Three years of research consistently highlights the single biggest predictor of a company’s digital maturity as the existence of a clear and coherent digital strategy. In 2015, MIT Sloan Management Review’s collaborative research with Deloitte found that more than 80% of respondents who rated their companies as digitally maturing said that their organizations had a clear and coherent digital strategy, a sentiment felt by less than 20% of respondents from less digitally mature companies.
Given the central importance of strategy to digital maturity, you may be surprised to learn that this article is not going to help you or your company develop a digital strategy. Developing an effective digital strategy is something that must be tailored to the organization and involves a careful assessment of the competitive environment, your organization’s capabilities and resources, the state of relevant technology, and a host of other possible variables.
Entire books have been written on particular types of digital strategies, and many of these are quite good. For example, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee offer a nice treatment of how large companies are using digital to gain strategic advantage. David Rogers of Columbia University penned a volume on how leaders should update their thinking for a digital age. Marshall Van Alstyne and his colleagues wrote a book just for strategies for platform businesses. I can even recommend my colleague John Gallaugher’s textbook as perhaps the most consistently up-to-date discussion of digital strategy out there — he updates the material yearly.
Given the diversity represented in these texts alone, there are likely many different digital strategies that may be effective in a given setting. Digital tools can be used in many different “right” — and surprising — ways to add value to an organization.
Despite the many differences between the nature of digital strategy at digitally maturing companies, our research demonstrates that these strategies still share a number of common characteristics.