The age of digital experience strategy

By Charlotte Wang

Strategy is essential to the modern-day CIO. As IT takes on a more integral role in helping serve business needs throughout the organization, you need to be at the center of authoring this transformation strategy.

Where the customer's digital experience is concerned, strategy offers a blueprint to innovate, optimize and better serve business goals. Technology is a core component of any digital transformation, but the success of implementations rests squarely on the shoulders of IT leaders. As a business leader, you are tasked with guiding strategy development and bridging gaps between what customers want and what businesses need.

Typically, the desire to upgrade an enterprise digital strategy originates from the organization's desire to improve its customer engagement. Research on customer experience found that companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89 percent of their customers. According to an MIT study, companies with strong digital intensity derive nine percent more revenue from their physical assets, are 26 percent more profitable and achieve a 12 percent higher market valuation than the average of their peers. However, before IT can develop apps and solutions to serve these shifting goals, you must first oversee the creation of an infrastructure that supports these innovative initiatives.

Although the digital experience and underlying digital strategy are built primarily on technology, the transformation itself isn't technology-driven. You must oversee the evolution of this technological ecosystem while keeping in mind the standards, guidelines and limitations that will affect the technology's ability to serve business goals.

Four critical components of strategy development

The following are some keys to overhauling your digital experience:

  1. Strong executive sponsorship: You can't lead this transformation in isolation from other executive team members. In practice, organizations need strong executive sponsorship both from IT and other departments. Work with the support of the vice president or general manager responsible for growing the company's business through product or engagement. This relationship affects your ability to unlock data throughout the organization. Data wields rich and important insights that are necessary to build an effective, modern strategy.
  2. Create a simple, top-down business outcomes: This lays the foundation for your new strategy. It also requires you to move outside of IT and collaborate with other executives and departments, helping them develop the types of digital solutions or outcomes that will serve their business objectives.
  3. Engagement: By working across teams to help build solutions, you are ultimately helping to engineer a system of customer engagement that gets results and achieves the organization's key objectives.
  4. Patterns and blueprints: You should build IT infrastructure from the bottom up. Use patterns and blueprints to accelerate these development processes. Process-based development enables tech solutions to be created and adopted faster — and with minimal impact on quality. This is a cost-benefit approach every company will need to weigh, but many executives are willing to make compromises if a solution can be deployed to support production in a span of 45 minutes, rather than a week. That trade-off represents a fundamental paradigm shift in how enterprises are approaching strategy.

Standardizing your approach

From a messaging and structure perspective, the most important part of creating a digital strategy is identifying your top priorities. Most of our customers who seek this type of transformation already know their enterprises rely on far too many custom-built, home-grown applications. Typically, they're looking to consolidate some solutions and disconnect others. In other cases, the software has grown outdated, or a vendor is going out of business, and they need a new solution to take the place of outgoing technology.

Start with the top business drivers, which are cost containment and managing IT. The entire paradigm of the cloud is understanding what is suitable to go in it as everything should fit neatly into the larger ecosystem. This is why you should create standards first, so your solutions aren't running on 25 versions of Windows 2012. Ideally, your organization will settle on one or two versions and standardize this approach for all new solutions being brought into the stack.

When you're creating a digital strategy, use the guiding principle of the people, process and technology triangle. The simplest and most direct advice is that if you're starting from the bottom up, start with a crowd-pleaser. Ask your developers what they need to do their jobs better. Sometimes it's better solutions — other times, it's access to better data and information. As you go outside the realm of IT and build an infrastructure that serves the interests and goals of the entire business. Your approach needs to build toward a strategy that works well for all.

Everyone in the company wants to steer the organization toward success. Regardless of how you define that success, technology plays an integral role. That's why it makes sense to place CIOs at the center of leading this transformation for the enterprise.