Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

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

According to the 2018 Yellow Digital Report, 72 per cent of SMBs have a website, and around six in ten of them believe that it’s made their business more effective.

In most cases, an online presence is a must-have to be competitive in the digital age. At Telstra’s Vantage conference in 2015, Principal Consultant Tony Clement discussed the importance of having a digital strategy that complements a business strategy so you can make the most of opportunities in the future.

Tony argued that this means the power paradigm between big and small business is changing: “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],” he said.

“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 constantly evolving. The implications of trends like consumerisation, apps and social media have all had dramatic effects on how modern businesses operate.

But, Tony says, the day-to-day operations of a small business can often put the blinders on when it comes to 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, ensuring the success and implementation of it once developed.

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Understand data

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

Use data to understand your customers, their patterns of behaviour, 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 ‘big data’) has been appropriated to mean digital data. This isn’t necessarily true – buyer behaviours and preferences can be seen at the cash register and in conversations you have with customers, not just online.

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 sphere needs to make sense in a business context, not just a technology 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, they need to have all three – but a business model is developed on excelling in one.

Factor in process

A digital strategy should not just focus on external delivery or meeting customer expectations. It should also consider process digitisation (such as going paperless), worker enablement (through things like productivity apps) and measurement of the performance of the business.

At the end of the day, a digital strategy should complement all facets of the business without disrupting them negatively. After all, implementing change through technology is only as valuable as the benefits that technology provides.

Constantly review

Finally, it’s important to constantly review your digital strategy to ensure it is performing, is making positive change and hasn’t become obsolete. “The world’s changed,” says Tony. “[Reviews should be] ongoing... This is the way to do business now – it’ll never stop.”

Originally published November 4th 2015. Updated on December 4th 2019.

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