What is the Difference Between an IT Strategy and a Digital Strategy?

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An Overview of What Makes an IT Strategy and a Digital Strategy Different

It can be easy to confuse IT (information technology) strategies and digital strategies. They both involve the use of technology, after all. However, they deal with very different — and important — aspects of a business. For a business to succeed, both a strong IT strategy and a strong digital strategy needs to be put into place.

Without a good IT strategy, your operations are going to be inefficient and vulnerable, while without a good digital strategy, you will have difficulty reaching customers over the long-term. The two are closely tied together. It won’t matter if you have an effective IT strategy if your digital strategy is ineffective, and vice versa. Because of how vital a role they play, it’s extremely important that you understand their differences, and how they affect one another.

What is an IT Strategy?

Your IT infrastructure is comprised of all the hardware, software, systems and processes your business depends on for its operations. One of the common mistakes businesses often make is thinking their IT strategy should just be based on their current business needs. While your IT infrastructure should certainly fulfill the current needs of your business, developing your IT strategy in such a way is far too limiting.

A strategy of any sort isn’t simply a plan that comes to completion at execution. A strategy is ongoing. This means that in order to work effectively, you need to align your IT strategy with your business strategy, not simply setting up your IT systems to meet current business needs. Essentially, this means when you develop your IT strategy, you need to take into account not just your business needs, but your business goals as well. Your IT strategy should be flexible and adaptable so that it can be adjusted and scaled as needed throughout the future.

What is a Digital Strategy?

An IT strategy focuses more on the internal aspects of your company’s technology, while a digital strategy is more customer facing. It’s all about how you plan to use technology to reach out to your audience, to make your brand discoverable  online, to engage with customers and more. The aim of your digital strategy should be to improve your company’s reputation, to increase awareness of your company and to boost customer relations — not to mention increasing your customer base and, thereby, your sales.

Just like IT strategies, your digital strategy should be aligned with your business strategy. This means using your long-term business goals to help inform your digital strategy, which is why some of the major components of a digital strategy typically include marketing and user experience. Some examples include setting up an eCommerce page, making sure your online platforms are mobile-friendly and easy to use, creating an email marketing campaign, maintaining a social media presence and implementing a content marketing strategy that addresses leads at every stage of the buyer’s journey.

Are They Related?

As technology rapidly evolves, operating in a company devoid of a technology roadmap often means that a company’s executives will not fully know how to leverage novel technologies in a way that can help the company gain an edge, or keep up with the competition. Thus, when executives don’t have a plan for how to integrate new technology into a business, or how to respond to unpredictable or disruptive technology, that is usually a sign it is time to craft a technology roadmap.

Because your IT strategy and digital strategy are quite different in that they have different goals and purposes — and deal with different parts of your company’s operation — they need to be treated as different strategies with different budgets. However, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t closely related. In fact, certain components of both strategies are likely to overlap. For example, the use of automation is something you will want to implement in both your IT strategy and your digital strategy.

Automation is something many businesses rely on as an important part of their IT strategy to improve the efficiency of their operations. It allows simple but time-consuming tasks to be done automatically, thereby allowing valuable resources to be allocated towards more pressing matters. Automation is often used in digital strategies across a variety of platforms. For example, emails can be automatically sent to leads that are triggered by specific actions, or content can be published automatically at specific times and on specific platforms.

It cannot be overemphasized that both strategies need to be aligned with your overall business strategy. You will also want to align your IT strategy with your digital strategy. This ensures that all of your strategies are organized and streamlined to help your company meet its business goals.

What are the Objectives of an IT Strategy?

Knowing what an IT strategy is and what it consists of won’t actually tell you what it’s supposed to accomplish. When implementing an IT strategy, the following should be some of the objectives that you’ll want to address:

Align Your IT Strategy With Your Business Strategy

To align your IT strategy with your business strategy, communication is key.  You will need to speak with every department in your company to find out what their needs are. Use these needs to inform your strategy. For example, your marketing team will need access to customer data to inform their efforts. You’ll want to make sure that they have easy access to data that is organized and easy to analyze, something that will depend on the effectiveness of your IT systems.

