So You Want To Write A Digital Strategy?

So You Want To Write A Digital Strategy?

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“Can you put together a digital strategy for us to review?” Requests like this strike fear into those of us who work on the Web. What do we know about putting together strategy documents?

Yes, we understand the Web, but we don’t know how to write a document that is essentially a business strategy. What even goes into a digital strategy!

Unfortunately, this is something management seems to increasingly request from Web designers. Whether you are an external contractor or part of an in-house team, sooner or later you will be asked to put together a digital strategy.

But do not despair. A digital strategy is not as intimidating as it sounds. It is just a document outlining how your company or client should handle the different aspects of digital from the website and mobile to email, social media and digital marketing. It doesn’t need to cover everything in huge depth (it would be unreadable if it did), but instead should establish some general approaches to these different areas.

This post will provide you with a crash course on where to start and what kinds of things to include. I hope it proves useful.

An Incredible Opportunity

Whether you have been asked to produce a digital strategy or management have reluctantly listened to your pleas to be more strategic, getting to write a digital strategy is an amazing opportunity.

It is a chance to show your client or boss that you are more than an implementor and that you have a valuable contribution to make toward the future of digital.

“Creating a digital strategy is a chance to bring some order to the chaos that is most organisations approach to digital.”

Most companies approach the Web at a tactical level, making decisions on the fly in response to the latest new technology or business demand.

If like me you have worked on projects where the requirements have changed part way through or somebody in senior management has suddenly decided the company needs an iPhone app, then you know quite how reactionary most organisations are. There is little long term thinking in terms of development roadmap, governance, resourcing and policies.

By forming a digital strategy you have an opportunity to establish a firm direction for your online footprint, rather than being the victim of managerial whims.

So where do you begin?

A Digital Strategy Is Not A Business Strategy

You may be tempted to look at business strategy documents for inspiration. After all, these have been around for years and their format is well established. However, as is so often the case when looking to other mediums for inspiration, they don’t really fit digital.

A traditional business strategy focuses on two key components; a long term roadmap and budget forecasting. Unfortunately both of these elements are hard to replicate in a digital strategy.

Creating a digital strategy that looks 3–5 years ahead is an unrealistic expectation. Technology just moves too fast for that. Equally, accurate budgeting is difficult when the landscape is evolving at such a rapid rate. A digital strategy therefore has to take a different approach.

“A digital strategy needs to focus more on creating policies, priorities and people.”

A digital strategy needs to focus more on creating policies, priorities and people who can be trusted to make the right decisions as new technologies emerge, rather than defining everything up front. As the old adage says, its about “teaching a man to fish”.

Policies, Priorities And People

What does it mean for your digital strategy to focus on policies, priorities and people?

Essentially, if the intention is to create a strategy that can adapt to the fast moving pace of digital, you need a flexible decision making process. This requires the right people making those decisions within the right kind of framework and then being able to implement those decisions quickly.

It’s therefore important that your digital strategy includes:


Who makes decisions about different digital elements and who actually does the work? This is the kind of thing that could be addressed using a responsibility assignment matrix. It is important that the right people are making the right decisions. For example, you don’t want the Head of IT making decisions on design, or the Head of Marketing picking a hosting environment. This happens all too often when the digital strategy is managed by a committee.

Adequately resourcing the digital strategy is also important. What work is going to be done in-house and what should be outsourced? When outsourcing, what criteria are used for selecting a supplier?


To enable fast decision making it helps to have a number of policies in place. Policies act as a framework within which operational decisions are made. In other words, instead of having to make a decision each time a scenario occurs, the decision has already been made and formalised into a policy.

A great example of this is a social media policy. What are staff allowed to say on social media?What is acceptable and unacceptable? Having a social media policy provides security for staff (they know what they are allowed to do), but also prevents the need to discuss every tweet before it is posted.

Policies are also great for resolving internal conflict. For example, having a policy for deciding what content appears on the site homepage can save a lot of conflict later. It moves the debate away from being subjective opinion to something more tangible.


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