Digital Strategy Combines Elements of Offense and Defense

Fadhl Al-Matari is a Digital Consulting Manager at Saxony Partners. With more than a decade of experience as a Business Analyst, he helps our clients use their data to achieve their business goals. In this piece, Fadhl discusses how to create a digital strategy for your business.

In team sports, players move in different directions, ideally in pre-determined strategic formations. They are all focused on the same goal: to score more points than the opposing team.

In sports the goal is visible, and the “ball” is carried to the end line. What makes an organization any different? How can organizations create strategies to succeed and score more points than the competition?

Defining the Problem

I have consulted for all different types and sizes of organizations and I own a small business. And while no two businesses are exactly alike, I have seen some commonalities with most of my clients.

When a business is making process improvements – in other words, creating a strategy – the true definition of the problem is often overlooked. Sometimes organizations jump straight into trying to solve a symptomatic issue, not the fundamental problem. This can lead to an endless loop of silo projects to patch cracks in broken processes. These clients are no longer functioning as a team; in fact, they are essentially playing in different leagues. Their goals are different, but they’re all dependent on each other. This is where a good strategy can create the formation, the teamwork, that will enable the organization to move better and more efficiently.

When consultants are engaged on a project, they start with a discovery phase. In this stage of the engagement, consultants ask questions aimed at drawing the picture of the problem:

  • Why is the client requesting this change?
  • How is this request going to improve efficiently?
  • Where is this request in the organizational chart?
  • When does this request need to be completed?

A good consultant will ask for the thought process that led the client to determine that a proposed solution will solve their problem. Better yet, they will define the fundamental problem.

A great example of this is a client who requested an implementation of a technical solution. It was a straightforward implementation: map old to new, plug the new solution, test, and deploy.

As we examined the current state processes, many process deficiencies surfaced. We followed the thread back to the sources. The real problem was the lack of quality control on data that was keyed in free-form fields. The data was sent to an analyst who performs logic, but who was trained by someone who is not with the company anymore. This is a classic example of organizational or “key person” risk.

Finally, everything is entered in the source of record– the same source of record that the executive team does not trust due to the lack of data integrity. The problem wasn’t the technology. It was garbage in and garbage out.

Getting the Right Perspective

You might have seen memes and cartoon images of two people looking at the same thing from two different perspectives. They are both looking at the truth, but whose source of truth is the right truth?

I have worked with organizations that calculate data points differently depending on whether you are speaking to the Finance, Operations, Analytics, or even the Human Resources department. There are many ways to solve this problem depending on the maturity of the organization, but first we must define said problem.

You cannot improve what you cannot measure. To accurately measure, you need the right perspective. Since perspectives are subjective, we look for a reference point.

Whether guided by regulations, investors, industry standards, voice of the customer, or any other external entity, every organization should have a governing body. This governing body should create that reference point.

For example, one organization I worked with wanted to reduce the number of complaints they received. After identifying the top twenty percent of issues that caused roughly eighty percent of the problems, we began diving into causes.

One issue was billing customers after their accounts were closed. When looking at the executive dashboards, this data point was lost in translation. Accounts had a closing date, but closing dates were mostly triggered by customer requests. Finance, on the other hand, based closing dates on lack of activity over a period of time. The root cause of the issue was a combination of vendors’ late billing and the mailing room not routing the right invoices to the right departments. Some of the invoices were not even entered into the system for three to four weeks.

Perspectives matter. If you cannot have the same definition for every data element or function, then you will not have the same starting point.

Supporting Other Business Strategies

Overall business strategies encompass marketing, sales, digital and operational strategies, each supporting the other to competitively succeed. Just like a soccer team, you have the defense (defend the goal) and the offense (score goals) that must support each other to win as a team.

To build a digital strategy, understanding each of the marketing, sales, and operational strategies is vital to organizational success. Marketing and sales strategies might focus on the growth of the business. However, growing too fast without the right operational and digital strategies in place, might increase reputational, regulatory, and organizational risks.

Here’s another example. A financial institution acquired a mortgage originations company. Marketing and sales strategies drove growth with cross-selling among all divisions. Unfortunately, digital and operational strategies were not in place to support this rapid growth, which then lead to losing resources and an increase in operational defects.

Our team created the infrastructure that allowed for vital data to be collected in or near real-time (offense), as well as the data warehouse needed to manage and analyze the data in one secure place (defense). Together as a team, the company went from losing $3 million per month to profitability in a year and a half.

Playing in the Right Field

Just as you can’t play squash on a soccer field, you can’t put the right strategy in place when you don’t have the right platforms in place (and vice versa). Some of the good questions to ask are:

  • Does the platform allow for flexibility to implement organizational changes?
  • Are there many work arounds due to system limitations?
  • Does it require multiple systems to complete a task?
  • Are their inefficiencies due to limitations?

Building A Technology Roadmap

When a problem is defined, the right perspective is determined, other business strategies are accounted for, and the right platform is in place, then you are ready to build a technology roadmap.

Technology roadmaps involve slotting solutions in a sequential order to implement a program or programs. The sequence is dependent on resources, other business strategies, or costs. Roadmaps are the vehicles to implement strategies. Some of the characteristics of a good roadmap are:

  • Clear, understandable, simple-to-envision
  • An acceptable business case
  • High-level plan of resources
  • Focused on commitment

No matter what approach your organization needs to build a strong digital strategy, our team at Saxony Partners has the right talent and experience to put the right strategy in place. Let us help you create a playbook so that you can score more goals and win as a team.