Thursday 9 March 2023

Creating a strategy

As mentioned before a digital strategy is a governance document with principles, values, and priorities that are used to guide decision makers to ensure consistency in expected outcomes. It defines ways of working to facilitate a digital transformation to a defined vision. A strategy is a set of guiding principles that, when communicated and adopted within the organization, generates a desired pattern of decision making. A strategy defines how people throughout the organization should make decisions and allocate resources to accomplish key objectives.

The digital strategy can be broadly looked at as two parts, the first is the Position Setters, these really explain the why, and Strategic pillars which explain the what.

  • Position Setters
    • Mission statement: Convey the transformations purpose
    • Vision statement: Explains why we are undergoing the transformation
    • Context: Describes the organisations background and the steps taken thus far and by who
    • Problem statement: Answers the five Ws and one H as to what the organisation is facing
    • Ambitions & Goals: ambitions of the transformation and SMART goals for ambitions
    • Financial projections: Financial gain from transformation
  • Strategic Pillars:
    • Business model(s): how existing business models or capabilities will change as well as new business models or capabilities will be created.
    • Product & Service: provide the guidance and support for delivery teams to digitally transform their product or service
    • Delivery: defined methodology for optimal delivery
    • Technology: Technology required to preform the delivery.

Section 0: Title & Content pages

Not much needs to be said here, keep it clean, keep it simple, that goes for both: your content page does not need to be an index, just high level overview setting expectation up front on what section the strategy will cover and more or less how long the session sill last; section 1 starts on the is page, section 2 starts on this page, and so on.

Section 1: Mission statement

Mission statements are straightforward and actionable which convey the transformation's purpose. They summarize what value completing the project will provided for customers and the organisation. In short, it's an explanation of what your going to do and why your doing it.

The mission for the most part already exists, whoever you are designing the digital transformation strategy for most likely already understands at a high level what they want/need done, it's up to you to extract this information from the champion as well as stakeholders. A great way to ensure buy in is to quote the CEO, the transformation champion and primary stakeholders, if you need to feed them the lines, so be it. Quote these lines in the strategy, this will ensure a shared sense of ownership, if you couple the success of the transformation to the leadership, they will go above and beyond to help you attain your goals. Making the executive team look and sound good will go a long way.

Section 2: Vision statement 

Visions answer the question why are we doing a digital transformation,  they are the guiding star. Visions are quintessential to the Digital Transformation, they serve as a reference point to validate the alignment of work. If something does not align to the vision, then it shouldn't be done, if there are multiple options to do something, then the option best aligned to the vision should be done. This is why visions are so important.

The Vision is based on the mission, they are directly related. The mission defines the what we are aiming to accomplish, whereas the vision explains the why. That is not to say that vision is merely an explanation, it contains values which can be looked to for guidance.

To define our visions values, we must first extract our mission themes from our mission statement. If we look at the mission statement of Southwest airlines. 

We can clearly see that their Mission themes are:

  • Dedication to highest quality of customer service.
  • Making the client feel like a guest.
  • Consistency throughout.
from these themes we can extract the following vision values:
  • Holistic: the customer experience should be delightful from start to finish, from the moment they land on the homepage, or approach to desk at an airport, they customers is made to feel like they are a guest.
  • Support: the customer doesn't feel stressed, they aren't afraid to ask for help because they know they will get it.
  • Proactive: in obvious situations customers do not even have to ask for help they are offered it, elderly passengers are helped with their luggage.
  • Integrated: the customer should always feel as if they are in the hands or Southwest, even if they are rerouted through a partner airline, they are made to feel as if they are a guest.
Once we analyse our mission for it's themes and we use those themes to inspire our vision Values, we are ready to create a vision statement. Our vision statement could be something like the following 

"Air travel should be stress free, our passengers' travel with us, will be the most pleasant part of their journey. The only concern our customers should have is getting to the airport on time, we provide everything they need to know, from door to destination and go the extra mile to make pleasant journey. We support our customers via their mobile devices from the night before through to their destination."

A vision statement should be short and sweet, anywhere from 2 lines to 2 paragraphs, it is an iterative process, it may take multiple iterations to get it just right, the best approach is to get feedback often and quickly, remember the vision statement will be used align value to the digital transformation, if something is not aligned with the vision it will be deemed as superfluous.   

Section 3 Context 

The context provides the background about the current environment an organization is in along with the high level challenges associated with this current state of affairs. The context should also include the timeline of steps and activities, along with who has been involved up to the current point, in the creation of the strategy. Finally the context should also provide the role of the strategy, its value and how it is to be used for the digital transformation.

Section 4: Problem statement

Problem statements are clear explanations of the key challenges faced by the organisation which we are going to solve. To create a Problem statement, refer to you vision and context, here you will find your problem statement. To extract your problem statement from your mission and vision ask yourself the following:

  • What is the problem faced by the organisation today?
  • Who is impacted by the problem, the organisation, the customers, both?
  • Where is the problem happening?
  • How is the problem impacting the organisation and/or customers?
  • Why is this a problem and why must it be solved?
  • When is the aim to solve the problem by?
Once you can answer the above questions you'll have your problem statement, it is important to focus on one problem, if you find yourself tackling more than one problem, you need to revisit your vision and possibly your mission. Any transformation is an extremely complex process, trying to do two at once almost ensures failure. When it comes to the length of a problem statement, there is no hard and fast rule, Try to keep it on one slide, two at the most. 


Section 5: Aspirations & Goals

To define aspirations and goals we can use a divergent and convergent process, we begin with our Mission, Vision, Context and Problem statement; using what we've learned form these we begin by defining aspirational changes to our organisation, where do we want to to change to make the biggest impact to our problem statement. Once we define our aspirations, we then define concrete goals to aim for. The goals you set must be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Generally you want about 6 to 10 goal, the fewer goals the more attainable they are.

