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What is a digital strategy and how do you create one?

Most forward-thinking businesses have now moved beyond ecommerce and social media and are busy adopting their digital strategy. Here's how to create one.

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We live in an increasingly digital world. For businesses, initially, this meant having a website, then moving into e-commerce, and more recently, having a social media presence. However, the most forward-thinking businesses have now moved beyond these elements and are busy adopting their digital strategy.

We have all seen a significant increase in investment in digital technologies over the past few years, but increasingly, businesses are questioning how this is being applied and what the long-term strategy for continued investment is.

Most businesses have focused their investment decisions to date on applying these new technologies to streamline existing practices and processes - in that respect, their digital strategy was much like IT strategy – selecting which technologies to invest in and deciding where they would go. A digital strategy is not quite the same and requires a different approach, and can be the catalyst for future-proofing your business.

Going mobile, with increasingly sophisticated analytics and modeling tools, enhances the online experience for your customers. The big question is, ‘What’s next?’ Transforming our business with digital technologies, particularly in the area of marketing and eBusiness, makes sense in the face of changing consumer expectations. As we begin to embrace newer technologies and meet the challenges and opportunities, the question of defining and embracing your digital strategy comes to the fore.

Put simply, any strategy is based on objectives for the business; the strategy is a roadmap of how to achieve those objectives. A digital strategy is no different – it sets out how the business will use digital technology to achieve business objectives.

Defining your digital strategy – what are the key considerations?

So what is different in digital strategy, and what will make it successful? We all know that repeating the past is no guarantee of success, so understanding the goals and direction of digital strategy is important. There are two key considerations.

The first one is to extend the digital reach within the business - That is probably similar to the route that your IT strategy took as you integrated functions across the organization. Beginning with the investment in automated accounting and ERP, and continuing to embrace customer relationship management, supply chain, sales force management, and other business functions.

Applying this strategy to other areas, such as Business Intelligence, Project Control, etc, provides examples of applying new technology to existing processes and activities.
Transforming activity, and therefore the business is the second option for digital strategy. This was an initial promise of first-generation digital strategies but one that often reverted to prior IT strategies, as outlined above.

This then poses the question for your business – should digital strategy be more of the same, or can it be different? It is an important distinction and a question that requires a thoughtful response.

The second consideration is that digital strategy has to be seen as more than just a set of technologies that you acquire; it is about the abilities those technologies create and the ability to change behavior. It becomes just another technology when digital investments do not call for changing what people do in ways that enhance their ability to achieve their goals.

For example, implementing a remote delivery management solution that is directly integrated into your ERP system and is in constant communication facilitates its own change in behavior in that managing situations becomes much more of a proactive need - managing events as they happen, not retrospectively, creating a different behavior pattern. The focus moves to immediate resolution of issues and focused customer service.

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