I’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help demystify what I define as digital strategy. This won’t answer all of your questions, but it should give you a sense of who I am and how I approach things. My clients often come to me with a piece of a strategy. They want reassurance that their choices are sound and want a roadmap that people can follow. We usually begin with deep process work, pivot to experience maps and build a cohesive plan from the gaps identified. ROI analysis is performed and the roadmap is built by ensuring each investment acts as a springboard for the next.
Digital is based on the practice of looking through the eyes of our customers, our supply chain partners and our employees – simultaneously. It’s also based on designing for data-driven decision making and steeped in constantly evolving KPIs. Skipping this discovery and analysis step is a huge mistake for several reasons. Other firms will skip this step and dive into design concepts without first understanding the foundation on which they’re building. This can feel like bait and switch. Diving into product design robs you of the opportunity to understand where you are. Without that understanding, you may struggle to sell the plan with conviction and your execution phases may suffer. The questions below have come from non-technical business leaders who have committed to learning to achieve better outcomes.
First things first, let’s cease use of the term digital transformation. I prefer a much more appropriate term: digital evolution. The word transformation implies a beginning and an end. In today’s break-neck pace of technological growth, you need to be able to evolve your plan even as you are executing against it. Failure to embrace this discipline is one of the many reasons for the perception of failure in digital transformation. To guarantee ROI, you must break things down into meaningful, digestible phases that can be delivered more frequently than once a year. You must also take the time to carefully define the KPIs you will use to measure progress over time. Failure to do this important step is the equivalent to taking a cross-country journey with no GPS or a compass. You can’t predict what will impact your journey, but you can be damn certain that something will disrupt the team. Without a compass to keep you on track, it’s easy to lose control of the entire program.
Second, to ensure your program delivers ROI, you must be willing to let go of your preconceived notion of how things are going to happen. Traditional delivery managers, project managers and the like, love to stake down a plan and then stick to the requirements as if their life depended on it. Modern delivery teams MUST remain flexible in HOW things are achieved and even WHAT things look like in the end. What matters most is the outcome(s). Did the new product bring in new customers? Was the company able to shed overhead while growing? Did a new product enhancement address your customer’s concerns in a measurable way that benefited the business?
This may sound obvious, but think carefully about how you are defining the term investment when calculating a Return on Investment (ROI). If you are truly planning an enterprise-wide digital transformation, then it’s going to look more like a portfolio of investments than a single investment. This is often the biggest mistake people make. Like an investment portfolio, an operational portfolio of projects and their respective investments need to be managed. Ideally, this is a centralized function. The key to guaranteeing ROI in digital transformation is through a matrix delivery structure combined with centralized governance. Through this framework, each sub-set of your program (or portfolio) will have a projected and actual ROI. By managing the components of your program and not just the whole, you are able to deprioritize, abandon or modify in order to keep the financial health of the overall effort healthy.
Change management is still important. Sticking to a budget and managing scope creep is still expected, but tradeoffs are allowed. Regular prioritization and re-prioritization is encouraged. The best delivery managers in digital transformation initiatives will continuously challenge their team’s beliefs as well as their own in an effort to find the best way forward.
Finally, make sure you are measuring as you go. Every incremental step of the way should be measurable. If what your team is doing doesn’t provide measurable benefit to the business then it should directly enable something that does.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is extremely important to the effectiveness of your website’s performance. SEO is art and science of ensuring prospective customers find your site in their searches. It’s important for everyone to understand the difference between organic and paid SEO. With paid, you pay a fee for search engines to push your landing page to the top of the search results. This can be expensive and before investing in paid search, it is best to ensure your SEO foundation is solid.
The best way to measure the state of your SEO foundation is by measuring your organic search results (Organic). This can be done by using various free or paid tools but navigating this can be daunting for those unfamiliar with it. Still, dabbling with SEO is better than doing nothing. Building this foundation is a process that takes time and if you can’t afford to pay for this service, by all means try it on your own. Bad content is far superior to no content. Writing and refining is the key to improvement and with many search engines taking weeks to index a new page (at the earliest) it can sometimes take up to a year to develop everything in your content plan.
I suggest beginning with a well thought out sitemap that ties to the customer personas you are targeting. There is a way to simultaneously chip away at your website strategy and make incremental progress but it requires discipline and good time management. Regardless of where you begin and what you can afford to pay an agency to do, this is an absolutely critical part of your business development strategy.
If you’re new to SEO, I recommend checking the article on SEO, “10 Things to Know Before You SEO!”. If you want to move forward with improving the SEO for your business, I suggest scheduling a call with me today.
Digital strategy offers a comprehensive look at business operations. Traditional strategies typically focus on more compartmentalized approaches with larger investments made sequentially. Think of new product launches, entering new markets, buying competitors, mergers and acquisitions, reductions in headcount, hiring more sales people, media and advertising or streamlining systems. Traditional strategy takes a goal statement and hands it off to department heads to translate and implement it. Digital strategy cuts through silos and re-envisions how an entire organization operates regardless of legacy processes, people or systems. A digital strategy treats a 50-year-old company like a start-up. It will ask the question, “If we started this business today, how would we do it?”
Digital strategies depend on innovation, democratized thought, and collaboration. A company who adopts a digital strategy encourages teams to challenge the status quo. It provides a framework that balances measured progress with constant refinement. This type of plan is well defined with a clear vision of the future state. It has built-in flexibility that allows management teams to adapt to rapidly changing markets.
