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Understanding the Differences Between a Digital Journey and Digital Strategy

May 19, 2022
Min Read
Woman across the table from 2 men talking

Deciding on a successful digital direction for your organization involves wading through many competing factors. What once passed for ‘normal’ now has changed due to societal and economical challenges, such as the pandemic, the “great resignation”, retirements, supply chain issues, and climate change. Given these ancillary factors, how can you create a resilient digital journey?

Breaking down the digital journey

Digital Readiness Assessment

For some, the ‘digital journey’ might be a fuzzy concept, but it is essentially understanding the steps one would take to get from where you are (As-Is environment) to the future (To-Be environment).

Not that digital journeys are not mild or easy. They are anything but mild. A digital journey encompasses the technical and non-technical resource changes you and your organization will make over time. While most traditional journeys have destinations, some organizations may reach milestones commemorating the completion of select feats.

Before we can talk about digital journeys and strategies, we need to discuss the relationship between the larger organization and the drivers for the digital designs of an organization.

Organizations likely have the following drivers that could shape or influence digital design:

  • Mission: What the organization does.
  • Vision: What the organization thinks it wants to look like in the future.
  • Objectives: What the organization wants to do to achieve its vision.

A digital journey works well when it aligns to the mission, vision, and objectives of the organization.

Where do you rank in digital readiness? Take this short survey to find out.

Why you need both a digital strategy and digital journey

Digital journeys, by their nature, include plans that require multiple quarters or years to complete. While some organizational objectives look far into the future or create B-HAGS (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), other organizational objectives may be adjusted annually or more frequently, creating potential for collision with digital journeys. Creating a digital strategy helps to avoid or reduce collisions.

To be clear, a digital strategy won't prevent collisions. The digital strategy identifies what the digital portion of the organization should focus on to accomplish the organization's long-term objectives and not on how to achieve those objectives. A digital strategy drives digital plans and if well designed and implemented, should drive other functions such as process, policy, and budgeting.

Two examples of digital strategy

Here are a few examples to better illustrate the Digital Strategy approach.

Example 1: Let's say your organization, as part of its digital strategy, requires a statement about 'value' when considering the purchase or acquisition of software or infrastructure.

When considering the purchase or adoption (if free) of new hardware or software, the rational for adoption should include the cost of the asset(s), implementation, integration, process changes, risks, labor, training, and go-live timing; as well as any other drivers (current asset is failing) and sunk-loss for existing assets.

Let's now say that the business has accepted this strategy and, the following year says, as a new objective they want the organization to "go to the cloud". If a digital strategy didn't exist, and a rational assessment like that above were presented how would it be viewed? It would probably be considered as a roadblock to the objective and create tension. If the digital strategy previously existed, how would the requested evaluation be viewed? It would more likely be considered as a part of the go-to-the-cloud process.

Example 2: Let's say you have identified cybersecurity as a functional area that will persist and will need to build a cybersecurity strategy.

You anticipate a number of threats will require a response during the coming year and, though you don't know their exact nature, you can estimate the resources needed to respond successfully. However, a few unknown or sizeable threats likely might materialize requiring a timely response. Amongst other elements of your strategy, you could identify a 20% contingency reserve to address this type of threat. Adding this type of request to a strategy that is subsequently reviewed and approved will likely lower budgeting friction when the cybersecurity team submits its request for an annual budget.

>>YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Top Cybersecurity Trends Driving Digital Transformation for Water Utilities

Defining the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of digital strategy

Digital strategy varies from organization to organization based on the functional areas identified. Assuming they are integrated, cogent and support the organizational mission-vision-objectives of the larger organizations, the digital strategies must also be examined for their effect on processes, policies, budgets, and existing and planned projects.  

Let me propose a second set of working definitions focused on 'what' and 'how' of the digital strategy and related plans:

  • Digital Strategy: A set of durable directives, tests, or obligations framed to guide functional or organizational decision making (‘what’ the organization intends to do) with respect to the digital environment. Digital strategy is designed to align with and reflect the mission-vision-objectives of the organization.
  • Plans: A set of defined steps with specific objectives and timing containing zero, one, or more projects aligned with the digital strategy. Plans reflect 'how' digital strategy is implemented.

Key takeaways on digital strategy

To summarize key takeaways on digital strategy:

  • Your strategy can be abstract but also operationally useful as suggested in the examples above. Digital strategy may change over time but is most useful if changes are written, rarely adjusted, and if a formal process exists to make changes.
  • If you are just starting out with developing a digital strategy, it might be useful to create a high-level strategy and refine it as you review your plans, policies, processes, and tune your digital journey.
  • Align your strategy with the organization's organizations mission-vision-objectives to optimize effectiveness and use it to assess the planning and positioning of projects on your digital journey roadmap

Want to dig deeper into digital journey and digital strategy?

Trinnex offers a free one-hour digital strategy workshop for utilities. Book a spot today before they run out.  

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Written by
Cliff Brandon, CBIP
Senior Management Specialist
Cliff has worked with mining, exploration, EPCM, utilities, & finance organizations on systems design, data, and analytics for 30 years.

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