It Takes More Than Blood, Sweat and Tears to Start a Digital Practice

Over the last several years I have learned a thing or two about what it takes to start and sustain a digital practice – I have joined companies to start their Digital Practice as well as started my own Digital Practice and along the way I have made assumptions (often incorrectly), not asked the ‘right’ questions and taken missteps. Hopefully this post will help you assess the opportunity as you look to start your own Digital Practice or join one. 
 

1. What is Digital Strategy?

If you are reading this post you have probably heard your fair share of definitions for Digital Strategy, here is mine – “Digital Strategy is building holistic multi-channel strategies to drive business growth and productivity by aligning business and technology initiatives, defining governance models and best practices, establishing a digital center of excellence, identifying convergence, integration and process changes – all geared towards personalizing the experience for the ‘connected’ customer and advancing self-service opportunities”. I’ll be the first to admit that the definition is a mouthful and  it will continue to evolve overtime, however in my perspective it  captures the ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘whom’ and ‘why’ of digital strategy.
 
 

 2. Is the Sales Team On-Board?

Is the sales team committed to the idea of seeking out  digital strategy projects and are they adequately incentivized to sell projects that will typically be priced lower than  the  average implementation / vendor management / business process project. If the sales team is not engaged it is almost impossible for a digital practice to thrive because “Old Ways Will Not Open New Doors”. We cannot ‘dress-up’ software development and start selling it as ‘Digital Strategy’ to the same clients – we need to be tenacious and seek out new clients and find new ways to sell. To use a line from Godin Seth’s post “Tenacity is using new data to make new decisions to find new pathways to find new ways to achieve a goal when the old ways didn’t work” http://bit.ly/17DpTuw 
 

3) Does the Account Team at the Client Site Understand Digital Strategy? 

It is very likely that while the client is looking for Digital Strategy skills, the position is NOT advertised as a ‘Digital Strategy’ position – the team at the client site will need to understand the ‘true needs’ and advise the client on hiring someone with business, technology, process and innovation background who is equipped to ask the ‘right’ questions and connect the dots to successfully align business and technology roadmaps and prioritize opportunities in the mobile, social, web and streaming media space.

4) Where Does Digital Strategy Fit in the Company Functional Organization?

Does the company consider Digital Strategy to be the same as business strategy, IT strategy, marketing strategy or perhaps even creative strategy? Is there a turf war within the organization on who owns digital? The company will need to recognize that digital (including mobile and social) are horizontal capabilities and while rest of the organization might be organized by function, digital capability need to span functional silos. At a more tactical level this will also determine staffing for digital projects.
 

5) Is There a Go-To Market Strategy?

Is there consensus within the organization on a go-to market strategy which clearly describes a plan for acquiring digital customers as well as converting existing clients into digital clients (if possible)? Is there consensus within the organization on the approach that will be followed, marketing collateral that will be used, percentage of the overall company revenue that come from digital initiatives and the plan to grow this percentage? To build the Go-To Market Strategy it takes someone who can clearly articulate the impact of ‘going digital’ and can advise on convergence of business and technology. Additional details on the impact of ‘going digital’ are available on my blog post http://bit.ly/17DpTuw.
 
6) Digital Strategy is not “One Size Fits All”
 
Digital strategy is not “One Size Fits All” – it needs to be carefully crafted for the client by understanding the business direction, technology constraints, best practices in the industry, competitive landscape and most importantly the company culture. The tools, mechanics, methodology to create a digital strategy can be reused from one client to another but it takes true partnership to craft a digital vision for a client which will result in an actionable roadmap rather than a document that never gets looked at.
 
 
Leave a comment, start a discussion, make a noise … after all we are in the hot seat and poised to shape the future of business and technology!
 
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