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A new year is a great opportunity to pause and take stock. It is a chance to look at how your digital offering evolved over the last year and what opportunities are ahead for 2013. 

First, lets look back at last year. How much of your time was spent actively planning the future of your site as opposed to reacting to circumstances and requests for change? Did your digital strategy have clear leadership or was it shaped by events?

What about this coming year? Do you have a clear roadmap for development over the next year? Are things on that roadmap because they will help achieve clear business objectives? How are you going to measure the success or otherwise of your roadmap?

Finally do you have staff in place, not only for the ongoing management of your site, but to think and plan strategically over the long term?

A lack of strategic thinking

When it comes to digital the majority of companies are more reactive than strategic. They have a problem managing content so they decide to implement a CMS. They see the emergence of a new social network and so they jump on board. The competition launch a new design and so a redesign project is initiated.

Don’t let 2013 continue in this pattern. If you have a roadmap for development in place revisit it. Ask why each item is on that roadmap. Was it there as a reaction to circumstances or because there is a clearly defined business benefit for doing it?

Also make sure each item on your roadmap has associated objectives that can be measured. If items fail you need to know this so you can adapt your strategy.

But the web is too fast moving

One argument against this kind of strategic thinking is that the web moves too fast. There is no point in creating a long term roadmap or even thinking strategically. All you can do is react to circumstances.

This is a weak argument. Yes, it is true the web changes at a phenomenal rate but that is more reason to think strategically and not purely reactively. Anyway, strategic thinking is unaffected by the rapid speed of change online.

It asks questions like:

  • How does digital fit into our broader business objectives?

  • What are the key performance indicators for digital?

  • What processes and procedures do we need in place to manage the rapidly changing digital landscape?

  • How does our organisational structure need to alter to better integrate digital?

  • What are the roles and responsibilities necessary to implement a digital strategy?

  • How can we constantly test our digital assets to improve them and ensure we are leaders in our sector?

These kinds of questions are relevant even if Facebook is surpassed by a new network, or everybody starts viewing web pages on their TV because Apple release a new device.

Reactive has its place

Being reactive does have its place. If a new technology or opportunity does emerge the fastest to market can often win. However, the ability to do that is dependant on having a good strategy in place.

Also not every new innovation will be beneficial to you. How do you distinguish the good from the bad? This requires a set of criteria against which to judge, and these are found in a good digital strategy.

The message here is a simple; before launching into 2013 make sure you have the strategic thinking in place. If internal politics make this hard get external help. If senior management don’t see the need, educate them.

But, whatever you do, don’t spend 2013 mindlessly reacting to circumstances.

Paul Boag

Published 14 January, 2013 by Paul Boag

Digital Strategist Paul Boag is the author of Digital Adaptation and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or his personal blog Boagworld.

28 more posts from this author

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