Digital strategy

A digital strategy articulates an organization’s approach to leveraging the capabilities of the Internet and the World Wide Web. A digital strategy has two facets: guiding principles and performance objectives. Guiding principles offer a qualitative set of aspirational goals to be addressed when developing digital channels. Performance objectives iron in specific metrics to be measured and defined. They express, quantitatively, what digital success is for the organization. Both guiding principles and performance objectives provide the frame for the definition of digital policy and standards and inform the direction and shape of the digital team. 

From a management perspective, most organizations have grown their websites and other digital channels in a bottom-up manner.  Somewhere in your organization during the mid 90s, someone purchased a domain name and put up the first Web pages. Most likely, no one from the executive ranks was involved.  Now, 20 years later, except for dotcom giants like Amazons and EBays of the world or their mobile app cousins (organizations that are all about digital), most businesses continue to manage their digital channels tactically, from the bottom up.  But, as we moved into the second decade of digital, many organizations are beginning to wake up to the reality that the management of their digital channels needs to be more strategic. Unfortunately, this awareness is usually at the mid-level management tier, not at the senior-most levels of the organization.

While the disengagement of CEOs and their C-Suite colleagues from tactical digital matters (like technology implementation and website design) is appropriate, it is a risk for these leaders to be strategically disengaged. Those who hold the long-term strategic vision for the organization hold information that ought to inform digital strategy. So, as the use of digital channels continues to becomes more and more core to organizational processes and operations, it is crucial for senior leaders to help set the strategic agenda for digital. Without this leadership input, mid-level digital managers and subject matter experts can find themselves in the position of making uninformed decisions about the direction of the organization’s primary communications, sales, marketing and transactional vehicle. The development of a digital strategy needs to be collaboration between those with a strategic view of the business (executives) and those with a digital domain expertise.

What digital strategy means for the organization

Having clarity by way of digital strategy from the senior business and digital leadership provides needed guidance for those who develop and manage the organizational online presence. This means that digital stakeholders don’t have to guess or argue about which are the right initiatives to develop and deploy--there would be organizational goals against which to measure the value of new technologies or other online enhancements.  In the last 5 years, anecdotally, we have seen a no-win trend developing in organizations without a digital strategy. Digital teams are driven by an ongoing power struggle between a slow-but-steady, traditional IT-focused team and a more real-time, reactionary, “do it now” Communications focused team. The result is an un-even, low-quality online presence driven by an organizational debate instead of customer and organizational needs. 

When there is a digital strategy in place, this “push-me-pull-you” dynamic is diminished through the establishment of a relevant agenda to guide digital development and the empowerment of the teams appointed to execute that agenda. The adoption of this approach to digital strategy points to the development of a relevant, more effective and higher-quality online presence for the business.