Attending conferences, reading reports and articles, one can assume the whole world is evolving at a furious speed when it comes to online, digital, digitalisation, digitisation and digital transformation. If you feel you and your company is lagging or don't know what and how to prioritise, join the majority of companies - most are fumbling their way through this as well.
Most decision-makers have not even agreed what a digital strategy is, they have their own ideas of why you have a digital strategy and how to use it. Some think they have a digital strategy, while others disagree. In most companies, there are many ideas and thoughts about what constitutes a digital strategy.
Marketing usually sees a digital strategy as everything a company does when it comes to online. IT usually refers to something with the cloud when they talk about a digital strategy. Operations consider it to be data analytics. The R&D manager sees digital strategy as online products. Financial as online revenue touchpoints. Legal sees online and digital as a problem. And so it goes.
Digital transformation is very seldom a main part of the business strategies. Most decision-makers know that they still only take incremental digital steps, rather than having digital fully integrated into everything they do. They understand why they need to enrol digital, but not how and what.
Most executives know that their companies are behind the curve when it comes to digital, and some ask me if they are already too late. It does not matter that they acknowledge that digital transformation is critical or essential if this is "not a top priority." However, a majority also recognise that it's likely their organisations are in denial about the need to transform, and many say, their colleagues mistakenly believe that they are already pursuing the digital strategy.
So it's time to raise the question again: How do you know when you have a digital strategy, versus only probing here and there with some digital projects? And do your executives prioritise digital initiatives that will have an impact?
To be able to define your digital strategy, the best answer may be that it's all of the above. I believe that most executives see digital as systems and tools, providing data and automation, that the main drivers are effectiveness.
But online and digital initiatives have been on-going for more than two decades now. After more than 20 years, everyone and everything should be onlinified and digitalised by now, but it is not.
In the few last years, cloud computing has become an essential part of the digital equation, and it offers a way to automate and add processes and capabilities that may have previously been beyond many companies grasp. A benefit of the cloud is the fact that cloud providers are baking accumulated knowledge and/or best practices about digital processes into their actual offerings, which can be shared and accessed across their customer base. Closely related to the cloud are API offerings, specific functions, available online, that can be plugged into processes and applications.
Another important piece of the digital equation is the adoption of data analytics, and the possibility to build analytical thinking into all levels of business decisions. Some companies are starting to learn how to pull insights from the data. And they try to develop ways to run this data through their algorithms and rules to deliver better, and more responsive services.
Some of this takes a shifted mindset and huge re-prioritisations and requires special skills. So your executive management needs to ask themselves what and how to invest in, to achieve digital velocity. The following prioritisations and actions are some needed parts of your ambition to drive online and digital:
- To know how it is to be them
- Build and manage as a natural part of how you do business and your way of working
- Process improvements to enable more agility
- Everything you provide must be relevant, provide effortless simplicity and support customer needs and engagement
These are parts to bear in mind along the way, and important things to acknowledge that you are on the right track to becoming a digital enterprise. The journey must be filled with baby steps, and there is no unified theory of digital transformation yet.
Digital strategy examples
Feel free to download the PowerPoint presentation where you find a classification of six types of digital strategies. The three first are primarily offensive, targeting new demands, supply or business models. The last three are defensive by nature since they aim to slightly improve what the companies using them already do.