Digital Strategy & the Board

Digital Strategy is a plan that uses digital resources to achieve one or more objectives. With Technology changing at a very fast pace, Organisations have many digital resources to choose from.

Digital Resources can be defined as materials that have been conceived and created digitally or by converting analogue materials to a digital format for example:

  • Utilising the internet for commerce (web-shops, customer service portals, etc…)
  • Secure working for all employees from anywhere via VPN
  • Digital documents, scanning paper copies and submitting online correspondence to customers i.e. online statements and payment facilities via customer portals
  • Digital resources via Knowledge Base, Wiki, Intranet site and Websites
  • Automation – use digital solutions like robotics and AI to complete repetitive tasks more efficiently
  • Utilising social media for market awareness, customer engagement and advertising

A Digital Strategy is typically a plan that helps the business to transform it’s course of action, operations and activities into a digital nature by utilising available applicable technology.

Many directors know that digital strategies, and there related spending, can be difficult to understand. From blockchain and virtual reality to artificial intelligence, no business can afford to fall behind with the latest technological innovations that are redefining how businesses connect with their customers, employees, and myriad of other stakeholders. Read this post that covers “The Digital Transformation Necessity“…

As a Board Director what are the crucial factors that the Board should consider when building a digital strategy?

Here are five critical aspects, in more detail, and the crucial things to be conscious of when planning a digital transformation strategy as part of a board.

Stakeholders

A stakeholder, by definition, is usually an individual or a group impacted by the outcome of a project. While in previous roles you may have worked with stakeholders at senior management level, when planning a digital strategy, it’s important to remember that your stakeholders could also include customers, employees or anyone that could be affected by a new digital initiative.

Digital strategies work from the top down, if you’re looking to roll out a digital transformation project, you need to consider how it will affect every person inside or outside of your business.

Investment

Digital transformation almost always involves capital and technology-intensive investments. It is not uncommon for promising transformation projects to stall because of a lack of funds, or due to technology infrastructure that cannot cope with increased demands.

Starting a budgeting process right at the start of planning a digital transformation project is essential. This helps ensure that the scope of a project does not grow beyond the capabilities of an enterprise to fund it. A realistic budgeting and funding approach is crucial because a stalled transformation project creates disruption, confusion and brings little value to a business.

Communications

From the get-go, any digital strategy, regardless of size, should be founded on clear and constant communication between all stakeholders involved in a project. This ensures everyone is in the loop on the focus of the project, their specific roles within it, and which processes are going to change. In addition, continuous communication helps build a spirit of shared success and ensures everyone has the information they need to address any frustrations or challenges that may occur as time passes. When developing an effective communication plan, Ian’s advice is to hardly mention the word digital at all.

The best digital strategies explain what digital can do and also explain the outcomes. Successful communication around digital strategies uses language that everyone can understand, plain English, no buzzwords, no crazy acronyms and no silly speak.

Also read “Effective Leadership Communication” which covers how you can communicate effectively to ensure that everyone in the team are on the same page.

Technology

While there are many technologies currently seeing rapid growth and adoption, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will need to implement all of them in your business. The choice of technology depends upon the process you are trying to optimise. Technology, as a matter of fact, is just a means to support your idea and the associated business processes.

People often get overwhelmed with modern technologies and try to implement all of them in their current business processes. The focus should be on finding the technologies that rightly fit your business objectives and implement them effectively.

Never assume that rolling out a piece of technology is just going to work. When embarking on a digital project, deciding what not to do is just as important as deciding what to do. Look at whether a piece of technology can actually add value to your business or if it’s just a passing trend. Each digital project should hence be presented to Board with a business case that outlines the business value, return on investment and the associated benefits and risks, for board consideration.

Measurement

No strategy is complete without a goal and a Digital Strategy is no different. To measure the effectiveness of your plan you will need to set up some key performance indicators (KPIs). These metrics will demonstrate the effectiveness of the plan and will also guide your future decision making. You will need to set up smart goals that have clear achievable figures along with a timeline. These goals will guide and optimise the entire execution of a transformation project and ensure that the team does not lose focus.

