Strategy made simple in a digital world

17 February 2016

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Author: Carlo Gagliardi, Partner, PwC UK

I’m an enthusiast. When I was young it was aeroplanes, then for years it was business strategy. Now, it’s digital. Though it would probably be more accurate to say that my second passion has morphed into my third - because these days, business strategy is digital. Or as we say in PwC, you no longer need a digital strategy, you need a business strategy for a digital age.

For companies that ‘get it’ with digital, it’s transforming not just what they do, but how they do it. Here’s a great example. In the old days, corporates spent huge amounts of time honing beautiful strategies before they went into execution mode, because that meant fewer expensive mistakes. Now, all that’s changing. Execution is taking place alongside strategy, making the process not just quicker but sharper. Doing it this way produces smarter, more market-driven ideas, which can be put in place fast. And that in turn buys you time, either to establish if you’re on the right track and make the most of it, or change tack before the competition catches up.  This is what we mean when we talk about the world being ‘in beta’.

PwC_Swiz_Zurich_R_MB_52So if you’re a CEO, what should you do? If I had one single piece of advice it would be this: think in breadth, as well as in depth. In other words, whatever challenge you face or opportunity you want to seize, do it with a team from across the organisation, not within functional silos. Challenge outdated assumptions about the disciplines.  For example, Marketing people have traditionally been frustrated with what they see as IT’s inability to deliver what they need quickly and simply. While IT professionals, forced to work with legacy systems, have tended to prioritise maintenance over innovation.  Those preconceptions need to be broken down, and a new more fluid collaboration forged in the middle. 

Digital professionals: they have the potential to build that bridge, by helping Marketing extract customer insights from social media, and ensuring IT links technology to the business strategy.  But digital isn’t the exclusive property of Digital people. You need to draw on the insights and energy of your younger ‘digital natives’, whatever their seniority, and whatever their formal job title.   And take this approach not just for the big strategic decisions, but for the day-to-day ones as well. 

I suspect that probably sounds both simple and terrifying at one and the same time. But that’s good. Because it means you get it, too. 

Carlo is a partner at PwC UK, in the strategy practice based in London. He's one of the firm’s thought leaders in the areas of customer centricity and customer experience, analytics, digital transformation, innovation, business model design and operating model design. Read more

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