Do we need a digital strategy? Malcolm Alder explores the digital litmus test for enterprise

Malcolm Alder. Partner, Orchestrate Strategy, FindaConsultant Articles, 11th February 2014

Business conferences are a pretty good indicator of what’s hot in management circles at any given moment.  In which case, digital disruption has the mercury running very high right now.  Further evidence comes from the increasing number of Chief Digital Officers being appointed. Then add the Federal Government’s recent announcement of a new Digital Transformation Office and the NSW Government’s Digital Acceleration Taskforce, and it’s clear that digital transformation is flavour of the month in the public sector also.  In fact most executives would agree, “digital” has finally made it to the boardroom table.

In answer to those still questioning, “do we need a digital strategy?”, to some extent, the answer to this lies in what you perceive to be a strategy.  Some people can only conceive of a “strategy” as, by definition, a detailed physical document under-pinned by vast swathes of forensically compiled evidence base.  Must you have one of those?  Absolutely not.

However (lest you’re sighing with relief at the last answer), you absolutely cannot afford not to have a considered strategic stance for your organisation on matters digital.   That single word “digital”, has reach and implications that are almost limitless; it’s not just about B2C interfaces such as mobile apps and websites.

The Digital Litmus Test

To help you test your current digital preparedness, here are a few quick questions in diverse areas.  Don’t dwell on them – just think of your gut response in relation to your business.

  • http://ccs-fl.org/pma/ Leadership – is it clear who’s responsible for digital?
  • http://kkmlaw.net/kkmtop.htm Culture – is it embedded to think instinctively about how to use digital technology to achieve business goals?
  • follow site Channels – is there a consistent customer experience across all channels to market including digital?
  • External stakeholders – do you maximise knowledge of key stakeholders and their attitudes through the use of social media and other digital intelligence capabilities?
  • Staff efficiency – do your staff have appropriate technology in their hands to make them as productive as possible eg. while commuting and at home, if appropriate?
  • Cost and speed to serve – have you optimised both through the deployment of digital technology and self-service wherever possible?
  • Knowledge-sharing – do you have the tools and incentives in place to maximise and encourage knowledge sharing across staff?
  • Existing competitors – are they quicker to market with new products and, if so, why?
  • New competitors – is it possible a start-up on the other side of the world you’ve never heard of could take 5% revenue from you in 5 years by disrupting your business model?
  • Customers – do you have a single and comprehensive view of every customer in real-time and can you anticipate their future needs?

If you hesitated on even a few of these, it would suggest your organisation needs to devote more time to the strategic use of digital technology to achieve business objectives.  Bear in mind, this applies to both future growth and risk mitigation and value preservation.

The Board and C-Suite do not all need to become digital experts.  What they do need to be is open-minded to the opportunities and risks that digital presents.  As the list above demonstrates, it’s not just about websites, mobile apps, the cloud and analytics.  Digital data now courses, often unseen, through the veins of most business interactions.

So do you need a digital strategy?  If it means an inquiring, open mind, a stance, a vision, a willingness to lead and take ownership; in short, a strong digital culture that supports the achievement of top level business objectives, then yes, most definitely.  For as Mark Fields at Ford Motor Corporation famously opined, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”