I have been asked several times for advice on the best way to integrate a digital strategy into an existing business structure. In other words, “the company I work for or own has been around before the internet existed and we don’t have a slot in our organizational chart for all things digital; website strategy, social media, website analytics, ecommerce, etc.” I will try to explain what is occurring and give some practical advice at the same time.
There are usually two things at play in an established organization that is not utilizing the full potential of the web channel.
First, they are lacking a slot on the executive org chart for an interactive strategy “steward”. Because of this, digital strategy becomes reactionary or an afterthought. Annual budgets get set and strategic plans are made with just a cursory look at digital.
Second, many established organizations have not embraced the change that digital has brought to corporate communication. The internet has made it possible to get instant customer feedback and to have a more honest dialogue via web channels. A chief thread woven into the fabric of the internet is a consumers power to express opinions. (I understand that pre-production customer feedback has been available for decades through tools such as focus groups and call out research but the internet has made customer feedback faster, more accessible and in many cases cheaper.) Executive teams who are used to deciding what is best for customers, completing product development and then pushing those new products into the marketplace have a hard time changing to a more open development process.
Here is some advice for taking baby steps forward:
If you have the authority to appoint someone within the executive team to head up digital strategy, start there. Make sure he/she has freedom to fight for digital in planning sessions.
If you have a communications department include them in the digital strategy development as soon as possible. Your website should be much more about communication than technology. If the website is still seen as a job for the IT department that needs to change. Most IT departments are overworked already and would be happy to quit taking requests for website content updates and analytics reports.
Talk to your customers about what they like and don’t like about your website. You might find out that something you are spending thousands of dollars a month on has little value to customers.
Pick a department or two that have shown interest in testing digital initiatives and turn them loose. Give them a small budget and let them prototype a new digital initiative. Once it is done ask customers what they think.
Finally, give yourself a year to see any significant change.
If you have examples of how your organization has successfully embraced a new digital or website strategy feel free to share it with us.