Any decent strategy should say where we are now, where we want to get to and how we’re going to get there, but also, more importantly, how are we going to monitor and track against our progress.

Also Read

NED :: Non-Executive Director’s proposition

Are you aware of the substantive and measurable value a Non-Executive Director can bring to you and your business…?

Introduction

The Non-Executive Director, no longer a role that is associated just with large organisations. There is a growing awareness of the NED role and more and more organisations are appointing NEDs of various types, and specific specialities, often within technology and digital transformation, to enhance the effectiveness of their boards as standard practise.

With the pressure on organisations to compete globally, deal with digital transformation and respond to rapidly changing market conditions, new skills are needed at board level. This leads to the role of the NED diversifying and introduces a need to refresh the NEDs as circumstances change, bringing in new specialities, experience and challenge when the organisation needs it.

A good NED can, and should make a substantive and measurable contribution to the effectiveness of the board. Do not see a NED as a consulting advisor – a NED, within the remit of the role of a company director, play a full and active part in the success efforts of an organisation. Irrespective of the skills, experience and network contacts that NEDs will bring, they must above all, provide appropriate independent and constructive challenge to the board.

Both the organisation and the NED must understand the purpose of being a NED, within the specific organisation, for the role to be effective. This includes a clear understanding of what value the NED is expected to bring. A NED’s value goes beyond just the statutory requirements.

On appointment a Non-executive director can:

  • Broaden the horizons and experience of existing executive directors.
  • Facilitate the cross-fertilisation of ideas, particularly in terms of business strategy and planning.
  • Have a vital part to play in appraising and commenting on a company’s investment/expenditure plans.
  • Bring wisdom, perspective, contacts and credibility to your business.
  • Be the lighthouse that helps you find your way and steer clear of near and present dangers.

The role of the NED

All directors, including NEDs, are required to:

  • provide entrepreneurial leadership of the company
  • set the company’s vision, strategy and strategic objectives
  • set the company’s values and standards
  • ensure that its obligations to its shareholders and others are understood and met.

In addition, the role of the NED has the following key elements:

  • Strategy: NEDs should constructively challenge and help develop proposals on strategy.
  • Performance: NEDs should scrutinise the performance of management in meeting agreed goals and objectives and monitor the reporting of performance.
  • Risk: NEDs should satisfy themselves on the integrity of financial information and that financial controls and systems of risk management are robust and defensible.
  • People: NEDs are responsible for determining appropriate levels of remuneration of executive directors and have a prime role in appointing, and where necessary removing, executive directors, and in succession planning.

“In broad terms, the role of the NED, under the leadership of the chairman, is: to ensure that there is an effective executive team in place; to participate actively in the decision–takingprocess of the board; and to exercise appropriate oversight over execution of the agreed strategy by the executive team.”; Walker Report, 2009

 

A non-executive director will bring the follow benefits to your company:

  • strengthen the board and provide an independent viewpoint
  • contribute to the creation of a sound business plan, policy and strategy
  • review plans and budgets that will implement policy and strategy
  • be a confidential and trusted sounding board for the MD/CEO and keep the focus of the MD/CEO
  • have the experience to objectively assess the company’s overall performance
  • have the experience and confidence to stand firm when he or she believes the executive directors are acting in an inappropriate manner
  • ensure good corporate governance
  • provide outside experience of the workings of other companies and industries, and have beneficial sector contacts and experience gained in previous businesses
  • have the ability to clearly communicate with fellow directors
  • have the ability to gain the respect of the other directors
  • possess the tact and skill to work with the executive directors, providing support and encouragement where difficult decisions are being made
  • have contacts with third parties such as financial sources, grant providers and potential clients

Looking for a NED?

Now that you understand what a NED can do – What are you waiting for?

Contact Renier Botha if you are looking for an experienced director with strong technology and digital transformation skills.

Renier has demonstrable success in developing and delivering visionary business & technology strategies. His experience include Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A), major capital projects, growth, governance, compliance, risk management as well as business and organisation development. From startup to FTSE listed enterprise, the value Renier can bring as NED is substantive, driving business growth.