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How to develop a bespoke digital strategy


For your company to succeed you must develop a bespoke digital strategy to complement its unique selling proposition (USP), write Jeanne W. Ross, Ina M. Sebastian and Cynthia M. Beath for MIT Sloan Management Review.

A clear digital strategy is vital to provide direction and enable you to manage your company’s digital efforts, track their progress and, if necessary, change course.

There are two types of digital strategy: a customer engagement strategy and a digitised solutions strategy. It is down to you to choose the strategy that fits with your company’s capabilities, MO and strategic goals.


The aim of a customer engagement strategy is to foster customer loyalty and trust. If successful, this strategy will allow you to identify opportunities to connect with your customers.

Kaiser Permanente, a not-for-profit healthcare provider based in Oakland, California, treats healthcare as a collaboration between itself and its members; technology is the glue that binds the provider-member relationship.

Here are the three key features of Kaiser Permanente’s customer engagement strategy:

  • Digital channels to connect patients with care delivery teams. Patients benefit from access to their personal health records, a secure messaging service and remote care.
  • Data analytics to improve care. Care delivery teams can ensure patients are following their treatment regimens and identify the most effective ways of promoting healthy behaviours.
  • Social media to build patient communities. Patients with similar needs and their families can communicate with each other, caregivers and physicians.


The aim of a digitised solutions strategy is to transform what a company is selling. If successful, this strategy will allow you to directly address customer problems and add value to your products.

Schindler Group, a manufacturer of elevators, escalators and moving walkways based in Ebikon, Switzerland, has utilised the internet of things (devices connected via the internet) to improve the quality of its products.

The company uses data collected from its products to achieve operational excellence, preventing equipment failure, optimising elevator routes and inspiring innovations such as a system that allows the efficient movement of people around a building by allowing visitors to bypass security through swiping their mobile phones.


You should choose to develop either a customer engagement strategy or a digitised solutions strategy, never both. The aim is to ensure that your employees are clear about your company’s priorities and to avoid different departments pursuing independent goals.

Choosing to focus on customer engagement does not mean you don’t care about your products. Similarly, choosing to focus on digitised solutions does not mean you regard your customers as unimportant. For example, Apple pursues a digitised solutions strategy to boost innovation; the product always comes first yet the company is known for its superlative customer service and army of loyal customers.


If your chosen strategy is going to work, you must first put in place what Ross, Sebastian and Beath describe as an “operational backbone”, a platform of capabilities that ensures the efficient operation of your company.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems are examples of attempts to implement these enterprise-wide capabilities. Common features of a strong operational backbone include a single source of financial, customer and product data, reliable supply chain processes, and shared services to ensure the efficiency of back-office operations.

But every company is different. For example, Kaiser Permanente’s electronic health records is at the root of its customer engagement digital strategy, while Schindler Group has supplemented the ERP system it put in place in 2005 with the data that feeds its digitised solutions strategy.

Before you put in place your digital strategy, you must fill any gaps in your company’s capabilities.


“To succeed in the digital economy, companies must offer a USP that is difficult for both established competitors and startups to replicate,” write Jeanne W. Ross, Ina M. Sebastian and Cynthia M. Beath. In order to build that unique offering and ensure the efficient running of your company, you need to develop a digital strategy designed specifically for your business.

Source Article: How To Develop A Great Digital Strategy
Author(s): Jeanne W. Ross, Ina M. Sebastian and Cynthia M. Beath