Digital Strategy: Stakeholders

So many digital strategy documents, created with the very, very best of intentions, end up lonely, forlorn and forgotten. I hate that.

I long to see digital strategies being embedded and to show that digital activity in any size of business can be seen to be a revenue generator. 

Why is your digital strategy stuck in that drawer? Why isn't it embedded? There are so many reasons for that. In our experience, it's not really about the thinking, the legwork. We've seen challenging business goals, outstanding customer journeys, insightful content plans. And still, the drawer. And the common denominator for this is always the same. 


People don't feel ownership of the plan. It's been handed down from on high, the digital business goals seem arbitrary, the customer journey doesn't reflect their experience and the content plans seem pointless. And you can understand this. Plans work best if the people that need to implement and understand them can see themselves in them. This all comes down to stakeholder management. 

Poor stakeholder management is the number one reason that digital strategies fail. If you can't get people on board and bought into the strategy, they'll ignore it. They'll see the holes, they'll be able to know the road that's informed the decisions that inform the strategy. Without this insight, without creating digital advocates across your business, then your digital strategy won't flourish.

Why does poor stakeholder management raise its head time and time again? The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Sometimes it's felt that you can move quickly with a small, tight team. Other times, it's been developed by one person in marketing or IT and then handed down, like the digital ten commandments. We've even seen a digital strategy emailed out to an organisation, and it's considered "job done". Fast forward a few months and people are surprised, nay flabbergasted, that their well-intentioned plan is now consigned to the bin.

So how do you get buy-in? Here are the top tips:

1.    Diverse teams make for better strategies

It should go without saying, but digital is now beyond the scope of the IT or Marketing teams. Not one area of your company is untouched by digital so getting groups together from all functions within the business helps inject diverse and challenging thinking. It also starts to build advocates across the entire organisation which, in turn, breaks down silos that resist change. This is key to the ongoing adoption and success of the digital strategy. 

2.    You can't participate and facilitate

We've been in the room when a range of disciplines have been asked to participate in the creation of the digital strategy. We've then seen it all fall apart as the person running the workshop, either from IT or Marketing, is perceived to have a bias and that everyone's else participation in the session is just seen to be a tick box exercise. The way around that is to get a third party in to run these workshops. This means that every discipline feels that they're on an equal footing and can contribute. 

3.    Be open to stupid questions

Having a third party moderator for these initial sessions means that the burden of knowledge about your company is lifted. You then have the freedom to be asked those intelligently naive questions that can help uncover some real insights that can add value. If you have an internal moderator it's natural to fall into assumptions but this is the ideal time to challenge and to be challenged on the way things are and to find new, innovative ways to do things.

4.    Go for the small wins

People get excited about new strategies with new and improved ways of working. This excitement is a great motivator but sometimes needs to be carefully reigned in. We've been involved in projects where everything feels like a priority and everyone's energy is behind it. Then, as you get into the weeds, enthusiasm starts to flag, and the projects begin to die on the vine. Look at building success from small wins, acorns and all that. Yes, there is always pressure for results to be demonstrated, but it's best to take the long view than to burn out and fade away.

5.    Get ready to over-communicate

We like to start with a good size stakeholder group for the initial kickoffs, and then work with a smaller steering group on the day to day creation and implementation of the digital strategy. However, this doesn't mean that the initial stakeholder group should be forgotten about. Make sure that you're communicating with them on progress and on the certain sticking points that are going to arise on this journey. You may also want to hold monthly showcase meetings that keep the stakeholder group up to date on progress. This helps foster the sense of camaraderie and build advocacy across disciplines in this core team. Also have a plan in mind for communicating the digital strategy beyond the core team when you start implementing the digital strategy.

We get that the term "stakeholder management" isn't one that puts fire into your creative belly, but it's vital in not only getting your digital strategy in play.