We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: We’re all in the technology business now.
Look no further than your local shopping mall. These once bustling centers of economic activity are dying off en masse – along with the brands that once called them home. As consumer purchasing habits shifted online, those who lagged behind are now realizing the consequences.
Simply put, the brands, businesses, and organizations that are winning today – and we would challenge any industry that disagrees – are doing so through a visionary digital strategy. They’re making it easy to do business – either through great customer experiences or new capabilities for the business. We used shopping centers as an example, but if you look hard enough, and you’ll find good examples in your space.
Yet, many organizations struggle to find traction as it relates to a creating a future-facing digital strategy. There’s any number of reasons why, but here are some primary culprits:
- Lack of strong leadership, vision, and buy-in
- Lack of on-staff skills and resources
- Poor use of existing tools and solutions
- Siloed approaches to marketing and IT
So how do teams assemble a thoughtful and attainable plan? How it ultimately looks is up to you, but here are some criteria for a foolproof (and future-proof) digital strategy:
Understanding audiences and needs
It all starts with understanding your audiences. What do your users need? What do they expect? This applies to your customers or other primary audiences. It also applies to your internal audiences. What do your business users need to do their jobs well? A bullet-proof strategy will build around the needs of these audiences. Conduct user research, build buyer personas, and complete testing to help unearth the needs of these users.
Casting a vision forward
Now that we know what our users need, we have a better idea of where the business needs to be going. Look at how others in your space are approaching digital through benchmarking activities. Come up with an exciting, ambitious, and attainable vision for what the future looks like. Boil it down into a mission statement to promote amongst the team and leadership to create the buy-in you’ll need for successful adoption and execution against any plans.
Setting SMART goals and identifying measurement strategies
In context of the vision you’ve set, define goals that are Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Relevant, and Timely (SMART) that will help us focus and understand the success of our efforts. These are your key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics. Setting goals isn’t the end of the road, though. You’ll need to identify where you’re at currently related to these metrics, and the tools that report on this data. This will serve as the benchmark and measurement strategy to help the business understand how effective or successful the strategy was later.
Creating an inventory of current capabilities
How well do our current efforts and tools meet the goals we’ve set? Take look at the people and skills you have, the processes that support them, the tools you own, and the channels they each serve. How do these align with the SMART goals you’ve set and the overarching vision? Any identified gaps that exist should serve as the basis for the work you’ll do moving forward.
Organizing and prioritizing initiatives into a backlog
The gaps we identified through our research, benchmarking, and inventorying activities should receive the majority of our attention. We can begin to prioritize these and organize them into a backlog. This will be the tactical work that gets accomplished in service to our goals and greater vision. Engage teams to better shape requirements and inform these efforts. Carefully consider any other organizational initiatives or commitments that may consume your team’s time.
Publicizing and visualizing the plan
The difference between good and great organizations is a matter of execution. Part of successful execution will be to share and ensure the plan is followed by all. This requires publicizing, sharing, and securing buy-in. You may have created the strategy, but your direct reports and other employees will likely be responsible for executing against it. They need to be part of the process. Use your vision to campaign internally to promote the enthusiasm you’ll need to get the work done.
We set SMART goals, and now it’s time to return to them. How have these metrics changed as the strategy was executed? Report your findings and show you’ve made good on the investment. This should create more trust with executive sponsors and create more opportunities for your team (either via access to funding, green-lighting of the next great initiative, or becoming the object of your C-Suite’s affection).
Committing to optimization
Our work is never really done. We must continue to monitor, test, and experiment to ensure we’re working toward our goals and providing the best experience possible. Follow the performance of your key metrics. Theorize ways to positively affect performance and run small pilots or experiments that can quickly scale into organization-wide wins.
While not a template for setting your digital strategy, carefully considering each of these areas will help to ensure your plans are creating value for your customers, your employees and, ultimately, the business.