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How to Develop a Digital Strategy and Roadmap — 2019 Update

Would you navigate a new city without a map? Then why navigate your business’s digital journey without a roadmap?  

A solid digital strategy roadmap outlines both what you want
to achieve and how you're going to get there. Unfortunately, many businesses, today, approach digital with a fast and furious nature—reactive to obstacles and gravitating to the newest and shiniest trends. This is not a strategy; this is simply survival mode. Other businesses know their vision—their end goal—but don't know the route. This is where a digital strategy roadmap comes into play.  

We, at CMS-Connected, often have clients asking us about digital transformation. In this article, we look at the reasons why, and the steps on how a business should invest in developing a digital strategy roadmap—a fresh take for 2019 and an update to our past post.

“Two-thirds of global CEOs will start focusing on digital strategies to improve customer experience by the end of 2019.” (Seagate) 

First, we must preface that each business has its own goals, needs, vision, and ways to implement innovations. A digital strategy roadmap is not one-size-fits-all. Still, all companies are facing the same challenge — digital transformation.

Digital transformation is everywhere. Every single business, independent on their industry, is shifting towards technology in some way and all areas, hence, every business needs a solid strategy before starting any new digital project or enhancement. However, this is a very complex process which requires serious investment and comes with some risks. 

Businesses who want to undergo a digital transformation need to have a clear vision (roadmap) with an elaborate approach (strategy).   

“34% of companies have already undergone a digital transformation” (Smart Insights) 

A digital strategy roadmap is two things: a digital strategy and a roadmap.   

Digital Strategy: a plan for maximizing the business benefits of data assets and technology-focused initiatives.   

Digital Roadmap: a high-level blueprint for action that allows you to align digital initiatives with business objectives; focused typically on the short to medium term, with more immediate efforts set out in detail, and next actions outlined more broadly.  

You can't have one without the other. A digital strategy without a digital roadmap has no destination, and a roadmap without a digital strategy has no direction.

“Only 27% of businesses have a coherent digital strategy” (Forrester) 

Your Digital Strategy   

A digital strategy is the foundation of a business's digital transformation. The strategy is a way to plan how the company will engage with its digital audience and the tools and platforms required to support this activity. It creates a consistent vision and direction, ensuring your team is on the same page and working towards achieving the same goals and objectives. Here's how your business can go about creating a digital strategy and benefit from having a clear and cohesive plan in place.  

1)    Create your vision and goals  

Determine your vision, scope, and objectives for implementing your digital strategy and transformation efforts. Shift your focus from trying to solve your problems with innovations to hone in on your end goal. Ask yourself what you want to achieve, direct your attention to long term goals that zero in on delivering the experience you want for both your customers and your employees. The definition of your goals will help your business foresee the results of your efforts and influence the steps in your digital strategy.  

 Things to Consider at this stage:  

  • Your business’s long-term goals, short-term objectives, and resources available.  

  • Focus on your business’s competitive advantages and ways to enhance them.  

  • Any new digital KPIs that would help your business assess and measure results.  

2)    Analyze the Market  

An essential step before making any digital transformation effort is analyzing—and knowing—your market. Complete a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of your key target audience demographics and dynamics. In this age of rapid change, technologies and industries can quickly fall prey to disruptions in business. Therefore, this is an essential step in creating a relevant and up-to-date strategy.   

Things to Consider at this stage:  

  • Consider digital technologies, platforms, vendors, and solutions.  

  • Analyze both existing competition and emerging business models and disruptive technologies.  

  • Go beyond your industry and explore success stories in other verticals.  

3)    Assess your Current State  

It is time to cast a critical eye over your current state. Inventory all of your existing digital infrastructure tools and analyze how well all of your software, apps, and the other tools you use meet your current and future needs. This assessment will help to identify areas you may need to update or optimize, and how you prioritize the efforts and investment into your business's digital transformation.   

Things to consider at this step:

  • Evaluate how well your digital tools address your current and future needs.  

  • Consider integrations with leading platforms in your industry.  

  • Analyze your data potential and consider tools to leverage this asset.  

4)    Design your experience  

You have your vision. You have analyzed the market. Now, it’s time to focus on designing the experience. Pay attention to what you want to deliver to your customers and for your employees, rather than any potential limitations of existing technologies and new digital solutions. This can include revising existing experiences, analyzing digital channels that could connect—or do connect—your company with your audience, and if possible, collect customer feedback. The end goal is to build the right intuitive experience that allows your users to reach their end goals at any time.   

Things to consider at this step:

  •  Research existing customers and new audience groups.  

  • Study customer experiences and collect meaningful feedback.  

  • Choose the right digital channels to connect with your audience.  

5)    Prepare your infrastructure  

Your infrastructure is a crucial step to support your digital transformation fully. Develop a strong leadership team of digital talent in your business which can include a chief digital officer (CDO), chief information officer (CIO), or other executive qualified to implement your digital strategy successfully. Additionally, invest in training, educational upgrades, and updating the skills and knowledge of your employee team in preparation for digital transformation. Finally, make digital transformation a part of the business’s culture and operations—its DNA.  

Things to consider at this step:

  • Establish qualified leadership in charge of digital business transformation.  

  • Help teams acquire the necessary skills and qualifications.  

  • Build relevant digital culture within the company.  

“85% of enterprise decision-makers say they have a time-frame of two years to make significant inroads into digital transformation, or they will fall behind their competitors and suffer financially.” (IDC) 

Your Digital Roadmap  

Now that we have the end goal (strategy), it is time to map out how to get there (roadmap). First, we want to reiterate the importance and value a roadmap has on your digital transformation. It can help:  

  • Gain stakeholder alignment  

  • Prioritize key initiatives  

  • Reduce changes in direction  

  •  Avoid unnecessary, cost blowouts.  

  • Stick to timelines   

  • Track and measure performance  

Furthermore, essential components of a digital roadmap still ring true from our past post:   

  • Since the digital digital strategy defines the digital roadmap, the shared ownership with the strategy is the key.   

  • The digital roadmap should also include achievable, realistic, and significant milestones, as well as associated streams and projects.   

  • It should be nimble, so when strategies and plans change, your roadmap can evolve accordingly.   

  • It should demonstrate the rationale of the company's current and proposed digital strategy.  

To achieve the right roadmap:  

Avoid rigid plans. Your digital roadmap is a living document that can grow with your business, providing a fixed reference point to keep the digital strategy on track and aligned with the business’s goals as they evolve over time. Review the roadmap frequently and keep it updated in line with real-time analysis, changing business requirements, and influence from external factors such as what competitors are focusing on, market forces, and disruption attempts. Collaborate with all relevant stakeholders. Roadmaps should be created and maintained as part of collaborative workshops that involve all relevant stakeholders but managed by one owner. This is important to develop an integrated digital strategy focused on achieving agreeable and shared business goals. 

Some quick tips in creating a successful roadmap include:  

  • Allow enough time.  

  • Make your initiatives actionable.  

  • Prioritize all the initiatives. 

  • Represent your roadmap visually.  

  • Be prepared to review and evolve the plan.  

  

Lynette Sawyer

Lynette Sawyer

Lynette Sawyer is a Web Project Manager for Falcon-Software, a digital web agency founded in 1994. For the last 13-years Lynette has been in various digital capacities and her expertise goes beyond Project Management. Lynette brings experience and knowledge in graphic design, marketing communications, project management, product management and engagement.