Digital Strategy

Book Review: Digital Adaptation by Paul Boag

I read this book over the weekend, and it’s reassuring that I’m not the first (or the last) person to suffer the pain of attempting to explain the importance of Digital to senior management.  It is almost alarmingly coincindental that the first paragraph in the book (describing his turmoil in his first job) is exactly how I am feeling after weeks spent trying to push through my own plans:

As I sat listening to a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle managers bicker about what should appear on the homepage of the website I was building, I could almost feel my soul being sucked from me.

soul sucking
Yes, exactly

It was also interesting to read about his methodology for creating a strategy for digital. In the past (and even very recently), I’ve approached it from a marketing perspective.

Objectives and Strategy
Typical Marketing Objectives and Strategy

Boag’s approach (which he adopted from Richard Rumlet’s Good Strategy/Bad Strategy ) is very different:

Strategy Framework
Rumelt’s Strategy Framework

My approach has been to find a solution for each cascading objective and strategy one level down. I realise now that these were tactical solutions, as without the guiding principles, they did not result in a common, singular goal. And that, to me, is why we need a strategy in the first place, as its a singular problem we’re addressing.

Boag also talks about how he uses both bottom-up and top-down approachs to make the change happen. At the heart of it, data and analytics (especially if it pertains to ROI) are key to convincing people that change is necessary. He believes, as I do, that organisations have to change to become ‘Digital by Default’. That is how our customers will interact with us, and its what we need to adapt into, before its too late.

Overall, what I’ve learnt from this book will be very useful as I attempt to be the catalyst for the digital transformation within my own employer. It does not teach me anything new about digital, but its useful nonetheless as it has shown me that there’s more than one path available to me.

Everyone wants change, but no one wants TO change

My current biggest struggle is to move digital away from Marketing, and justifying the need for it to be an organisation wide initiative. I  worry about convincing the different organisations that they need to align to a single objective as a company. That’s similar to how Satya Nadella now refers to Microsoft as a “Cloud First. Mobile First” company. That’s a single-minded target for everyone to get behind. And one that I’m hoping to uncover withing my employer.

Fortunately there is support for community building, so the social side of the equation is getting developed. But its the rest of it that’s going to take a while to get going. Wish me luck!