While most organizations are implementing at least some form of digital initiatives, not all have a business strategy aligned to support those efforts. Analysts and tech leaders say that to truly drive digital disruption and become more of a digital company, organizations need to prioritize these initiatives as a primary focus in their business strategy.
While many companies are still using a three-year vision, they’re also incorporating more short-term strategies. John Weinberg, head of strategy at Sephora, said that companies in any phase “still need a north star” to shoot for. He said, in the digital space where things are changing so rapidly, strategizing no longer can be an annual get-together. Strategy has to be embedded throughout the year with executive team meetings on a periodic basis, Weinberg said. Organizations should engage in strategic dialogue at least on a quarterly basis and it should not only address digital, but have a “two-speed” strategy to address both shorter- and longer-term goals.
“I think it has to be crisp enough to resonate with the organization and give guidance, while still giving the ability to pivot over the course of time,” said Weinberg.
Jacques Pommeraud, former SVP and general manager of cloud services at Salesforce, said that organizations need a digital strategist to serve as the “mobilizer.” Strategists’ main value is to understand the vision for three years and mobilize the organization around the ideas of how to get there, he said, and management has to empower flexibility and reactivity to adapt to current events. Pommeraud also noted that management styles have changed in the past couple of decades from a top-down approach to one that is “more like a federation” where executives empower teams to make the right choices and follow in the general direction.
“It’s even more important to have a strategy that allows that federation of little teams to do what they have to do and not refer up the chain every time,” said Pommeraud.
Mark McDonald, managing director at Accenture Strategy, Digital Strategy, said that it’s essential to realize that digital strategy “is not IT strategy.” He said organizations need to extend digitization strategies by replacing the current digital playbook to cover new functions and processes.
Many organizations are incorporating partnerships to drive their organization’s growth. CEO’s Perspectives on Growth, Innovation, and Leadership in the Americas, 2016, a report by Frost & Sullivan, found that nearly 43% of CEOs believe they will rely on partnerships to drive growth over the next three years. It found that trends like connectivity and convergence are creating a new ecosystem, unlocking new growth opportunities for organizations that use innovative tools and strategies to deliver stakeholder expectations.
Organizations also need to ensure they’re driving digital strategies through buy-in from multiple departments, especially marketing. Don Schuerman, CTO at Pegasystems said executives need to start by thinking about where they want to make an initial business impact to their organization. This could be anything from customer engagement and retaining customers more effectively to driving efficiencies on the operational side of the business. The organization should use initiatives with immediate success to help build will in the organization to do more transformative things.
“That means getting everybody across the organization not only thinking in a digital mindset and understanding the technologies, but also understanding the new pace of innovation that you need to have to keep up,” said Schuerman.