Section 6: Financial projections 

Financial projects are very difficult to predict with any level of certainty and are notoriously inaccurate. There are four key dimensions when it comes to calculated financial projections:

  • Capital investment: Funding needed to make changes 
  • Operational investment: Funding needed to keep the transformation operational
  • Optimised Profit: Profits generated from existing transformed business models
  • Opportunity Profit: Profits generated from new business models resulting from the transformation.
Keep in mind that this is very early in the the transformation, the organisation has yet to commit to the work to be done, these are very high level and, the cost of the transformation will be far more accurate than the projected profits. As the various work-streams deliver transformations, they projected profits can be refined to more accurately represent reality.

Section 7: Trends & opportunities 

Trends are observable market level changes, from a macro perspective they can seem as sudden shifts in behaviour and/or expectations, however they are generally made up of many small shifts which add up to a visible trend which is currently occurring or will occur in the future. To execute an effective trend analysis:

  • Identity: what it is you want to understand
  • Narrow: down to 3 to 5 key trends that impact your business
  • Overlap: find where the trends align looking for higher level market trends
  • Opportunities: Align trends with opportunities to take advantage of
The sole purpose of identifying trends is to then use them to identifying opportunities which can be leverage to increase profitability. Trends and can be observed in many different dimensions: customer expectations, customer values, customer knowledge, customer interests, basically it's identify what your customers and potential customers are doing, expecting, valuing.

Section 8: Business models

Business models are representations of products or service that generate revenue, there are a number of ways to represent one but in essence you want to understand at the very least the following 9 aspects of your business models:

  • Value: What product or service are you offering that customers find valuable.
  • Customers: Who is using your service and providing you with value in return (
  • Channels: How do your customers access your product or service
  • Relationships: How do you create and maintain relationships with customers or/and segments
  • Revenue: How is capital generated based on your value proposition
  • Resources: The things do we need to deliver value to the customers
  • Activities: What actions must we preform to provide value to our customers
  • Partnerships: Who do we need to provide value
  • Cost: What are we spending money on to provide value.

For each capability we need to understand the above thoroughly, once we have this understanding we can begin to digitally transform the business model, optimising it to maximise value to both our customers and organisation. 

Optimising a model is great, however we shouldn't limit ourselves with existing models, we should ideate as well as investigate on how digital technology aligned with our core values can create new Business models that previously did not exist or where not possible. 

Section 9: Customer experience

Here we identify each product and service which our Business models define and how they are directly related to our aspirations and goals. Our goal is to understand every product and service how the customers use them at a macro level and how to 

  • Customer journeys: how do our customers interact with our products and services from beginning to end, these need to be defined for every interaction between the organisation and it's customers
  • Tone of voice: Consistent vocabulary, constant messaging, constant copy.
  • Style guide: Consistent colours, logos, spacing, typescript, for all channels, mobile, web, chatbot, phone, video, etc.
  • Interpretability: Customers must be able to move between products and series seamlessly, a customer should be able to begin an interaction via phone, switch to mobile app and then finish on their desktop.
  • Customer insights: each product and service is designed with insights, this tracks customers usage to better understand their journey as well as their product and service usage.

At the end of the day each product and service must be seamless, customers should not know the difference between channels and should be able to move between them without realising it. The customer experience should be so consistent so simple that once a customer interacts with one product or service, they will be familiar with all of them.

Section 10: Delivery

Choose the appropriate delivery methodology for your organisation, that could be Agile through and through, it could be Waterfall at the strategic level, and Agile at the product or service level, or it could even be waterfall at all levels. It really doesn't matter which you choose as long as you make an informed decision that works for the organisation and the product/service teams which will have to implement the transformation.

When it comes to delivery, there is four fundamental values that the strategy team must adhere to: 

  • Support: provide the delivery teams what they need to get the job done, that includes everything from guidance in the form of customer experience guidelines as mentioned in the previous section to the tools and expertise they need to get the job done.
  • Trust: believe in the delivery teams, they know the products best and will do the best job implementing the solutions, do not micro manage at the product & service level, focus on providing guidance and feedback.
  • Respect: Let the team focus on one product or service at a time, they are experts do not use them as disposable resources who can be pressured into delivering at the cost of burnout. Make room for failure, let the delivery teams experiment, take risks and provide them the space needed to deliver something delightful.
  • Open: The delivery teams are not on a need to know basis, keep two-way communication open with the teams, being open with your challenges will encourage them to be open with you regarding their challenges.

Section 11: Technology

Generally technology can be grouped these  high level buckets:

  • Venders: Leverage of the shelf solutions, sometimes building a perfectly bespoke solution is of little value when a potential partner already offers a turn key solution, that may just need light customisation.
  • Knowledge: Hire externals to fill temporary gaps and upscale people for operational ones.
  • Data: collect and leverage customer insights to better understand how to provide value.
  • DevOps: Break down the barriers between development and operations, ensure that there is a smooth pipeline from product & service development through to delivery

Section12: Road map

Provide a high level roadmap, a graphical representation of what will be executed and in what order, the dates are not to be specific, months or quarters are sufficient the role of the roadmap is to provide a high level overview. Schedule frequent internal pilots creating a two way communication stream between strategy and delivery teams.

Section 13: Accelerators 

Identify potential assets (frameworks, products, service) that you may have that could accelerate the digital transformation. As well as recommendations for quickly implementing some low hanging fruit which could gain early confidence among senior leadership. These low hanging fruit do not have to be fully delivered and validated products or services, they could be prototypes or early iterations that demonstrate immediate value. 

opportunities: how to get delivery accelerated and see some quick wins to validate the strategy. 

next steps : house keeping what needs to get done to make this happen.