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Are marketing and digital having a greater influence on coroprate strategy and its execution?

There can be little doubt that digital leaders within organisations are increasingly finding themselves charged with driving organisational transformation, growth and the development of capability, and are spending more time than ever working with the main boards of their businesses.

So what are the main barriers to securing the backing of senior staff for digital investment and initiatives, and what are the best practices for ensuring not only one-off approval but ongoing support from the C-Suite? 

The results of Econsultancy's new research into Securing Board Buy-in reveal both some key challenges but also some smart strategies for success.

Barriers to digital progress

Whilst legacy technology and systems remain the most significant barrier to digital progress, and the biggest headache for the C-Suite, it's clear that a failure to embrace digital at a senior level is no longer the issue for many practitioners interviewed for the report.

Much more commonplace, is the perceived shortfall in knowledge and understanding at C-Suite level needed to effectively prioritise different digital projects across the organisation with finite available resource.

Respondents described how digital projects can ‘hit a wall’ if a clear understanding of the potential benefits that the initiative can bring to the business is lacking.

The potential complexities of multichannel requirements, and involvement of multiple stakeholders and dependencies can complicate business cases, and since many digital initiatives within companies break new ground there is often a paucity of existing relevant data or case studies to support such business cases. 

That said, a number of those interviewed stressed the need for digital leads within companies to take responsibility for making compelling cases for digital investment in whichever ways resonate most with the board.

What are the key strategies for success in securing the support of your board?

Participants in our research noted the importance of developing a clear understanding of the composition of the board, the motivations of individual members and the potential champions for digital at the C-Suite level.

Mapping business cases to a strategic imperative for change that took account of both the top-down organisational priorities or strategy, and the bottom-up customer impact or benefit leads to a much greater chance of success.

Similarly, working in smarter ways with key stakeholders can help build trust, and pave the way to make potentially difficult meetings progress more smoothly. Respondents advised against falling into to the trap of using too much jargon and instead to focus on using a common language.

Test and learn approaches can be exteremely useful in mitigating risk, securing useful early data to help make compelling business cases, and some had even gone as far as developing basic prototypes which, in contrast to a dry powerpoint deck, had proved a very powerful way to bring concepts to life for senior management. 

A consistent piece of feedback from all those spoken to in the research however, was around how securing board engagement and buy-in was not a quick, one-off, painless process but rather part of an ongoing, and at times frustrating, journey.

Many talked of how important it is to find ways to bring the board with you on the digital transformation journey, to consider new decision making structures as a way to ensure continuous commitment, to celebrate success and to deploy multiple factors including data, competitive and customer intelligence, case studies and input from external partners in taking the board on that critical journey.

As one respondent put it:

Board buy-in is not a one off piece of work - it's a continuous process that you have to work at.

For a more detailed look at best practice, and for our ten-point checklist to securing board buy-in, download our Digital Transformation: Securing Board Buy-in Best Practice Guide.

From individual mentors for board members, to senior leadership strategy workshops, we're well versed in working with boards. We can help to establish strategy and drive engagement to ensure that your board is equipped to manage digital transformation. Get in touch today.

Neil Perkin

Published 20 November, 2013 by Neil Perkin

Neil Perkin is the founder of Only Dead Fish, and a consultant and contributor to Econsultancy. You can read his blog, and follow him on Twitter.

14 more posts from this author

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