Follow the business strategy

Many years ago an experienced consultant was telling me about a company who was asking for his help. “They told me they wanted to develop a digital strategy. But they don’t need a digital strategy,” he said, “They need a business strategy.”

I’ve always remembered this distinction between a business strategy and a more localised, departmental or funcational strategy.

Personally, I don’t hear too much about digital strategies these days, but I do speak to a lot of people who have plans for their technology base and their products. Often they use the word strategy. And in all these situations I have a model in my head that looks like this:

It’s good to have a product strategy and a technology strategy, but they must both be driven by an overarching business strategy. The executive team needs to set the business strategy, and this informs the product team and the technology team as to what direction they should go in.

Meanwhile the product strategy and the technology strategy should support each other. This shouldn’t be too difficult—after all, they are both derived from the same source.

There’s another, implicit, message in all of this, too: If there isn’t a business strategy that people understand then it’s very difficult to align the product and technology strategies, and it’s near-impossible to ensure they’re helping the organisation to move in the right direction.

But with this in place it should mean the product and technology functions are working in the same direction and supporting each other over the medium and long term. And it should also ensure both are aligned with the overall direction of the organisation.

3 thoughts on “Follow the business strategy

  1. Ha. You’re asking me to guess about a conversation with a company that I wasn’t involved in. But if I was to guess I’d say “A strategy to respond to the digital challenges that we see taking place in our market”.

    And if you further ask what “digital” means, then I couldn’t do better than to refer you to an old blog post from the Co-operative digital team at – “Applying the culture, practices, processes & technologies of the Internet-era to respond to people’s raised expectations.”

    If I’m roughly right about that definition of “digital strategy” then it doesn’t make much sense without a wider business strategy.

  2. Interesting to see (or Google) that everyone has a different definition, if one at all. Clearly a ‘management poetry’ or ‘management ‘b…t’ word.
    I grew up in digital electronic design since the 70s, so to me it means something different as well.

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