Often when associations think of elevating their presence in the digital space, they focus on acquiring and maintaining the actual technology—from mobile to social media to cloud and beyond—rather than the strategy needed to transform an organization digitally.

But according to a July 2015 report by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte (“Strategy, Not Technology, Drives Digital Transformation”) it is strategy—not the technology—that will be key for organizations’ succees in the digital world.

While you won’t be able to take the digital leap without the required technological tools, the path to digital transformation must start with a strategy. Just as you wouldn’t take a road trip without some form of GPS, you don’t want to design a road map for your organization without incorporating digital strategy.

So what goes into a good digital strategy? Here are important considerations:

Support from leadership. In order for any major initiative to succeed, it must be championed from the top down. Leaders must set the organizational tone and culture that will allow digital efforts to flourish and innovation to thrive.

A clear focus on transformation. A digital strategy should not only focus on the needed technologies but should keep an eye toward the future. The MIT/Deloitte study found that while less digitally mature companies tend to focus on technology’s operational role, the most digitally mature organizations go beyond this to focus on transforming the business through technology. Any good digital strategy must have what the study’s authors call a “transformative vision” for innovation and decision making. It’s easy for associations to get bogged down by the day-to-day details of operations, but keeping your digital strategy’s scope and objectives forward thinking will give your organization a competitive edge.

No fear of failure. According to the MIT/Deloitte study, successful, digitally mature companies are more comfortable with taking risks than organizations with less digital maturity. One key factor that makes an organization less risk-averse, the study’s authors note, is a leader who is not afraid to fail. Further, more success is gained when these leaders transfer the notion of embracing failure to their employees so they, too, become less risk-averse. This is another area where leaders can set the tone.

An engaged—and skilled—workforce. Employee culture is often treated as an afterthought in business strategies, including those that involve IT. Successful organizations put culture front and center and are rewarded when it sets them above the competition. Research has shown that organizations with engaged cultures have a competitive advantage over those that do not. Organizations with successful digital strategies not only engage employees, but they ensure employees have the skills that are needed to turn digital aspirations into reality. A good digital strategy will outline what technologies are needed and ensure the workforce is trained in the required skills to implement those technologies. Are there skill gaps in your association that could be filled through training and development of talent?

Finally, associations must recognize that a digital strategy is an ongoing process. With a rapidly changing field like technology, priorities are likely to change—sometimes often. Smart organizations recognize this and adjust their digital strategies as needed over time to respond to the inevitable changes.

As your association begins its digital transformation journey, be sure to start with a good strategy. For assistance, call upon .orgSource, leaders in IT and digital strategies for more than 10 years.

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