What is digital strategy? Part five

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This is the fifth chapter of our white paper on digital strategy. Get in touch to find out how to receive the full paper, or click here to see all chapters published so far.

A component-based approach

Digital strategy should operate within the broader strategic framework of the business, connecting the day-to-day operation of digital projects & initiatives with the high-level objectives of the business.

Components of digital strategy (click for full size)

At the centre are the vision and roadmap. The vision is a clear, concise representation of what the business wants to achieve through its digital activities. The roadmap is the plan connecting today’s situation to the future aspiration.

Supporting the vision and roadmap are a number of strategic components focusing on specific areas of digital activity. The evolving nature of the digital landscape means that these tend to change over time, but for now our focus is on search, experience planning, content, engagement and device.

Vision and Roadmap

When a leadership team is asked to define its digital strategy, it will often respond with a large and incoherent body of documents, ranging from market research reports to business cases, third party white papers, and copies of strategic plans from across the organisations. Any strategy lurking within this maze of information is almost impossible to discern.

The challenge facing businesses is to reconcile the complexity and volume of thinking that goes into strategic planning with the need to communicate it in a concise and inspiring way. Creating a “vision” helps to overcome this challenge.

These outputs use visual and interactive techniques to embody the company’s thinking about the future, distilling the broader themes into something far more compelling and tangible. They often involve prototypes of digital assets to show scenarios where future customers, prospects or employees interact with the business in new and beneficial ways. The use of story-telling methods turns the potentially complex strategic plan into an accessible and engaging message.

Visions should not be produced by teams of specialists isolated from the current reality of the business. Instead the production process should involve stakeholders from across the organisation, ensuring that the final output resonates outside the bubble of strategic planning.

A strategic roadmap is an act of storytelling whose theme is transformation – and whose conclusion is the strategic vision made real. As such, it’s important to consider how the story is to be told. The roadmap must be visualised and labelled in a way that’s compelling and memorable. And for each phase in the roadmap there needs to be a clear goal, expressed with answers to straightforward questions:

  • What is gained during this phase?
  • How will it enable us to move on?
  • How will our customers, staff or partners’ experience of us change as a result?

The roadmap needs to connect with a senior audience, so needs to be concise and visual. Circumstances might change – one program might be cancelled, another might be delayed, one competitor might acquire another. The roadmap must remain focused yet elastic, linear yet flexible.

Next week

We’ll continue looking at the main components of digital strategy, focusing on search and experience planning in next week’s chapter.

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