How to Best Convey Your Digital Strategy by Using 4 Key Categories
Drive results by prioritizing initiatives with the maximum impact.
There is more than one definition of Digital Strategy but all aspire to make a difference when compared to business as usual. Handpicking the right strategic initiatives to deliver results is mission-critical. It is equally critical to break down those initiatives into bite-sized activities to reduce risk, better manage commitments, and carefully control costs, especially upfront investments.
This story is a follow up to an article entitled How to Build the Best Digital Strategy and Gain a Competitive Edge, which sets the framework and approach used to formulate the strategy.
This approach works for both large established companies and startups. The only difference is the scale, investments, and number of initiatives that can be undertaken at once.
The best way to ensure success overall is to first focus on increasing revenues and supporting the sales process. Once that is underway, it makes sense to optimize customer support and internal processes to ensure long-term success.
Strategic activities supporting the digital strategy belong to 4 categories:
1. Securing Profitable Business Growth
Customers first: ensuring Business Sustainability always comes first. Generating profitable growth, on a long-term basis, is the main goal of any business and it is the only way to remain in the race. The Digital Strategy must set long-term profits and revenue goals supported by better solutions to serve customers.
Improving the customer’s experience is typically the first initiative and is often referred to as UX/CX initiatives (User Experience / Customer Experience). A public website, a mobile app, or a digital ad is very often the main point of entry for both customers and prospects. It is therefore a constant area for enhancements, generating clear business value by increasing conversion and average order size.
Of course, each business is different and emails or Instagram posts could constitute alternative points of entry. The key is to first find out how customers are reaching the company and exploring all viable options to grow the funnel, expand the customer base, and ensure conversion.
For many companies, digital investments are often about catching up with the market but innovation and/or new markets always yield the greatest results. This is described in way more details in the Blue Ocean book, a best-selling strategy book.
Finding what clicks with customers and investing in that channel will create the most opportunities. It implies a lot of experimenting, testing, and tweaking the setup to deliver and optimize results. More detailed insights on experimenting can be found in the Lean Startup book. It was written in 2011 by Eric Ries but it is still very relevant today.
Example: in most industries, customers prefer and are used to self-service e-commerce platforms and expect end-to-end processes to complete transactions, with typically a lot of behind-the-scenes automation and integrations. Companies that are not able to deliver a comprehensive and efficient digital experience deal with subpar growth and higher costs. Even in 2020, several well-known retailers had to rush to build an e-commerce solution to offer online shopping to their customers staying home. Others have archaic systems without visibility into nor access to their entire inventory or with major limitations.
As consumers experiment with digital channels more than ever, it is a good time to roll out a sleek website, which allows shopping with a minimum of clicks and provides a superior experience to lock in those direct-to-consumer margins.
Takeaway: find the levers which increase sales and improve the experience
2. Seeking Faster Sale Cycles
Speed is the currency of growth. Selling is rarely easy in an enterprise setting and can feel burdensome if the organization did not build streamlined processes. Closing a deal can require time-consuming efforts: answering RFPs, seeking the right relationships leading to the client, collecting contact information, coordinating travel, filling up forms, updating the activities in the CRM system…
Many of those tasks do not create much value but are just required as part of the process. Going through a process mapping exercise and realigning technology, people and processes can help ease the burden by lining up clear initiatives to shorten the cycle.
In the consumer industry, transactional websites or applications create large amounts of data to update multiple database records in the background, from inventory to shipping instructions.
Many of these processes can be automated and accelerated to enhance the customer experience. Although initiatives in that space are not always visible to the customer, they can impact them greatly in terms of experience.
For most organizations, having a look at the CRM and ordering system (or deploying one) will have the most impact on business value, especially at a time where customers can leave reviews and easily share their insights with other customers on any flaws.
For more established companies, replacing legacy systems, homegrown applications and one-off solutions with more powerful enterprise-grade solutions (or outsourcing the process) can also materially enhance the overall setup.
In the fast-changing world of technology, it often makes sense to consider upgrades on at least a yearly basis and to go back to the market to re-evaluate solutions, especially when there is a potential to find better and cheaper alternatives, which will end up impacting the bottom line.
Example: when sales teams are provided with tablets and custom corporate applications or portals (ideally one-stop shopping solutions using single sign-on and automated workflows), they can complete processes much faster and close more action items for customers every day, especially while traveling.
In turn, they can spend more of their time selling while being more responsive to customer needs, leading to higher revenues and improved customer satisfaction.
