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Mike Doman
Technology Journalist

Mike Doman is a technology, lifestyle, industrial and education writer

Mike Doman
Technology Journalist

Mike Doman is a technology, lifestyle, industrial and education writer

A digital strategy is becoming increasingly integral to business success. But it’s about more than just having a website.

The latest Sensis e-Business Report shows that 56 per cent of SMEs surveyed have a website, and 61 per cent has said it’s improved the effectiveness of their business. When it comes to businesses with more than 100 employees, every one has a website.

In many instances, to be competitive in the digital age necessitates an online presence. At Telstra’s Vantage conference in September, Principal Consultant, Tony Clement discussed the importance of a digital strategy that complements business strategies in order to maximise opportunities in the future.

For small businesses, argues Tony, this is changing the power paradigm for big and small business.

“The biggest opportunity [for small businesses] is to be able to become a first mover or an early mover in its marketplace, and the reason they can do that is because they don’t have huge investments in technology [infrastructure].

“Typically in the past, large organisations would invest first in technology and then lead the market. Then everyone else would follow with small [businesses] actually being the last ones to pick up the crumbs. It’s actually shifted around now because they can access the technology as a service, they can move very, very quickly.”

So how can businesses ensure their digital strategy works?

Group of businessmen viewing a connected device

Be mindful of trends

The internet is a constantly evolving, changing space. The implications of trends like consumerisation, the mobile app revolution and social and collaboration technologies have all had dramatic effects on how businesses operate in the last five years.

But he says the day-to-day operations can often put the blinders on being cognisant of trends, and many businesses “haven’t taken the time to work on the business because they’re working in the business”.

For Tony, changes in technology have facilitated getting the most input from the right people for a problem. Where the tyranny of distance or conflicting schedules prevented collaboration in the past, getting opinions from employees or partners in developing a digital strategy has never been easier, which can ensure the success and implementation of it once developed.

Understand data

When asked how many people in the room felt data was as valuable as money during the session at Vantage, many people raised their hands. Tony’s advice was simple: “Control your data the same way you control your money.”

Use it to understand your customers, their behaviours, how they consume your product and what they want – these insights should all play a significant role in your digital strategy.

And it’s important to note that the word “data” (especially when it comes to corporate buzzwords like “big data”) have been appropriated to mean digital data. This isn’t necessarily true – understanding buyer behaviours and preferences can be seen at the cash register or in conversations you have with customers.

Align it with the business strategy

“[Thinking digitally] gives an organisation the opportunity to develop a digital strategy that is aligned with their business strategy. It is focused on business outcomes not technology outcomes,” says Tony.

It’s an important distinction. Any foray into the digital environment needs to make sense in a business context, not just a technological one. After all, individual technologies come and go but the digital environment is here to stay, and businesses exist to make money.

So any digital strategy should have a strong and consistent vision, and take into consideration the market value proposition of the business under three pillars – customer intimacy, operational excellence or product excellence – and the role technology plays in each.

For businesses to be successful, says Tony, businesses need to have all three, but a business model is developed on excelling in one.

Factor in process

Any digital strategy should not just focus on external delivery or meeting customer expectations.

A digital strategy should also consider process digitisation (such as going paperless), worker enablement (through things like productivity apps) and measurement of the performance of the business. A digital strategy should complement all facets of the business without disrupting them negatively.

After all, implementing changes and technology are only as valuable as the benefits they deliver to the business. 

Constantly review

Finally, with so much of the world being measurable, it’s important to constantly review your digital strategy to ensure it is performing, making positive change and there aren’t new ways of doing things that could have even more benefits.

“The world’s changed,” says Tony.

“[Reviews should be] ongoing ... This is the way to do business now, it’ll never stop.”

Looking to understand where to start on your digital business strategy?

Visit a Telstra Business Centre to talk to an expert.

Find out more

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