Digital technology offers many organisations huge opportunities to reach out to a broader market or audience, increase income and raise their profile.
This applies particularly to organisations with a public-facing remit, whether private, public sector or not-for-profit.
For many organisations, this goes beyond simply building a website and providing e-commerce solutions. Many sectors have embraced the digitisation of their marketing, business-to-business integration, records management, business information, and intelligence, customer or membership engagement and management. This has the aim to offer something more to customers and audiences, and create automation in administration. For charities, digital offers scope for enhancing fundraising and for cultural institutions, new ways to present and offer learning audio visual in displays and exhibitions.
But how can you achieve a full digital strategy with limited funds without making expensive mistakes? And how can you link current digital activities into a cohesive business strategy?
“Our experience is that everyone wants to embrace digital platforms but many have taken the wrong turn, or tackled it in an incoherent way over a long period of time, sometimes leading to expensive mistakes”, says Bill Mitchell, associate director at Moore Stephens.
A digital strategy should originate from, and inform an organisation’s business strategy. It needs to be open to the opportunities and technologies available as well as support future objectives. Additionally, the strategy should be developed in iterations, with increasing levels of research and detail at each stage. “Some digital strategy work we have seen is not developed in a ‘top down’ way,” Bill says. The first step in creating a successful digital strategy is usually at high-level.
The focus being on understanding and researching current and potential customers and audiences, the organisation’s ambition and opportunities. A digital strategy should be holistic and defining for the organisation.
Management should engage in and approve each iteration of the digital strategy that is presented. Later stages should consider routes for delivering the projects, including potential suppliers. “Unfortunately, because organisations have some digital platforms in place for some time – e.g. an interactive website, a customer relationship management system, a fundraising database – real opportunities for innovation and efficiency, which exist in newer technology, can be missed as the strategy is often built around those systems”, says Bill.
Digital strategies emphasise:
- Future proofing of the technology infrastructure and assets.
- The organisation’s capability to deliver projects.
- The ability to operate the new ‘digital’ organisation post implementation.
- Change management – an important element of a digital strategy and goes beyond what is covered in many strategies we have seen.
- Taking into account existing technology, systems and records.
- Programme governance, as well as information governance and security.
Benefits need to be clearly articulated, evidenced and measureable in a digital strategy, and must include robust evidence of a positive financial return and the expansion of, and impact on, the customer or audience reach. Projects must be prioritised and form a logical sequence, e.g. there is no point in a charity developing a CRM system without considering the benefits for both fundraising, customer communication and the on line customer offer. That does not mean these need to be originated in one software system, but a strategic approach to these systems’ development is crucial.
A new digital strategy does not mean getting rid of systems you already have – it’s about ensuring that they fit with the wider goals of the organisation and adapting them over time. So when conducting a digital strategy, it is important to take stock of your organisation’s digital ‘universe’ – in other words, what and where each current digital-related system and project is, and how it fits in to the overall business activity and purpose.
Lastly, defining what ‘digital’ actually means for your organisation is essential. Without a clear definition, activities, systems, projects and offer that are digital in nature could be excluded from the strategy.