Imagine leading a team of talented players without a playbook. That’s the daunting challenge organizations face when they need a clear organizational-level digital strategy. With the rise of AI-driven analytics and the current trend of data-centric campaigns, navigating the digital realm without a strategy is akin to sailing without a compass.
I put the 3 Pillars of Organizational Digital Strategy concept out there for organizations to consider. I was frustrated that organizations weren’t intentionally building their programs with a holistic view. I saw a consistent pattern emerge of three barriers to actual organizational-level digital growth: strategy, capacity, and infrastructure. But I’ve never been just a venter, and I like to take action and make the world better, probably just like you.
Pillars of Digital Marketing are plenty in the world of commercial marketing. But corporate marketing leaves the human element out of their strategy, and we know the human element is critically vital to social good organizations.
That’s why I’m putting in more work to ensure every organization thinks about the 3 Pillars of Organizational Digital Strategy.
3 Pillars of Organizational Digital Strategy: Strategy, Capacity, and Infrastructure.
Effective strategy must come from organizational leadership or trusted digital and tech consultants who understand your goals and resources. Not just short-term goals for a campaign or period but what it is the organization is working to change in the world.
Consistently, I see people in leadership positions make assumptions about digital that they wouldn’t make in other fields they don’t know well. A leadership-level strategy is necessary to maximize the capacity and infrastructure that you do have and develop what you need.
For example, with the best email list and creative team, you need a good strategy to link to real-world goals to ensure high outcomes. Without this strategy, results could fall somewhere between meaningless and low engagement. Emails will drive some engagement, donations, and meet some goals, but you’ll never have the maximum potential. But even worse, a lack of strategy means you’ll never make solid decisions about your capacity or digital infrastructure.
Lack of strategy leads to questions like: Is digital worth it? Just look around; companies and organizations that get digital are thriving. Those who get it succeed the most.
- Invest in professional development for your leadership team to better understand digital so they are making holistic decisions with your digital staff. Invest in professional development for digital staff. Digital strategy changes constantly, and no organization can know it all without getting outside knowledge. Invest in professional development for people who aren’t explicitly doing digital work. Digital touches the work of everyone in communications, fundraising, service campaigners, issue campaigners, people offering services, and really most roles.
- Invest in outside support and mentoring for your digital staff.
- It is essential to understand that junior staff in creative support roles can’t deliver senior-level digital strategy.
Digital capacity is the human ability to deliver on the digital strategy your organization creates. Capacity comes from internal staff who can do the work, the team with the proper skills, and the outside support your organization brings to help you achieve your goals.
We are looking at a continued shortage of capable digital folks with content, web development, design, social media, etc. skills. Part of the shortage is burnout. When I wrote this part 5 years ago, this was true. Sadly, this is true today: Weekly, I hear from staffers whose managers and leaders are asking to take on too many projects and work on items outside their skill set. Too often, organizational leaders need to gain the knowledge to make decisions about digital strategy. But currently, many leaders are making decisions that are misaligned with their staff and capacity.
These misaligned decisions lead to staff being unable to achieve goals or working constantly fatigued. Too many organizations have too few people doing the work, and too often, the work isn’t decentralized. Another way to say it is that you need to become a more modern organization. The hope a few people will fill the gaps in digital strategy and deliver on big projects; the truth is they won’t. When you develop great plans and start to understand digital tactics’ nuanced complications, you realize that if you aren’t building capacity, it won’t mean anything.
As your organization moves in a more strategic digital direction, here are capacity items you’ll want to think about:
- Develop a system that retains and mentors good staff with the necessary skills and strategy.
- Build human systems where current staff bring more digital work into their roles.
- Develop the internal knowledge to make informed decisions about more staff capacity or bringing in an agency or contractors—the ability to develop the capacity that meets your organization’s goals, resources, and infrastructure.
I nfrastructure is the piece that gets set aside as a magical thing that happens. Infrastructure is how we bring our strategy to life with our capacity.
When we are talking about digital infrastructure, it’s items like:
- Your email and SMS tools.
- Your website and all the applications that power it.
- Your actual email list ( the how you reach people ).
- How your content and approvals move through your organization.
- Your partners and influencers that help you reach people.
Infrastructure is all of the unshiny parts of digital work. But leaders and your board need to start thinking about it as sexy. Your organization will thrive when decision-makers want to know the actual numbers of your email list and site traffic. Because if you link up the right strategy and capacity, they should know where the infrastructure problems are… but you can’t fix them overnight. And you need to start now.
Changing your CRM can take many months, if not half a year. Even a good audit and work with an analyst can take months. Website overhauls can take months to a year. I’ve seen plenty of organizations talk about their website needs years ago. They still haven’t found the capacity to rebuild, which usually hurts them. It is hurting your organization’s goals and the people you intend to help.
Just like physical infrastructure, digital infrastructure still needs to be done, and it is an ongoing labor of love. You’ll forever need to replace office chairs, change meeting rooms, upgrade or replace whiteboards, etc. Here are some key elements you’ll need to think about:
- How do you assess your current digital infrastructure?
- With the infrastructure you have now, can you truly meet your goals?
- What roadmaps to future digital infrastructure will you need to build a modern organization?
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