You begin with asking five questions about your current digital state, says David D. DeLorenzo, CAE, chief information officer of DelCor—a digital strategy consulting firm—during .orgCommunity’s “Thirty on Thursday” webinar Aug. 25.

Here are key considerations for developing your association’s digital strategy:

  • Are we gathering information all the time from digital sources to make business decisions and improve members’ experiences?
  • Is the brand experience we create always available to our audiences?
  • Is the product or content we are developing intended for digital use, and perhaps later adapted for other channels (vs. the other way around)?
  • Are we dedicating the necessary resources to stay at the digital forefront?
  • Are we recruiting the talent that will be able to move the organization into an interactive “digital” future?

After assessing your current digital state, define your future state and identify pathways to achieve your future vision. In essence, create a digital strategy.

“Digital strategy is a decision-making process that aligns an organization’s vision, goals, opportunities, and activities in order to maximize the business benefits of digital initiatives,” DeLorenzo says. “Two tiers exist—organizational focus and member focus.”

Organizational focus includes: member intelligence, collaboration, new product exploration, sales and service optimization, enterprise technology architectures and processes, innovation and governance. Member focus encompasses: websites, mobile apps, communities, e-commerce, social media, and SEO.

Barriers to Digital Progress

The most significant challenges to digital progress in organizations, according to DeLorenzo, are: old technology products and ways of doing things, finding staff with the right digital skills, identifying correct priorities, and achieving senior management buy-in.

“I guarantee you don’t have one person that can do all this [manage security, digital learning, UX design, digital marketing, social media, digital infrastructure, analytics, SEO, e-commerce, digital publications]. Organizations need to think about skill recruitment or skill building to advance,” DeLorenzo says.

Digital skills needed today include internal, product and external technology knowledge.

  • Internal technology: social media monitoring, competitive intelligence, campaign management, marketing dashboards, SEO analysis, digital asset management, business intelligence, web analytics, CRM
  • Product technology (user communities, social features, digital products, user-generated content)
  • External technology (email marketing, website, mobile, personalization)

Digital engagement activities cannot be “siloed” into specific functional areas (e.g., marketing, IT, events, or communications) but should be deployed cross-functionally throughout the organization.

“Social and digital technologies should not be ‘owned’ solely by a specific group. Rather, they should be managed centrally by integrated teams collaborating with representative users from the organization,” DeLorenzo says.

Also, strong governance systems must be developed, implemented, and vigilantly maintained. The purpose of these controls is not to restrict or stifle behavior unnecessarily, but to liberate people to interact with each other using digital technology more efficiently and effectively.

In addition, the leadership of the organization has to be familiar with digital technologies and understand the implications of applications of digital trends. Such familiarity will enable you to set informed strategic directions from the top, and continue to allocate your resources adequately. Furthermore, the organization’s culture needs to reflect a strong appreciation for the strategic and tactical value of digital tools and technologies.

Finally, customer experience must always be top of mind. Review your taxonomy and enterprise-wide content to ensure it is persona-driven, gather and analyze data in order to continually improve, and conduct system-wide usability testing to reduce clicks and dead-ends.