By Boyd Wason
A number of advertising industry leaders in New Zealand have questioned whether a digital strategy is valid given ‘digital is just another channel in the media mix’.
However, the industry leaders I heard from at the ‘Digital Leader UK – Art of Strategy’ panel discussion saw digital as spanning more of marketing than just communications, and therefore of vital strategic importance across the business.
The panel included Anthony Hook – Strategy and Innovation Director at Sitecore, Martin Spiller – Partner at Jenson (early stage investment fund), and Mary McKenna, CEO of Task Squad (entrepreneur and angel investor). To give you an appreciation of the level of experience of this panel, Mary was awarded an MBE earlier this year for services to digital technology, innovation and learning.
The panel all agreed that digital strategy can only operate where there’s a solid business strategy in place, and that any strategy should be simply to understand and communicate. There was consensus that many large businesses paid ‘lip service’ to strategy and that they were generally were poor at communicating strategy to the wider business. SME’s were also discussed and the panel agreed that they often saw SME owners and managers spending too much time working in, rather than on their business. These are both issues we commonly see in New Zealand businesses.
An interesting trend Anthony Hook highlighted was how smart companies are moving on from developing Content Management Systems to creating Customer Experience Platforms (here at Tango we’ve been talking platforms as apposed to websites for a while now, so its great to see this trend being so succinctly defined).
Martin Spiller summarised the digital strategy debate by saying, “If digital is used just as a communications channel, then it doesn’t need a strategy. But if digital is fundamental to the transformation of a business, then it needs a strategy”. Mary added to this stating that she believed “…digital needs to be at the heart of all businesses if they want to succeed today.”
When the panel was asked if they believed if you could teach people how to develop good strategy the answer wasn’t as you’d expect. All agreed that you could teach a process for strategic development and how to evaluate strategic options, but they generally agreed that it takes something special to be able to create transformational strategy and be able to clearly communicate it throughout a business.
The key impression I came away from this event with was that, in a world gone digital, good business strategy is as important as it’s ever been. Businesses of all sizes not only need good strategic processes and support to help them take advantage of the digital world, they need smart people to inspire and communicate ideas and concepts.