Here’s a graphic that’s been floating around for a while. Whenever I’ve seen it referenced in blogs or op-ed pieces it’s been a guaranteed trigger for a flood of comments, most blindly positive and affirming. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s a pretty compelling statement for business in 2016. It’s just… I don’t know. A little too obvious a statement to go without question?
There’s nothing new or revolutionary about the graphic. I first saw it on Linked In at the start of the year, but the idea it expresses has been around for much longer – in fact long enough that discussion of it can be reasonably nuanced.
As a guiding principle it’s powerful, and pretty attractive, our customers do, our employees do, our partners do and we do all live in a digital world, but as we all know there is conceptual business thinking and then there’s real world business thinking. And while I think it generally makes good sense, there is a risk it could be misconstrued. Headlines and slogans are almost never where the gold is – there’s a reason the devil’s in the detail. I’ve seen many companies charge into soundbites like this without taking the time to think through the reality of their capacities and resources. The results are usually not pretty.
In case you think I’m hedging my bets, I completely stand by both this and this, as I also referenced last week. I’m not trying to suggest companies do nothing in the face of change. What I am saying – organisations need to be realistic about what they can achieve in their current state of digital readiness.
And that’s why building a digital strategy isn’t always such a bad thing. Companies already have channel strategies, pricing strategies, resource strategies, customer strategies… these are all vital parts of a functioning and successful organisation. Creating a digital strategy makes sense in that context.
A digital strategy can be especially useful for an organisation still at the start of their digital transformation. We are all expected to think with a digital mindset, and yet – let’s face it – we may not have the capacity. As much as we’d like to think not, there are still many companies in this position. For these guys, building a digital strategy gives them some breathing space, and, crucially, helps them to build out their capacity and expertise. Having a dedicated digital strategy, delivered by a dedicated digital team can help kickstart the journey to digital transformation.
Hang on. Why am I arguing for his? After all, now we (and more compellingly, our customers) live in a digital world aren’t we all supposed “to have digital in our title”? Everyone’s job is digital now, digital underpins everything in our lives… haven’t we finally accepted that people with digital in their title aren’t actually more clever than us mere mortals, don’t necessarily know more than us, and certainly aren’t going to single handedly save the world (or at least, the organisation)? And where the hell’s that Kool Aid?
Well, none of that is wrong (except for the Kool Aid… whatever you do, NEVER drink the Kool Aid). We should all have digital within our remit. And digital specialists won’t save the world. At least not if they are encouraged and structured to act in isolation.
And that’s the real point here. Companies who create standalone digital strategies and teams these days get into trouble when they do these six things:
- Create a dedicated digital strategy
- Create a dedicated digital team
- Forget to align it to the company strategy
- Forget to align it to the customer strategy
- Fail to embed a digital mindset across the business and
- And then fail to give them a clear and coherent market strategy to work within
That’s what I think the graphic is all about. “Strategy in a digital world” just means… get your market strategy clear, get your digital mindset clear and have it fit for purpose in today’s digital world. Within this context it is perfectly OK to have a digital strategy and a separate centre of excellence charged with delivering it.