Why don’t you have a digital strategy?

Chess - the game of strategy

As a CEO I was asked by the Board to draw up a digital strategy and find a digital champion to join the Board.  Sounds like a great idea, right? Well I found out it was exactly wrong.

I talked to many technical experts as I investigated how to create a digital strategy and quickly realised two things:

  1. Most organisations don’t need a digital strategy. Instead you need to look at your business strategy and understand where the mass of digital and tech opportunities could fit in. Can you solve more customer / user problems by using technology? Are there tech solutions that will help you achieve organisational targets and fulfil your strategy? 
  2. No one person can be the digital guru for your Board. Someone with great IT network skills may have little expertise in AI applications; a virtual reality expert may not be able to answer all your questions on cloud computing. Digital skills are so wide, complex and ever changing that no-one can know it all. 

So what should you do when you get lumbered with coming up with your organisation’s digital strategy? After explaining why this isn’t a great solution, I recommend building the skills and confidence of all your leaders so they understand what technology can do for your organisation.  I guarantee you won’t be the only leader in your organisation baffled by the vast technical detail of the digital world so take the lead by being the one who names the problem and seeks to improve the situation.

Across your organisation, seek out those who are most keen to learn and grow them fastest. Who wants to put some energy into working with the leaders in the organisation to understand the problems they have and working together to see what technology could do to solve them?

Data is the key to so much new technology.  So what data do you have and what’s being done with it. What could you do with it? What data could you collect that you’re not gathering right now? Data is your key to unearthing trends, impacts and changes. But data needs to be combined with your instincts and knowledge to give you more confidence in making decisions. In our rush to reach solutions you might think that gathering and analysing data will slow down decision-making, and yes, it will take you longer to get to the decision point. But you will make the actual decisions much more quickly once you have data and it’ll be a relief to the Board to be able to make more decisions based on knowledge rather than guess-work.

Data informs but does not dictate!

The data skills gap is huge and growing so make it your mission to upskill everyone in the organisation to be confident in understanding and using data. And then work hard to protect your people so they are not poached!

Finally make it your habit to get groups of staff together to talk about the data they’re seeing in their part of the organisation. By swapping stories they’ll not only grow their confidence in working with data but also inspire each other to find solutions to problems.

Do this and you won’t have a digital strategy that’s out of date the minute it’s written, but you will have people more capable and motivated to find new ways to use technology – and that’s bound to make the Board happy.

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