C. It seems like a good way to fix an immediate problem

    D.It’s cheap/ available/ comes with the package

    E. Any combination of the above

You need to change the conversation, quickly.

Digital strategy isn’t actually about technology. Like any good business strategy, your digital strategy is really about solving your business, or customer, problems. That is where you need to start. Try not to talk about systems and platforms and start talking instead about where you want to be. Replace conversations about apps with conversations with your customers about the experience they want you to deliver. Change discussions about sales automation software to chats about your customer’s barriers to purchase.

Like any good strategy, starting with ‘the why’ is really important.


  1. 5 things processMake your processes perform

Doing digital strategy has taught me two critical lessons about process.

  1. You can’t fix a process until you know it intimately.
  2. The best technology won’t fix a bad process.

If you’re about to start your digital strategy journey, knowing this is really important. There seems to be a common belief that the right technology will solve anything. It won’t.

Before you start your digital strategy take time to really understand your processes – what works and what doesn’t? If your business has been working a certain way for a long time and you have a hunch that it isn’t right, now is the time to fix it. In fact, use this as an opportunity to reimagine the way you want to work in an online world. Be careful not to simply replicate your offline approach in your new, digital context.


  1. 5thingspeoplePrioritise your people

People will make or break your digital strategy so start talking to them early. You need your customers to become advocates of your new digital experience and your employees to support and drive continuous improvement. User frustration will be your enemy on both sides.

Ensure that people are given a leading role in your digital journey. Engage your staff early and often, especially those at the front line, and invite your customers to identify your problems and help define your solutions. Find out how you are holding them back and uncover what excites them. Let them help you prioritise what you need to do first (because you probably won’t be able to do everything).


  1. 5 things whyMake a promise to keep it simple

A digital strategy is more than just a plan on paper. It’s also a really important communication tool. Because digital strategy can be daunting to non-technologists, you need to keep it simple. Before starting your digital strategy, be clear on who your audience is and what information they need. Is your plan a vehicle to get funding approval from a board? Is it a device to let your customers know you have heard what they have said and are changing as a result? Does your plan need to explain to your employees why your business model needs to adapt? Most digital strategies will include elements of all three. The best way to communicate this is to remove the detail: projects, delivery phases, budget breakdowns and governance structures should be limited to the audiences that need them. Keep your digital strategy focused on why you need to adapt and what you plan to do; when.


  1. 5thingstickDeliver differently

To do digital strategy well, organisations that rely on traditional, lengthy waterfall delivery models (I am looking at you large corporations and government) need to rethink their approach. This may seem daunting but there are ways to tackle things incrementally without leaping immediately into the ideal agile approach.

Have a look at what you are doing now and begin to call out the weak spots – you can start tweaking them right away. Start with your governance – will it help or hinder your approach? Are there simple ways you can streamline things? Look at your project teams – do you have the right people and the right skills ready to go? Consider your delivery approach – is this the best way to get the result you need?

Some of the simple things you can change to support digital strategy delivery include bringing new skills into your teams such as UX specialists or data analysts or make changes to enable teams to work quicker and leaner (e.g. getting them to co-locate). You can formalise customer engagement as part of your delivery schedules and ask vendors to provide a prototype as part of your design phase. Even using a waterfall model, you can stage your delivery milestones to ensure you have some time to test and iterate in between. These tweaks both get you closer to digital best practice and allow time for your staff to acclimatise to new ways of thinking and doing.

Tick off these five areas and you are ready to get started on some really rewarding work. Be prepared for your digital journey to throw up some challenges but do make sure you and your teams also take time to enjoy, and celebrate, the ride.

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