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How to ensure your digital strategy doesn’t fail

With so many business leaders I meet spending millions on expensive consultants to create their ‘Digital Strategies’, who tell them what they already know, create reports that sit on dusty shelves in CEO’s offices for years, I thought it would help you if I share some of my experiences about things to consider when building digital strategies. In particular, what you need to do to make sure you don’t fail.

Crystal clear definition of what digital is

It still amazes me that, when I speak to business leaders, they view digital as an upgrade of their existing systems. It is not. Some focus on digital marketing and sales, but very few have a holistic view of what digital really means. Digital is the ability to connect people and devices instantly, anywhere, anytime. The ability to gather and mine data on behaviour, analytics and propensity greatly improve critical decision making, giving a ‘true’ picture of what is happening, not an assumed one - giving birth to totally new business models. Think about the insurance industry, where companies gather information on their customer's behaviours and use this to deliver more accurate, personal products that focus on reward and risk. Lacking a clear definition of digital means your company will struggle to connect its digital strategy to its business.

Understand the economics of digital

In the digital world, customers are the biggest winners. Old fashioned businesses who relied on middle-men and bamboozled customers with false barriers to the source are finding that the economics of the new world just don’t add up anymore. Scale and aggregation are dominant, yet scale can be achieved instantly - look no further than this simple blog to realise that one man, some ideas and a keyboard can attract the attention of enough people to fill a good sized soccer stadium every week. Executives need to learn quickly how to compete, to create value for their customers and keep some for themselves in a world of shrinking profits and endless choice.

Transform your core

Most businessmen I meet tell me that if in the future, their business model is going to be disrupted, they need to be disruptive. This is not always the case. The solution for most businesses (who cannot just walk away from their existing business), is to digitise their current business and innovate, creating new business models, a better ‘true’ understanding and greater agility.

Focus on everyone

There is a tendency to focus on the usual suspects in the digital world - their moves get the most attention, they are disruptive and this disruption creates some anxiety. However, to focus purely on these is a mistake. New entrants are digitising too and shaking up traditional market dynamics. Keep your focus broad, watch the road ahead, the road behind, to the left, right, above and below.

Build an eco-system

In the old world, competition meant tracking your rivals to understand their next moves, however, in the new world, this strategy is becoming increasingly perilous. The borders that exist in the old world, no longer exist in the new. Businesses need to look beyond their competitors to the big global players. For example, in the financial services sector, Apple Pay and other platforms are entering the competitive world of financial institutions. Companies like Alibaba are connecting consumers, businesses and suppliers in one hyper-digi-market providing the world’s largest inventory of choice to customers of all denominations, where traditional industry barriers are collapsing, being replaced by massive ecosystems where leaders are able to offer value, access and scale to all.

Finally, it is worth reflecting for a moment on the core principles of any strategy, they do not change whether it be a business strategy, a digital strategy or a brand strategy. Ask yourself:

  • Who - who are you serving, who will help shape the business in the future (embrace collaboration and ideas from a broad spectrum of disciplines)

  • When - Timing is crucial, as is speed and agility

  • What - What problems are you trying to solve now and what problems do you foresee in the future. Stretch your imagination and when you think you have the answers, start again and repeat, repeat, repeat

  • How - Remember that for many businesses, customer experience is what will differentiate winners from losers - never turn your back on giving customers the personal attention they deserve.

About the Author

Nicholas Griffin is Global Strategy Director at I-AM (, one of the world's leading customer experience design agencies. Information on how to contact Nick is in the footer of this web site.

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