Digital StrategyOnly a few years ago, offering compelling products and services was in itself enough to attract customers and keep them coming back for more. In today's business environment, consumers expect much more. Given the explosion in competition that the Internet has brought about, consumers today are basing decisions not only on the availability of specific products and services, but also on the experience they have in interacting with the companies offering them.

That brings into focus the need for businesses to have a digital strategy, one that addresses the many ways in which customers can interact with the company: physical visits to a store, office or branch as well as interactions via websites, mobile and/or tablet apps, social networks and e-mail.

While businesses in many industries such as banking, financial services and retail have carefully articulated digital strategies, we're finding that that's not the case in all industries. In fact, a Smart Insights survey found that 50% of the respondents were executing on digital initiatives yet did not have a defined strategy. This survey targeted marketing-oriented professionals but the trend is similar for broader based digital transformation strategies as well.

Wherever you are, whatever business you're in, without an effective digital strategy, you run the risk of operating in reactive mode, implementing new capabilities or offering new services simply because competitors are doing so. An effective strategy will go beyond what the competition is doing and take into account the bigger picture, including what consumers want, what companies in related industries are doing and where the market seems to be heading. Your strategy also should complement your company's existing business strategy, with a focus on the interactions that people have with the company.

The strategy will include at least four key components: an overarching vision; three to five guiding principles or themes tied to the vision; a prioritized list of digital initiatives, with a roadmap; and guidance regarding the changes that will need to take place within the organization in order to support or facilitate the strategy.

The vision: When you paint the picture of your digital vision, try to do so in fewer than 10 words, as if you were creating a mission statement. Focus one to five years out, articulating where you want your company to be in relation to its use of digital technologies.

Guiding principles: What are three to five themes or principles you want to emphasize in relation to the vision? Many companies use digital technologies to advance such principles as improved customer experience, increased awareness in the local community or increased brand affinity/loyalty.

Initiatives and roadmap: Every digital initiative your organization undertakes should be tied directly to one or more of the guiding principles or themes you've enumerated. In addition to listing and prioritizing specific initiatives, from launching new mobile apps to revamping websites and customer support channels, you'll want to develop a roadmap that will show clearly how you'll get from the planning stages through the completion of each project.

Change: Planning digital projects that will require IT infrastructure, staffing or funding that doesn't exist or may not exist in the future is likely to prove fruitless. As you develop your strategy, note the changes that will need to take place within the organization in order to carry out the strategy. That can help limit surprises while increasing executive understanding and buy-in.

At CapTech, we've helped businesses in a wide range of industries develop digital strategies. We don't take a prepackaged approach or offer ready-made strategies. We work carefully with each client to develop a custom strategy. In addition, we draw on our technical depth to focus on the feasibility of the strategy, given the client's technical infrastructure and resources, to determine what is real and what can be realized.