I think we can all agree that if you want to have a successful business you need to have a strategy, right? As a leader or business owner, you have talked to your mentors and valued advisors, accountants and lawyers and you all concur with the plan. It is simple and effective, right? You know your target market, your product/service mix is clear, partners and suppliers are identified and supporting technologies chosen. Your workforce knows what they need to do to be successful and your differentiators and go-to-market strategy for 2023 and beyond have an edge on the competition. No need to waste time documenting it when that will take time away from actually executing it, right? WRONG!
You see, something happens when you start to write down the plan that is in your head and in the heads of other members of your team. What was once a group of (perhaps well ordered) thoughts, becomes a visual image in the form of words. Still not crystal clear, but a lot clearer, especially to new team members or those with a different (read diverse) background, education or perspective. These team members, likely to be the senior members of your business, will then ask questions to clarify their understanding and they will give new information and opinions that supplement what you thought were the best possible ideas. The strategy will get tweaked and sometimes parts of it will change completely based on the new information and additional viewpoints. At the end of this process the strategy is likely to be much better than it was when it was rolling around inside your own brain.
Another thing happens during this process; something far more powerful than the improvement of the strategy itself! The communication process leads to engagement, alignment and commitment to the execution of the strategy. Add to this the action planning process to map out the execution of the strategy over time and you have something even more potent, because once you start measuring the execution of the plan, you can better manage its implementation. What you measure, you can manage. Don’t ever forget this concept; what you measure, you can manage. A dearth in measurement makes the day to day, tactical management of any strategy nigh on impossible.
The same communication, improvement, alignment and commitment magic occurs whether we are talking about the development of an overarching business strategy, a marketing strategy, a HR strategy or a product development strategy. To show you how this can work for your business, the below looks more closely at the development and articulation of a digital strategy and tactical execution via a road-map.
Development and Execution of a Digital Roadmap – Understanding the Battle Field
Today’s business strategy, both the theory and its practice, has roots embedded in military warfare. How far back and from what nation or civilisation…it’s not clear. One thing that is clear though, is that you cannot fight a war (or build a business) in a void. Imagine a battlefield. Be it thick lush rainforest, sand dunes or mulga scrub, the terrain will impact your attack and defence plans. How about the competition, your enemies; Sun Tzu’s famous quote is instructive, “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.” In the business context this is about understanding the competition and their product/service offering, being clear on your own offering and the underlying capabilities of your team and your organisation. Apply this to the development of a digital strategy and roadmap and ask yourself:
- What does the digital environment look like; is it dated racks, servers and MSDos-esque software, or best of breed, cloud based systems?
- What is the existing digital security like? E8 compliant, or wormholes everywhere?
- How supportable is the existing technology infrastructure, both locally and remotely?
- How manageable or useable is the hardware, especially in a hybrid world; old desktops or is there a fleet of slick new, work-anywhere laptops
Once you have answered these questions you are only just at the starting line. You have positioned yourself on the roadmap to your technological future. In process mapping terms, you have adequately described your “As Is”. In order to get to your “To Be” position, more thought is required:
- What is the objective of the technology to be used; what business plans and outcomes must it support?
- Is the existing technology infrastructure scalable to support business growth in terms of volume, users, geographic diversity etc.?
- What is falling apart and in need of urgent attention/replacement to avoid a catastrophic breakdown in production/revenue?
- What systems are limiting business growth?
- What software is out of date, unsupported or nearing end-of-life?
- What improvements will create a huge step change in the way you execute your business, or, will create multiple time/cost efficiencies that will, over time, accumulate to have a significant impact on systems reliability, security or performance?
Answering the above questions is instructive in understanding where you want to be in your digital landscape; at first glance. However, this stage of the digital road-mapping process also invites a lot more questions that generate options. And these options need to be considered and evaluated. Once the options are considered and decisions are made, there is the matter of priorities. How do these changes and improvements fit into the overall business strategy roadmap? And what is the financial cost?
However, before you do this I’d encourage you to ask yourself one more question; “Do I want to play the game, change the rules or change the game”?
Play the Game, Change the Rules or Change the Game
This is a question of innovation appetite. Do you want to use technology to create a competitive advantage against your opponents? Is this even possible in your industry?
Perhaps you just want to play the game: this means limiting spend, working technology assets hard and minimising risks as they become evident. Perhaps this is enough to support the business in the executing of its overall strategy and satisfies the ROI expectations of the investors. No problem! Consider the options, make your priorities and create your digital roadmap.
Or perhaps you want to play the game and also change some of the rules to give you a technological advantage over the competition: this means exploring technology options more broadly, considering tech advances and learnings from other industries, taking measured risks and investing in the future, rather than protecting what you have now. This strategy is likely to raise some investor eyebrows and elicit concerns. However, through solid research and a bit of effort, risks can be identified and mitigated. No problem! Consider the options, make your priorities and create your digital roadmap.
Finally, for all of the out of the box thinkers out there, maybe you want to implement a new/untested technology in your industry or geographic market; one that will put the cat amongst the pigeons. Consider a technology that you or one of your people saw while abroad on holidays, or imagined while thinking deeply on a significant business challenge. Maybe you could create your own technology, like Atlantic Digital has done with the in-house development of its proprietary Adonis ITSM, or otherwise change the game through the application of an existing technology in a way that has never before been imagined? This strategy is very likely to create some opposition amongst the powers that be! Unless of course there is open communication, deep consideration of the risks and plans to mitigate them, alignment, and ultimately a firm commitment to the plan. Once again, no problem, create your digital roadmap.
Measure and Manage across the 5 Digital Pillars
The last this to consider for any complete roadmap is addressing the 5 digital pillars:
- Manageability / Useability
Most of these have been touched on above. However the main reason for repeating them here is a reminder to consider how your business will measure the success of roadmap implementation for each of the pillars. Once again this will depend largely on your digital landscape and business strategy. Remember, regardless of the way you measure success, make it transparent for the appropriate people in your team to support the management of the plan. Partnering with a trusted MSP like Atlantic Digital can make this entire process seamless.
In summary, any successful business that relies on technology needs a digital strategy and roadmap. The strategy/roadmap development and communication process leads to engagement, alignment and commitment to the execution of the strategy. While developing your roadmap, first seek to understand your digital landscape and be clear on how technology must be integrated and configured to support the overall business strategy. Decide if you want to play the game, change the rules or change the game. Do the work to manage and mitigate the risks of your chosen approach, then prioritise, set you budget and finalise your digital strategy. Finally, don’t forget to consider the 5 digital pillars and measure progress to ensure you are able to successfully manage the execution of your roadmap. Happy travels!