5 reasons why your digital strategy fails and how to avoid them

By Jacki James as published in CMO.

Strategy documents collecting dust are all too common. Experience across a range of businesses and industries has identified five common reasons why even the most brilliant digital strategy might fail. Know them, and avoid them.

1. Your strategy was developed in isolation

Engaging key stakeholders throughout the strategy development process is crucial. It is much harder for people to pick holes in the strategy if they have provided input and been consulted along the way. It’s not just the executive team that needs be on-board: You need buy-in at the coalface too. That means including the people who will execute the strategy, like your in-store sales force and customer service teams.

2. The rest of the business is focused on other things

Every digital strategy needs to be mindful of the business context and environment. A realistic digital strategy needs to be one that:

  • Demonstrates how it will contribute to achieving overall business goals
  • Is mindful of other projects, competing priorities and the demands of business as usual
  • Is realistic in terms of the commitment the business is willing to make regarding budget and resourcing.

3. The strategy doesn’t bridge the gap between conceptual and tangible

Strategists, planners and agencies are great at distilling strategic approaches into simple conceptual plans. While this is great for communicating strategic direction, it often leaves the executional staff at a loss on how to turn the plan into something tangible to implement.

The job isn’t finished with delivery of the strategy. Digital strategies need to be accompanied by tools, guidance and examples of how to bring your digital strategy to life. For example:

  • Functional and content requirements that the strategy dictates
  • A measurement framework that includes both digital and business metrics
  • Resourcing plans which outline ownership and responsibilities for delivering the strategy.

4. No-one knows how to implement

The reality of bringing any digital strategy to life manifests into a long list of projects, tactics and action items. Every digital strategy needs to be accompanied by an implementation plan that clearly defines the staged rollout of individual streams of work.

Following a linear path towards the optimal end goal won’t give your brand a competitive advantage. Great implementation plans typically deliver a mix of activity across at least four key horizons:

  • Quick wins
  • Mastering the fundamentals core to digital success
  • Building momentum and audience engagement
  • The path towards digital innovation or ubiquity.

5. The great results it was delivering at first have started to wane

Of course your digital strategy was accompanied by KPIs so you could proudly boast it was working. But then something changed. The world of digital moves at a fast pace, new channels and trends emerge seemingly overnight. What worked today might not get you the same results next month.

Your digital strategy implementation plan should factor in a framework for ongoing monitoring and continuous optimisation from the outset. Test, measure, learn, and adjust. Repeat.

Checklist to get your digital strategy from plan to action:

Bringing a strategy to life requires more than just a brilliant document and presentation. These top tips will ensure you the greatest chance of getting the broader business to action your strategy:

  • Engage key stakeholders throughout the strategy development process, including executional and managerial staff.
  • Ensure your strategy demonstrates how it contributes to the overall goals of the business.
  • Apply a budget and resourcing ‘reality filter’ to your strategy. A million dollar solution will never cut it on a $50,000 budget.
  • Demonstrate how the strategy will become operational via examples or tools to be used to implement the strategy.
  • Include an implementation plan that defines the individual projects required bring the strategy to life.
  • Test, measure, learn, and adjust. Repeat. Ongoing optimisation and refinement of your strategy is your best chance of delivering great results.

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