Digital Strategy: What is digital-first strategic planning?

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“What is digital strategy?”

“You’re a digital strategist… what is that?”

“So, like social media, right?”

There’s a lot of different ways to be confused about digital strategy, and almost as many ways to be right about it. In the same way that ‘marketing strategy’ can be big picture (like a business model), or tactical (like a campaign plan), digital strategy is a subject likely to scale and stretch. Digital strategists work with clients on future-focused strategies that are optimized for business results, bound only by clients’ potential digital ecosystem.

The strategist’s objective? Find the growth opportunity in the overlap between the needs of current or potential customers, and the clients’ ability to fulfill that need better than the competitive marketplace. Sometimes, the solution involves a business model transformation. Sometimes, the solution is simply re-doing the flow of an app’s experience. Usually, it’s somewhere in the middle.

Digital strategy is an enabler of business transformation, but by definition isn’t transformative without broader organizational connection points as implementation is limited to the digital. That being said, for truly digital companies (and those ready to become truly digital), that scope can be as broad as the entire business model. For those that have a more contained scope regarding change, it’s still essential that any digital innovation have an impact on the bottom line. That’s why we believe it’s essential for those initiatives to be led or at least endorsed by a business owner, and enabled by the teams, from IT to brand marketing to operations, who will eventually implement it.

Digital innovation or transformation often begins with a tech-centered need, many projects begin as a relatively straightforward ask. However, that ask often actually serves as a symptom of a bigger issue, and tackling the symptom may impact one team’s KPI’s without making a big impact on the business.

When exploring these requests, ask:

  • What’s the use of a design system that helps a team get an out-of-date ecommerce experience out the door more efficiently?
  • Where’s the true benefit behind a redesigned digital experience that offers a service the market will soon make obsolete?
  • How does a business grow by more effectively offering the thing your customers want, if that customer base is shrinking?

When you start to poke at these types of technology-centric requests (often described in terms of design, process efficiencies, or ‘modernization’), you start to explore the cascading effects and escalating benefits of expanding the project from delivery execution to the customer experience funnel, execution of the brand, and market value of the offering.

Tackling these bigger picture strategic issues requires asking a lot of questions, and then getting down to the work of implementing them. We work with our clients’ technologists, in addition to their business, brand and marketing teams to ensure that Rangle’s strategic discovery and design processes will be completed collaboratively so that our client’s teams can take ownership and pride in the results.

As a technology company with a mission to ‘make things that matter’, our integration of strategy and design with an iterative agile approach provides a reliable path to implementation. We bake strategy into delivery with hypothesis-driven development and outcome-based road mapping. This allows us to test our strategic hypotheses faster, and get started on delivery sooner, without the pitfalls of either a long waterfall discovery phase or rushing straight to delivery. By aligning our strategic approach with our delivery approach, we can leverage the benefits of lean, scrum, and product management in a way that increases the likelihood of alignment between what gets delivered and what the business needs. The project isn’t finished with delivery, it’s completed when the delivery makes a strategic impact.

In closing, I’d say the one thing businesses need to consider is that their internal culture will trump any strategy. It’s a cliche for a reason — because it’s true. If you want to change the way your business is serving its customers, you need to change the way it’s serving its customers.

To hear more about Digital First Strategic Planning, listen to the podcast episode on the subject linked above featuring myself and Jack Sadler, Director of Product Management.