Generate a digital vision to guide your strategy

by Ophelie Lechat
November 18, 2020

Every great company, not-for-profit or organisation acts in accordance with its values.

Sure, there are goals, targets and KPIs to hit, but the thing that gets its people out of bed in the morning is the overarching vision that brings purpose to what they do.

In their digital activities, though, this isn’t always the case. Making digital strategy work is a holistic, long-term concern, but leaders sometimes treat it like a collection of disparate operations. Over time, it’s easy to lose a sense of unity, and you end up with a bunch of systems or campaigns that don’t complement each other.

To prevent this from happening, you have to get back to basics and define your digital vision.

For an idea of what this means, think about a traditional company vision statement. It might be something simple like:

“Shaping the future of [group] by improving [something] and enabling [something else].”

A digital vision is a similar statement, but rather than representing the whole institution, it’s all about the intentions of your tech-enabled efforts.

What is a digital vision?

A digital vision is a short, punchy statement that declares your organisation’s digital aspirations. It can be a single sentence that summarises what you want digital to achieve for you.

Think of it as a ‘bumper sticker for your strategy’.

What a digital vision does for you is define what you want to get out of your digital strategy. You can then use it to guide the creation and execution of that strategy.

You might find creating one surprisingly easy. While it does take some careful consideration, it’s not an especially technical task. Remember, this is a super high-level statement that doesn’t need to go into detail about which exact tools and channels are going to be adopted. There’s no need for extensive digital knowledge either, at least during this initial part. It’s all about creating the idea of your organisation’s digital future.

Why should you create a digital vision?

A concise distillation of your digital ambitions, a vision statement is a guiding light for where you want your digital journey to go.

As an internal tool, it works to help those within the organisation remember why they’re doing what they do. It can work as a great bit of internal branding, too – a mantra that adorns communications around your digital projects to remind everyone what the goal is and what’s at stake.

But there’s a more practical side to a digital vision, too. It can act as a guide when building a strategy: a north star that helps you differentiate between important and frivolous ventures. When there are decisions to be made, it can help you prioritise which actions should be taken first. And it keeps you on track with resources, investment and time allocation, helping you achieve your vision by the stated time.

It can also work as an external branding asset. If your digital project is in the public eye in a significant way, your digital vision can complement your marketing activity and really sell your overall values and the future you’re hoping to build.

Australian not-for-profits and for-purpose companies haven’t always been comfortable with their digital transformation projects but a better sense of purpose can certainly point things in the right direction. It’s easy to declare intent and sign up for the latest shiny tool or marketing tactic, but without having a unified strategy for such projects you’re likely to waste time and money on activities that just don’t deliver results.

For those looking to hit the ground running with post-COVID digital success, a clear and purposeful vision is the first place to start.

How to create your digital vision

The process is actually pretty simple. There’s three main components to a digital vision: the why, the where, and the how. You need to define:

  • Why you exist – what’s your purpose? Who do you serve?

  • Where you want to be – by a certain date, what will success look like?

  • How you’ll get there – what’s the plan?

By figuring these out, it will equip you to distill the answers into a succinct statement:

By 2024, we’ll…

Depending on the size and age of your organisation, you might have to enter a period of introspection and conversation to arrive at the answer.

Once you have one or two candidates, take them through this simple checklist to make sure your final selection is up to scratch. You should make sure your digital vision:

  • Aligns to your overarching strategy

  • Is clear and memorable

  • Enables you to prioritise projects

  • Is time specific (when possible)

  • Is measurable

What to consider when setting a digital vision

Is every team on board with it?

Digital transformations and large projects can have a significant number of stakeholders. The digital vision you decide on could affect your executive team, your employees, your funders and supporters, and perhaps even society at large. As far as it’s reasonable to do so, have you involved them in the process? Consultation is a good idea at this point to make sure you’ll get stakeholder support.

Can you execute on its promises?

Even though it won’t contain much in the way of specifics, you do need to think about how capable you are of actually doing what it promises. While inspiring words like transforming, evolving or revolutionising might be vague enough to safely make it into a vision, it’s worth thinking about the future – looking back on things, will you be able to say you really did that?

Will it stand the test of time, even if the digital landscape evolves?

Things change quickly out there, and you don’t want to be left behind. Will your vision still sound relevant in a few years? This is why you should avoid including specific technologies unless you’re certain they’ll still be in play down the line.

Once you’ve gone through these checks, that’s about it! You should now have a statement of your digital vision that you can share with your employees, stakeholders and supporters.

After you’ve created your digital vision statement and your team is happy with it, the next step in building your strategy is to map out your customer journeys. Head to our customer journey mapping article to see how it works.

To learn more about vision setting, download our recent strategy webinar here.