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The blurring line between business strategy and digital strategy

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(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible)

It’s an age-old business debate: should technology drive business or business drive technology? In the past, a valid case could be made for either. However, as enterprises continue to embrace new tools and solutions to drive operational change, the lines between business strategy and digital strategy have become increasingly blurred. 

In a digital shift, accelerated by the pandemic, enterprises are increasingly reliant on technologies to perform the majority of business functions. From customer relationship management to financial accounting, technology plays a vital role in maximizing productivity and efficiency across all areas of the business.

And while digital transformation has been a key trend for many years now, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for fast-tracking this transformation. Many businesses are now overhauling legacy systems in favor of more agile solutions that can keep up with increased data volumes and offer businesses more valuable insights. As a result, many industries saw what would have been several years of digital transformation crammed into just one year – all driven out of pure necessity.

With this transformation has also come a shift in strategies, making it harder than ever to differentiate between business strategy and digital strategy. So, how can businesses ensure that they successfully merge these two elements while delivering the best experiences and continuing to survive in an increasingly competitive market?

A digital-first approach to business strategy 

Putting digital at the heart of business is an approach that has been rapidly adopted across numerous sectors. For industries such as banking and financial services, where modernization is already being embraced, Covid-19 has proven to be a catalyst to move and evolve even faster.  For other industries, such as manufacturing, business have been given the incentive to really get behind change. 

It is also worth considering the pivotal role of digital-native companies that are currently using this approach to set customer experience benchmarks across the board. Tech giants such as the likes of Apple, Netflix and Amazon have been well placed to more easily ‘ride the storm’ during the pandemic. They have grown revenue and even taking market share from their less digital-savvy competitors.

In banking, digital-only banks have felt relatively little disruption compared to traditional banks ¬, this is due to the fact that their customers are already content with having no option for in-person communication. The model of working was pandemic-proof in that regard.

Organizations such as these didn’t have to pivot their business model — they were already established as digital-first organizations, with agility and speed at the heart of their model. So, while ‘going digital’ was essential for survival in the short-term, there seems to be little incentive to return to business approaches as they were pre-pandemic. 

The ever-increasing role of the modern CIO

The pandemic has given even the most traditional industries a new appreciation of technology as a true enabler of business. Even during the most testing times, many companies were empowered to try new business models or pivot to new and unfamiliar ways of working, in order to retain their client base and ensure their survival. 

As a result, the influence and scope of CIOs has greatly increased across many organizations. This increase was born out of necessity during the last 18 months, putting CIOs firmly in the spotlight and under pressure to achieve new ways of working during the pandemic. The sudden need for employees to be able to do their jobs remotely, join meetings from home and collaborate from different corners of the country, or even the world, has all been made easier through innovative technologies put into place by these individuals. 

Although it’s encouraging that CIOs have largely led this shift in strategic digital transformation, things cannot be allowed to slip back to the way that they were now that we are moving towards more certainty in the future. If the last year and a half has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected and prepare for the worst. As such, business leaders and CIOs must continue to collaborate during every stage of their strategy planning to effectively define objectives and enablers that ensure business growth moving forward. 

Now much more visible in the boardroom than ever before, CIOs have a unique opportunity to put digital transformation firmly at the heart of their company’s decision-making processes. This goes beyond simply putting data at the center of everything and getting the right infrastructure in place. Moving forward, they have an opportunity to utilize their influence and drive real behavioral change within the company, as well as highlighting the need to converge business strategy and digital strategy.

Looking to the future 

While the future remains somewhat uncertain, businesses should be using the next few months to build upon the resilience created by the necessary digitalization steps taken during the pandemic and push forward with modernization efforts. This will allow businesses to successfully merge strategies for both digital and the business, seeing the benefits of a blended approach. 

This is going to require significant investment of both time and money into solutions, such as cloud and data, as well as more practical elements such as employee engagement. This will empower teams to drive the same successful approach that digital-native businesses do – delivering excellence to customers in this way will ensure success in the long term and significantly increase the resilience of the business.

Businesses today are looking to build and deliver seamless digital experiences that provide a frictionless journey and delight the end-user. And consumers are reluctant to except anything less. So, in such a competitive landscape, failure to do so can see businesses quickly being left behind. 

While technology is the backbone for these experiences, companies have to employ a clear strategy and vision to respond to evolving customer needs and market conditions. This requires a robust approach that leverages the latest technologies and delivers enhanced customer value. Selecting the right platforms, technologies, and solutions partner to support with this is vital in driving the right accountabilities and outcomes for the business as a whole.

Rajasekar Sukumar, European VP of global solutions company, Persistent Systems

Rajasekar Sukumar, European VP of global solutions company, Persistent Systems