Editor's PickForexWhat do digital strategy consultants do for business?

September 19, 2022

Learn about the key areas where an expert consultant can add value in the development of your organisation’s digital strategy.  

Every modern organisation needs a digital strategy – but how can you get help and advice to ensure your strategy is correct? A digital product consultancy such as London-based Elsewhen can provide valuable support during your digital strategy journey. Let’s look at some of the key areas where they can make a big difference to your success.

What is a digital strategy?

First, let’s clarify what we mean by digital strategy. Taking a strategic approach to the role of digital technology in your organisation is vital to deliver successful outcomes. The elements of your digital strategy will typically include:

Research into your market, customers and technology landscape
Definition of your digital vision – what your organisation wants to be
Implementation plan – how to deliver the required digital transformation
Definition of Jobs To Be Done – understanding user and customer needs
Solution architecture – mapping out a framework for your digital solutions
Service blueprint – visualising the elements and process of digital services
Roadmap – a phased timeline of your transformation journey
Key Performance indicators (KPIs) – measuring the value delivered
Financials – securing and managing budget for digital projects

Below, we consider in more detail how a digital strategy consultant supports specific key activities.

Building consensus and aligning stakeholders on your digital strategy

Your digital strategy consultant will help you create vital alignment on your digital strategy among internal stakeholders across your organisation. This may include C-suite executives, departmental leaders, team managers, and the wider workforce.

Even a small-scale digital project will impact a range of stakeholders – and for an enterprise-wide digital strategy, stakeholder alignment becomes far more complex. A good consultant will help you ensure that your stakeholders become enthusiastic enablers of the strategy, rather than resentful blockers to your progress. The data, processes and infrastructure needed for your strategy will reside in multiple domains across the organisation, so gaining stakeholder confidence and commitment is essential. Stakeholders can also contribute specialist strengths from their functional areas, such as project management, financial planning and resourcing.

Achieving this stakeholder alignment may seem like a major effort in the short-term – but cross-organisational collaboration will make the longer-term implementation of your strategy much more achievable and successful.

Your consultant will help stakeholders to understand that your digital strategy is not just an IT initiative. It is a business-critical activity that involves and benefits them – together with every other person and function in the organisation.

The consultant will understand the importance of involving stakeholders as early as possible in the process to gain their initial buy-in. Stakeholders will value the chance to have a say in the digital strategy discussion, and to input on the organisation’s digital vision and roadmap.

A consultant can also help you identify key stakeholders that you may not have considered, but whose involvement will be critical to your strategy’s success.

Discussions with stakeholders can be arranged by your strategy consultant in the form of group meetings, interviews, surveys, focus groups and workshops. In most organisations today, this is likely to happen mostly online. But the consultant won’t overlook the power of one-to-one conversations and real-world meetings in building stakeholder trust and engagement.

Your consultant will help you understand what motivates your stakeholders, and what they want from a digital strategy. They can also help you prioritise stakeholders in terms of their influence on the success of the strategy.

The consultant will help you maintain ongoing communication with stakeholders, potentially by involving them in strategic working groups – so they stay aligned and in the loop on strategy.

To support alignment further, your consultant can furnish you with hard data and evidence for the benefits of your digital strategy – overcoming stakeholder objections based on personal opinions or reluctance to change.

Helping you understand the needs of customers and users

Your organisation’s digital strategy must be based on how it enables you to better meet the needs of your customers. For a B2B organisation this can mean your external business customers. But it can also include your internal customers – employees that use the digital workplace tools and processes you provide.

Understanding the needs of these customers and users can be challenging. A digital strategy consultant can help you build a clear picture of these needs, through quantitative and qualitative research, interviews and surveys of users and customers.

The consultant may begin with a period of immersion in the user or customer environment to observe their needs, challenges and pain points at first-hand. They give you valuable outside perspective on the real needs, helping you see with a user-focused and customer-centric lens.

The consultant will collect, collate and analyse data and feedback from these customer engagements, synthesising them into actionable insights that will inform your strategy development.

An expert consultant will apply a proven methodology to identifying customer needs – such as the Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) framework. In this system, customer needs are analysed in terms of ‘jobs’ – the objectives or outcomes that a customer wants to achieve. You can then identify the customer needs associated with each objective, and consider how best to meet those needs. This is in contrast to the traditional business approach of starting with your existing products and services – and trying to make customers want them.

The consultant can help you categorise customers as job executor, benefactor or purchaser to meet their differing needs. They will also help you identify the different types of customer needs – not only core functional needs, but also emotional and financial needs.

This approach enables the consultant to help you identify which needs of your customers are currently unmet – and potentially to find new customers with unmet needs that you are well positioned to serve in future.

Researching and analysing the digital ecosystem

Your organisation and its digital strategy do not exist in a vacuum – they must succeed in a competitive landscape of other digitally-enabled businesses and fast-moving technology trends.

A digital strategy consultant can help you understand this dynamic digital ecosystem, in order to frame your strategy accordingly.

To build a robust business case for digital change, they can conduct detailed research into market sizing, customer segments, the competitor landscape, and possible market opportunities.

Your consultant may offer two main types of research to consider – primary and secondary research.

Primary or field research is where you conduct original research on your specific topic of interest, via focus groups, surveys, interviews and other methods. This can provide specific insights – but can be expensive and time-consuming. You also run the risk of asking the wrong questions.

Often, a better way to start is by asking your consultant to conduct secondary or desk research. As the name suggests, this involves gathering and analysing information already available online at a desk. This will come from a range of secondary sources, such as industry reports, survey results, case studies, institutional research, academic papers, and news articles.

While these sources may not be specific to your own digital strategy, your consultant can glean the relevant insights and collate these into helpful reports that highlight technology best practices and new digital business models.

Your consultant can also help you locate and gather data and reports that may already exist in your own organisation. These may provide insights on your current or previous digital business activity that has been overlooked – but can be of new value to your digital strategy.

Clarifying and evaluating the trade-offs of build vs buy

When it comes to the technology implementation of your digital strategy, you will be faced with the dilemma of whether to buy off-the-shelf solutions – or build your own from scratch.

Your digital strategy consultant can provide expert evaluation and recommendations on whether to build versus buy.

Choosing an existing product may be quick to implement and come with vendor support. But the licensing fees may be high – and the solution may be a sealed ‘black box’ with little or no scope to customise to your needs.

By contrast, building your own solution makes it tailored to your specific requirements, and saves cost on ongoing licensing. But your organisation may feel unsure about having the necessary in-house capability to develop and maintain this.

An expert consultant can advise on all aspects of your digital architecture, running a discovery and analysis process focused on helping you make the right technological choices. They can provide confidence on whether to build versus buy for each component or product, consulting with you on the trade-offs and relative risks before execution starts.

For each option, they will assess and apply due diligence on its desirability, feasibility and viability. They will consider potential pivots that might be required in the future, and take into account your time-to-market requirements.

An experienced consultant will often recommend an approach that is not simply one choice or the other – but a carefully considered combination across each technology aspect, to obtain the best of both models.

Streamlining delivery for your digital strategy

In conclusion, a digital strategy consultant plays a valuable role for your organisation as a provider of expert knowledge and outside perspective, a catalyst for achieving stakeholder alignment and teamwork – and a coordinator of value-driven delivery for your digital strategy.

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