Who should write the digital strategy?

The team you choose to write the digital strategy may impact your business survival.

A coordinated and comprehensive digital strategy is now a key part of every successful business, and forms a crucial part of business plans and board room strategy. With digital channels being utilised across the almost all aspects of business, nearly every team and department has an interest in ensuring the digital strategy provides the right platform for them to deliver against their specific KPIs.

The need to for digital functionality stretches across marketing, sales, customer support, corporate comms and often into the finance teams, production and product teams, all of this enabled by the IT team.

So given it’s importance to the business, and the cross functional nature of it, who should be taking control of writing the digital strategy ? The obvious contenders are the marketing department and the IT department – marketing are likely to be relying on digital to deliver against their core KPIs, and the digital / IT team will have significant involvement in the implementation and integration of any of the outcomes. And yet as a key part of the business strategy, there is also a case to be made for input from the Board and Executive team. From an operational perspective, HR, customer service and the finance team are also heavy users of digital and data, and often the CFO is a key approver of any of the outcomes and budgets required to implement strategic recommendations.

Based on our extensive work with clients, we’ve found that the key requirements for developing the strategy are less around what department that person works for, and a lot more around the process they follow and how collaborative and inclusive they are in work-style and project management. If a strong, empowered, cross-functional team is appointed as the steering group to oversee the strategy development and approve the final outcome, an effective communicator and project manager from IT, marketing or even HR can be highly successful in ensuring the right strategy is developed.

Given the cross-functional nature of a digital strategy, the skillsets required across the project are broad – at one level, the need for business understanding and business strategy, and an eye to seeing how improvements in customer engagement, business process and efficient workflow can create signficant business impact. At the other end, a strong understanding of the technologies available and how these could integrate into already existing technical investments, along with the opportunities these provide to drive business goals. And in-between these 2, and the area most often forgotten, a deep and evolving knowledge of how the key customer segments use digital channels to engagement with the category, brand and product, ensuring that the strategy is based on real insights into customer behavior, rather than wishful thinking around what we’d like them to do. This mix of technology, marketing and business thinking should ensure that you manage to create the ideal strategy that includes the optimal elements on 3 areas – delivery against business objectives that is driven by fulfilling customer needs, whilst leveraging technology and workflows in the most efficient way.

It is therefore imperative that the process followed to develop the strategy extracts the key elements out of these three areas, and provides a solution that gives these components equal weight – depending on who leads the project, there is likely to be a natural bias based on their experience, for example a technically focused strategy if it is led by IT or the Digital team.

Over a number of years, Zuni has developed and refined the process of developing a digital strategy to ensure that it both captures the key requirements as well as provides the right blueprint for immediate and efficient implementation of the thinking. This work has been boiled down into our new strategy development program called Zuni Uni, an 8 week program that mentors businesses through the development of a digital strategy, providing training and consulting support to participants who get to develop their own digital strategy. The program is designed to accommodate 3 participants per company, therefore accommodating a marketing person, a technical person and a business-focused person to form the team to drive the strategy. With the right support from senior management, this is the ideal team to deliver a digital strategy that works.

Mike Zeederberg
Mike Zeederberg
Mike Zeederberg is the Managing Director and joint owner of Zuni and oversees the development and delivery of most client strategic work.

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