Traditional strategies have become too static. One-year plans are obsolete. Progress and value must now be delivered at smaller, more frequent intervals. While the larger goal may not change, the way you achieve it or the end result may look different. Digital strategy provides a framework for continuous measurement and adjustment. Annual results are old news. Quarterly results mean nothing. Digital worlds measure performance day-by-day, hour-by-hour, and adjustments are made in real-time.
Running a business this way requires a different mindset. It requires different skills, more powerful systems, and products that users interact with to capture critical insights that help us learn and refine. Shiny new user apps must interface seamlessly with legacy systems to provide a seamless data flow.
Social media marketing CAN be a very effective way to reach prospective customers. Whether or not it makes sense for your business depends on your goals. It also depends on other priorities you may have for your business and the resources at your disposal. In today’s day and age, every business has what I call a “digital footprint”. This is the sum total of your entire online presence. It includes your website, social media accounts, local business listings and proprietary technology (think apps in app stores). Every business will be different depending on who their customers are and where they spend their time. Social media marketing may be a great strategy for you; however, you have have five other things you would benefit from working on first.
When clients ask these type of questions, we typically begin discussions around customer segmentation and personas. We talk about Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) and evaluate how effective they have been so far in acquiring new customers. We also look at client retention and repeat usage patterns. This helps us to pick the right platforms and set the right goals.
Most customers make the mistake of trying to do this on their own. Without a solid strategy, a lot of time and money can be wasted quickly. When it comes to digital marketing, constant monitoring of campaign performance is also required for good results. Most business owners (especially small business owners) do not have the time to sit and monitor campaigns. This is why I recommend they work with an experienced digital marketing or SEO partner as soon as they are able to afford it.
More established businesses who are looking to reach more customers may stand to benefit more from social media. Keep in mind that social media includes ALL social networks. It isn’t only Facebook and Twitter. Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn and TikTok are all in the same category. Younger users use social in ways older demographics don’t understand. LinkedIn remains a highly trafficked platform for business-to-business sales. There are too many variables to list here but working with an expert will protect your investment.
An effective digital strategy combines process, data-driven insights, and technology to analyze your business holistically. It also pays close attention to the experience of those who use your technology. They include employees, customers, and partners in the supply chain. The goal is to enable your business to offer its goods or services through electronic sales channels and do so in the most scalable way possible.
An effective digital strategy will include changes to procedures and systems across your organization. There are usually different stages of implementation that affect Operations, Sales, Marketing, and IT. Digital strategies deliver measurable incremental value over time when implemented correctly. In order to make the right investment for the business, ROI is calculated for each phase of the program.
Clients are often surprised by how much time is spent mapping out their current processes before creating their strategy. This allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the business, its customers, and its market segments. By mapping the process, you are able to guide decision-making and select the best solutions.
Marketing strategy also plays a big role in digital strategy. Customer segmentation and personas influence everything. Workflow management, CRM and ERP implementations, product design and digital marketing campaigns are more effective with this foundation in place.
We also spend a lot of time defining KPIs, studying current data sets and refining operational data to support real-time decision making. Data provides the building blocks for process automation and product development. It is impossible to engineer rich, helpful experiences without the right data. This often results in early strategy work focused on generating fast, reliable and secure data to build with.
As your digital evolution progresses, your roadmap will change accordingly. No two customers are alike. Every business is at different points in digital maturity. The degree of change your organization can absorb will depend on your available resources. Whether it’s budget constraints or people’s time, we factor these variables into the change management plan together.
Before investing in new products or legacy technology, it’s important to understand what makes a product digital. Digital products become more powerful as they are adopted by more users. More use also makes them more valuable. The design of a digital product is similar to that of a video game. Various storylines are part of a video game’s story. Throughout the game, there are different characters with different traits displaying different behaviors. A digital product may not be as complex as a video game, but it contemplates pre-defined user flows, also called user journeys. It is these types of products that have preconceived all the things that a user can do and captures metrics around each decision point along the way.
The evolution of digital products adds more decision points and customer journeys. E-commerce businesses typically end their pre-defined journeys with a purchase, registration, free trial, newsletter subscription or request for meeting. Different industries may have different end points, but the concept of a journey is the same.
Digital products also capture failures during the user’s journey. It is possible to automatically re-engage users when there is a break in the flow (also known as abandoned process). These products’ structure and architecture support a variety of automation methods for reengaging users. It reveals design problems or errors not handled correctly in an application.
It is possible to tell a lot about the types of users who engage with digital products. Product managers benefit from real-time, data-driven insights and can more easily develop product roadmaps. As team members no longer have to quantify or qualify the value or benefit of defects or functional improvements, prioritization becomes second nature.
Investing in digital products also makes it easier to integrate them with other products and their respective data sources. Once data is easily extracted and analyzed, it becomes a valuable asset for business teams.
Looking at a business holistically and mapping out the various user flows, data streams and potential integrations is an excellent place to begin. Before investing in a single product, you should have a big-picture roadmap that shows where and how it fits into a larger technology strategy. This process will help flush out dependencies you may not have considered. It also eliminates the risk of your product being redundant to another within your organization.
If you don’t have a digital strategy or roadmap, I can help.
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