When to form a strategy
Every organisation has a digital strategy. This is true even if the organisation has no digital presence and no intention to develop one – in this case, the strategy is simply that there is no strategy.
For most organisations the digital strategy probably doesn’t exist in a communicable form, so will have little effect on how the organisation actually operates. Digital projects will go ahead with little or no co-ordination, with the only defined objectives being project-level rather than organisation-level. Success is perceived when projects are delivered on time, but the role these projects play in the broader narrative is rarely considered.
In these situations the organisation can benefit greatly by forming and communicating a digital strategy. These benefits range from the short-term and tangible to gains that are less direct and longer term – but no less valuable.
Creating a digital strategy need not be an especially difficult or time-consuming process. It can be accelerated if the organisation has an existing strategic framework in place, covering topics such as channel, platform, brand & marketing, products and proposition. The digital strategy should be produced to be operate within this framework, so that digital initiatives can contribute towards the broader objectives of the company.
Companies that do not have this framework in place face a dilemma – whether to create a digital strategy now, or postpone this until a generalised set of strategies has been defined. It is usually wiser not to wait, especially if the company has a substantial online presence and is regularly allocating funds on digital initiatives. Aligning an existing digital strategy with a refreshed organisational objectives is far less damaging than operating without clear and coherent direction.
Strategic drift at Yahoo!
Sometimes we don’t have to look at internal assets like Facebook’s insignia to see visual manifestations of a company’s strategy. Sometimes, we can learn all we need to know by looking at the design of the public homepage.
Both Yahoo! and Google drastically expanded their range of products & services between 1996 and 2005. But while search remained at the core of Google’s strategy, Yahoo’s proposition lost focus and rapidly became cluttered. The company’s strategic drift was reflected in the appearance of its homepage.
In the next chapter we begin to explore specific components of digital strategy, starting with an overview of the component-based approach.