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Digital Strategy

Ask your CEO, and they will say that your greatest asset is your people. Ask your marketing chief, and the answer will be your brand. And ask your CFO, your value is determined by your revenue or EBITDA. But is it possible that they may all be wrong… or may soon be? (Hint: how would your CIO answer?)

The profusion of systems has led to a bumper crop of data. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and all of the other social media sites track the beginning of the journey, while marketing automation tracks the latter part of it. CRM systems track prospect and client activity, while ERP systems track both “delivery” and financials. Other systems track post-sales service activity, while the organization’s websites (internet, extranet, and intranet) generate even more data. Finally, data can be shared from suppliers, clients, and other partners, or purchased from third parties to further enrich what you already have.

While the term big data has been around for a number of years already, the reality for most organizations is that they have a big data mess.  To begin extracting value from this asset, consider your organization’s data analytics maturity:

  • Level Zero: Does not collect data.  Relies on gut to make decisions. (And sporadic market research.)
  • Level I: Collects data within separate systems; reviews data sporadically.
  • Level II: Data architecture that combines and “relates” all of the data from the disparate systems, so that it can later be used. Data is cleansed, and duplicate records removed. (The reason all this happens is that a specific person has been assigned the role of data steward/master data manager.) Unfortunately, the data is not generally accessible, except through difficult programming or special requests.
  • Level III: Specific slices of the data are exposed in real-time for better decision-making. Each user role may have a different dashboard, depending on their responsibilities, while standard reports are used throughout the organization.
  • Level IV: The data is proactively plumbed for insights, risks, and opportunities, possibly with machine learning and artificial intelligence.  Internal and external data are married to provide higher order insights and competitive advantage.

Most organizations are at Level zero or I, yet aspire to Level IV without doing the heavy lifting required of Levels II and III. Building competitive advantage through data is just not possible without an investment in systems, an ongoing investment in data quality, and data analytics.

This week’s action plan:  What level are you at?  This week, begin the process of moving to the next level by socializing these concepts with your colleagues: share this Tipsheet to begin the conversation.

This year’s action plan: Systems and data quality are easy, but proactive data analytics is a skill most organizations do not have, and often, do not understand.  Over the next year, identify a person or group that can do this, either internally or externally.

Related post:  Data/Information/Intelligence.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)



Does the trend to digital mean that traditional communications are effectively… dead?  That all of your traditional communication tools (newsletters, magazines, brochures, booklets, etc) are destined for the trash heap?  One only needs to look at the sorry plight of the newspaper business to see that the future doesn’t look rosy. The world has changed.

Or have we so bought into the inevitability of technology that it has blinded us to what we are giving up?  And have we left many of our key target audiences frustrated, disengaged, or abandoned?  Consider your own behavior:

  • Do you really love receiving email blasts, or are you swimming in email overwhelm and rarely open everything sent to you?
  • Do you always remember the password to every website?  And are you super-enthused about keeping your accounts and profiles up-to-date?
  • Do you really engage in everyone else’s Facebook page, Tweet chats, LinkedIn groups, and other social media efforts, or are you generally indifferent to their efforts to engage you?  (Or maybe you actively choose not to use Facebook or other social media sites, for reasons of privacy.)
  • Do you really love using a mobile event app, or do actually prefer a printed program so you can easily write notes.  (And not worry if your smart phone runs out of power.)
  • And finally, has your vendors and partners rush to digital actually improved your relationship with them?

For many people, the answer to many of these questions, sadly, is no.  Digital is not the solution to every problem, and sometimes it creates completely new issues.

  • In the 1970s, the advent of computers heralded the age of the paperless office.  Today, we have more paper than ever.
  • In the 1980s, the advent of email heralded the end of traditional mail.  Today, 86% of all email traffic is spam (Cisco, 2016.)
  • In the mid-1990s, the advent of social media heralded the age of digital connection and personal empowerment.  Today, many are spooked by their loss of privacy.

Most sophisticated organizations understand it is the synthesis between digital and the real-world that creates connection and opportunity.  And for this reason, any digital initiative needs to be planned not just from an “implementation” perspective, but also a “process integration” perspective as well, with the key audiences at the center of every effort.

While today’s hot topic might be Digital Transformation with a capital D and capital T, some of the heavy lifting is surprisingly easy, and just plain common sense.  Consider the evolution of a simple monthly “print” newsletter or magazine:

  • Stage One – Traditional:  Print version sent via traditional mail.
  • Stage Two – Early Web:  Print version translated into an “e-zine” and blasted to everyone on the list.  (And posted on the website, sometimes as a PDF.)
  • Stage Three – Process Change:  Print version cancelled, and replaced with content delivered as individual blog posts, social links, and an email summary of the month’s posts.
  • Stage Four – Measurement and Awakening:  Hey, not many people are reading this stuff anymore, let alone “engaging” with it.
  • Stage Five – Audience-centered:  Continue as above, but blog posts repurposed into alternative formats.  This may include white papers, books, events, and other digital and non-digital formats.  (And it might also mean a print version sent via traditional mail.)

This week’s action plan:  Has your rush to digital been centered on the desire to reduce internal costs, the desire to be on the tech bandwagon (eg an event app, social media, a shiny new website) or on the requirements of your key audiences?  This week, go back five years, and re-look at the traditional communications that you no longer do.  Has anything been lost? (And if so, welcome to stage four.)

Marketing insights:   Stage Three – Process Change is special because it improves internal efficiency, in this case changing the editorial process from a batch mode to a continuous one.  Stage Four – Measurement and Awakening is important because it speaks to the importance of market research, measurement, and alignment.  Stage Five – Audience-centered is important because it puts the focus on delivering value to key audiences.  Digital Transformation is not about websites, mobile apps, or databases: it is about using these tools to achieve the benefits of Stage Three and Stage Five, with an always-on Stage Four.

 Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

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