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  • Writer's pictureMarion Burchell

Digital strategy - the domain of business and technology

I was having coffee with an ex-colleague recently. As we are both consultants we discussed the current market and up coming opportunities. It got us talking digital strategy.

It has always seemed curious to me why anything remotely related to technology gets promptly pushed to the tech people, including digital strategy.

When it comes to who is responsible for "digital" or "technology", it should really depend on the context .

This gets me to what a digital strategy is. It’s about the delivery of your business through the use of technology. 

Firstly, it’s important to note that not all business delivery will require technology. But where it makes sense, then it should be used.

Given the intersection between the business needs and how technology will be used to deliver, it should translate to both parts of the business working together - hand in glove. After all, a digital strategy should cascade from the business strategy reinforcing or nesting into it.

To have the business and technology leaders work together just makes sense. Yet the data shows this doesn't happen often enough given 31% of IT don't meet the required goal, 38% didn't actively include the project sponsor, 43% exceed their initial budget and 49% were delivered late[1].

Any digital strategy will need to focus on: 

  • What outcomes the business is seeking to deliver and when

  • What problem it seeks to solve and for whom

  • What customers or key stakeholders needs it seeks to address and through which channels

  • Customer and user experience and how it translates to brand and business operations

  • Cost implications to the business such as CapEx v OpEx and how this relates to the broader financials of the organisation

  • Prioritisation based on value generated to determine where to start and when, and how any savings my be reinvested or re-directed

  • Appropriate transparency, governance and delivery including clear communication in business terms 

  • Embedding change management and bringing people along the journey early

These are all the domain of the business and help to legitimise any digital strategy, transformation or initiative.

Too many times I have seen technology drive the reform. It usually ends the same way:

  • Lack of communication and change to bring people along the journey resulting in poor uptake and disenfranchised stakeholders

  • Lack of transparency and governance especially with the business side of the organisation, and when it does occur it's in tech jargon

  • Focus on the technology rather than the problem that needs to be solved (or assuming they know the problem)

  • Trying to eat the elephant whole - not phasing, testing and managing risk

  • And then once delivered, thinking that the job is done

Don't get me wrong, technologists have an important place in the delivery of technology projects.

In fact, CIOs have an important place at the leadership table as their role is pertinent to ensuring the business uses technology appropriately in delivering efficiencies and is effective in meeting the expectations and needs of its customers (both internal and external).

However, many CIOs are left with the responsibility of delivering anything and everything technology related, in isolation of the business.

This becomes further complicated by the fact we are in an interesting transition point whereby many executives have limited knowledge of technology and the opportunities it can provide, let alone how to feel comfortable managing or making decisions related to technology transformation.

These days, every organisation is a technology organisation.

It's the responsibility of all business leaders to have at a minimum a basic level of knowledge when it comes to technology and how to manage it within the business context. A business leader cannot transfer this responsibility to their technology staff.

Executives need to drive the digital strategy and technology reforms of their organisation, holding the team to account. If the technology team are unable to clearly articulate what is happening in the project, you should find someone who can.

Until such time business leaders and technology leaders become one and the same (and they will), it will be necessary for each to bridge the gap.

Business and technology leaders need to understand each other and have built the necessary capabilities required to deliver successful digital strategy and transformations. It will be imperative for both to work in close collaboration with each other to ensure together, they meet each others requirements - running a successful contemporary organisation that meets their customer's needs.

About Marion

Marion is a highly experienced and accomplished strategy, innovation and leadership professional with a focus on the enterprise and government sectors. She is a trusted advisor to CEOs and senior executives, providing practical and pragmatic solutions to the challenges they face. Marion is the Managing Director at Azolla Holdings Pty Ltd, a Board member, thought leader and member of an international entrepreneur association.

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