How to find calm inside a surge of innovation
First published by Business in Vancouver, Business Excellent Series – Marketing Digital Strategies, March 2013
A recurring theme in conversations with colleagues is the sense of feeling overwhelmed by digital – by wave after wave of emerging technologies and trends, by the multitude of channels and the fragmentation of platforms, by the potential they know to be significant, but which is so fluid that it’s hard to get any kind of traction.
This sense of feeling swamped by digital has flowed into many functional areas: marketing and communications, customer service, sales, operations and IT. It’s a digital deluge and it’s not getting easier – in fact, in the short term it may be getting harder.
There is a solution. It’s one that is often intuitively understood, but escapes our reach. It’s about getting perspective, accepting what is and shifting our thinking. We need to step back, see the larger horizon, and remain open.
An organization’s digital strategy needs to be about the bigger issue of competitive advantage – how to identify it, how to articulate it, and how to execute to achieve it.
We need to ask how digital allows us to better connect our people – customers, constituents, donors, employees, partners – to improve the experience of doing business with our organization. And as we all know, improving that experience pays off – retaining a customer, employee or supplier is always more cost effective than acquiring new.
How do you address these issues? Where do you begin?
You need the perspective that can only come from stepping out of the turbulent vortex and into the calm that will result from having a plan. You need to create a framework to address the realities of both organizational expectations and operational readiness, and then establish a road map that connects the reality of where you are to the evolving expectations of your customers, constituents and members.
One of the expectations you need to address is scope – to help the organization understand that digital is not simply part of a marketing or advertising strategy. It is not the launch of a Twitter account or a mobile application. It is not simply a bulk purchase of tablets for your sales team so that you can claim to have a mobile workforce. Your digital strategy is much bigger than any one sales, marketing, communication or technology tactic.
In reality, digital is impacting across all channels, is forcing transparency, and is making it easier for new competition. While the majority of organizations keep digital in a marketing and technology silo, those with a holistic understanding and an eye for competitive advantage are weaving their digital strategy into their business strategy – challenging what was, acknowledging what is and planning for what could be.
What to do?
Here are some basic first steps towards planning your digital strategy.
- Identify the risks digital might bring, but don’t let them stop you from discovering and leveraging new opportunity;
- Although intriguing, intuition is neither replicable nor scalable; it cannot give you competitive advantage. Instead, take advantage of insights from data that digital generates – it’s what makes digital fundamentally different from our offline world; and
- Depending on your organization’s digital maturity, chances are that the thinking that got you where you are today is not the thinking that will move you into the digital age. It would be short-sighted of you not to learn from those who’ve gone before; it is worth asking for input. Don’t be surprised at how accessible insights of others can be; don’t underestimate that the very nature of digital is how it thrives on openness and transparency.
So, when you are feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and get some perspective. Start looking at the bigger picture of how digital can weave into your business strategy, and then start planning your road map that considers new opportunities, data and openness. Suddenly, the noise and distraction of what’s new today will no longer provoke stress, but instead it will take its place as opportunities to be evaluated against your larger plan.