5 critical questions to answer before developing your digital strategy

Many business executives say they have a digital strategy. But what do they mean by that?

The digital strategy is one of the buzzwords in today’s technical conversations. However, still there’s not a real consensus on the meaning of the term.

The terms digital strategy and IT strategy are used interchangeably by most of the technicians.

Mark McDonald defines the digital edge as combining digital information and physical resources in new ways to create value and revenue.

However, as Mark McDonald emphasizes in his classic article in Harvard Business Review, digital strategy does not equal IT strategy. Most of the IT technologies, McDonald notes, treat IT in isolation and without aiming to create a digital edge.

The definition of the digital strategy proposed by the digital strategy conference is one of the rare definitions that takes strategic concepts into consideration:

Digital strategy is the process of identifying, articulating and executing on digital opportunities that will increase your organization’s competitive advantage.

Hence, there are a couple of questions that we should answer before developing a comprehensive plan for digital strategy. Here I’ve listed some of them:

  • What do we mean by the term digital?

    As Pete Swabey notes in his article titled what is digital strategy, we have to specify the meaning of the term digital. There’s a wide variety of tools, technics, and solutions that could be labled as digital. Even an E-cigarette is a kind of digital tool! So digital technology may mean a digital platform for internal communication in a company while it may mean social network presence or data mining solutions in the other one.

  • What are the “real” opportunities?

    Not every digital potential is a digital opportunity. Every day we face with new digital tools and solutions: New digital channels, new software, new gadgets, and new digital hypes. But which one can be an opportunity? Shall I use every available social media channel to reach potential audience? Shall I push my colleagues toward a paperless office? It is really advantageous to automate and digitize every organizational process?

  • ِDigital Presence vs Digital Process

    Many businesses are physical businesses who look for some kind of digital presence. They want to reach the potential customers (or audience as we call it in content marketing) and pull / push them through the sales channels. But other businesses are using digital technology to build / develop their business processes. They may be hybrid business or a pure digital player.

  • We have to know our time horizon

    This is the question that shapes the whole strategy. Do we look for short-term results from our digital initiatives? Or we are ready to invest in our digital strategy for a couple of years without any tangible result? The former may lead to an aggressive content marketing campaign while the later may lead to a digital-first public relations department.

  • Digital technology as a core competency or as an strategic enabler?

    This is the classical question of digital-based vs. digital-first strategy. In the digital-based strategies, we try to use digital technology as a strategic enabler helping us in deployment and implementation of the strategy. So referring to Mark McDonald statement, as far as integration is concerned, it’s an integrated approach. However, there’s another approach to the digital technology: Developing a strategy based on digital competencies. This approach is called as digital-first approach by some authors.

In developing any digital action plan, you have to think about the above-mentioned questions. Otherwise, new tools and initiatives will just lead to more resource consumption and strategic conflicts.

This is the reason that I put the Digital Strategy in the first steps of the content marketing roadmap.

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