When companies need sales coordinators to send manual follow up emails to close actions or when the team needs to manually clean up “forgotten” leads in the CRM, it points out to a process gap. It is not just about a streamlined process and cutting edge technology, having happy and productive employees make a world of a difference.
It is vital to always survey the market as at times new small vendors will appear and will be able to outflank their monolithic rivals with simpler, sleeker, and less expensive solutions. It can provide a welcome competitive advantage.
Takeaway: rely on technology to automate processes and take out activities which do not add value to the sales cycle
3. Servicing Customers Efficiently
Customer service and retention are critical. Many companies perceive customer service as a cost but overlook the returns, especially when customers can post reviews, call out companies online, and share their thoughts publicly.
In many cases, under-serviced customers can leave at the first opportunity. On the flip side, happy customers can be upsold and can provide valuable referrals. Satisfied customers also tend to be loyal, which contributes to higher profit margins.
Opening more digital channels to complement phone support or replacing paper trails with digital solutions can positively impact the customer experience, if rolled out properly, with the right change management initiatives.
Of course, technology alone cannot solve all customer service needs alone and service departments should be empowered with the right tools to take immediate actions to best serve customers.
Example: a company offers customers to reach their help desk via chat, social media, and other avenues while ensuring that waiting time is kept at a minimum across all channels. Representatives are evaluated based on customer satisfaction and speed to identify a viable solution. Customers can select their communications channels and are quickly provided with a proposed solution, including refunds or credits, or a next step.
As a result, clients are willing to explore more options, are happier, and are often considering new purchases, add-on sales, and upgrades when compared to the old process of directing all inquiries to the 800 number where representatives followed a more linear script, spending more time with each customer without the power to issue any monetary compensation.
One way which can help with transitioning to a better service desk (and sell the change internally) is to roll out analytics to track the average lifetime spend per customer and calculate the total cost of a customer support minute.
Once shared internally it can put situations in perspective for all. It allows customer representatives to address issues more efficiently across both digital and classic channels, using the right processes.
If an incoming service phone call costs $50 to the company on average, it makes sense to issue a full refund of $25 within the first minutes to an unhappy customer requesting it. It is less productive to argue for 30 minutes with somebody spending $10,000 a year with a limited history of complaints.
Takeaway: offer to customers the communication channels they prefer and manage them efficiently. Use data analytics to drive positive changes and sharpen initiatives.
4. Streamlining Internal Processes & Organization
Efficiency is built on streamlined processes. Many companies have gotten used to constantly investing in sleek front-ends and agency-designed web properties. At the same time, they remain cautious with internal costs, even when it comes to streamlining or automating processes.
Some of those processes impact all employees and can slow everybody down, costing more than can be measured by traditional accounting metrics.
From email approvals to paper-based documentation, many areas can be widely improved to boost productivity. It is a quest to find out the worse workflows, which are burning the most time and money. The goal is to remove them from the equation or to at least alter them.
Example: Overall email traffic and attachments are usually good starting points to seek inefficiencies and to plan initiatives with a high return on investment.
Deploying collaboration solutions to diminish reliance on email, building new workflows in the main system, and breaking work silos created at the team level can be potential avenues to explore. A 6 Sigma time value map and Lean methodologies can be very valuable in this endeavor.
Takeaway: hunt the red tape and any kinks in the internal cycles to build a more efficient organization. Configure the existing software to improve workflows and automate repetitive or time-consuming tasks.
We just went through all 4 categories to organize initiatives supporting digital strategy. Once the matrix is finalized with the key initiatives, it is time to obtain buy-in from leadership and proceed to the creation of an action plan.
Next steps: build out the road map, select a project management methodology (adapted versions of Agile and SCRUM are often the favorite solutions to manage these initiatives), optimize resources allocation and ownership across projects, come up with a solid timeline, set up the backlog, create a status update format and cadence, estimate the budget and address governance. You are now ready to kick off your Digital program!
Do you have an alternative way to organize your initiatives? Can you think of any additional steps or resources which can be useful when selecting initiatives supporting a company’s digital strategy?
Executive Summary: 4 categories allow us to organize initiatives covering the entire Digital Enterprise landscape. They can be used to prioritize the top strategic initiatives, to provide a clear picture of the Digital Strategy at the firm level, and communicate efficiently on the topic.
Max Dufour is a Partner at Harmeda. He leads strategic engagements for Financial Services, Technology, and Strategy Consulting clients. Connect at email@example.com, on LinkedIn, or visit Harmeda. Any links to external sites can be affiliate links and therefore generate compensation as part of the Amazon Associates Program and other similar programs.