As part of your strategy, you should also set benchmarks that are aligned with your business requirements to measure the success of your IT infrastructure. Lastly, carefully think about where your business will be and where it’s headed over the next five or ten years so that you can implement an IT strategy that won’t become outdated and will be flexible to your changing business needs.

Create a Modernized IT Infrastructure

Modernizing your IT infrastructure is all about improving it’s efficiency, reliability, and flexibility. For example, developing common management tools and processes that can be used throughout the company so that everyone is on the same page, will help boost efficiency. Additionally, you’ll want your infrastructure to not only support the needs of everyone working at your company, but to meet the future needs of your company as it grows.

For example, if you were to expand, you’ll likely take on more employees. Your IT systems will need to be able to handle the addition of new users. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to invest in more hardware and more cloud space immediately , but it does mean that you’ll want to ensure your IT infrastructure is scalable.

Make Sure That Your IT Infrastructure is Secure

Any business that uses any type of IT systems is going to be vulnerable to potential data loss, data theft or cyber attacks in general. It’s why implementing IT security measures is so vital to putting together a successful IT strategy. Not only does this mean installing and updating antivirus software and network firewall protection as well as implementing a backup system, but also implementing security protocols.

You’ll need to establish data transfer policies, simple security guidelines (such as the use of passwords and rules regarding access to company data on approved devices), mobile use policies, vendor access guidelines, and more. Your employees will need to be trained to use your IT systems in a safe and secure manner. Additionally, you’ll want to schedule regular testing to identify any potential vulnerabilities in your IT systems so that you can address them right away. Security protocols should be put into place from day one should your IT systems experience a data breach.

Implement IT That Will Reduce Costs and Improve Profitability

Finally, you’ll want to implement IT that will help to minimize operational costs and that will improve your company’s ability to make profits. For example, the use of automation software can help free up valuable time that employees can dedicate to other tasks. This means that instead of paying an employee to do an easy but time-consuming task, that task can be done automatically, allowing that employee to focus on something to improve company profits.

Another potential way to reduce costs is to move your IT infrastructure to the cloud. A third-party cloud service can securely host and backup all of your company’s data and software, which means you don’t have to invest in as much hardware to maintain your systems on-site. In fact, this will also reduce energy costs and maintenance costs.

What Are the Objectives of a Digital Strategy?

Although your digital strategy focuses on different aspects of your business than your IT strategy, you’re going to find that some of the overall objectives will be very similar. The following are some of the objectives to keep in mind when building your digital strategy:

Align Your Digital Strategy With Your Business Strategy

Because your digital strategy is more focused on the customer-facing aspects of your business, it’s much more heavily dependent on your business strategy. If you don’t align your digital strategy with your business strategy, neither will be effective. For example, if one of your business goals is to reach a certain number of sales by the end of the year, you’ll need to implement a digital strategy that will help generate and capture more leads in order to expand your customer base as well as to increase awareness of your product offerings.

Because of how closely your digital strategy is tied together with your business strategy, you will also want to use relevant key performance indicators from your business strategy in order to measure your digital strategy’s success and to make adjustments accordingly.

Consider the Future

Present day business goals should not be the only focus of your digital strategy. It’s extremely important to consider the future as well. This means considering where your business will be within the next five years and whether your digital strategy will be able to support your business needs at that point in time.

Additionally, you’ll need to consider the changing digital landscape as well as the changing needs of your customers. As new technology develops, customers will no doubt have different needs they will want to be met in different ways. Businesses will have no choice but to implement different tactics to reach their audiences or risk falling behind the competition. As a result, you’ll want your digital strategy to have the flexibility required to keep up with a constantly evolving digital environment.

Consider That Which Can be Digitized

Take a close look at your business model and your marketing strategy to discover if anything can be digitized to the benefit your business strategy. For example, if your business offers a service and not a product, you might not have an eCommerce page. However, you could digitize your payment system so that customers can pay for services more conveniently. For instance, a customer could pay for a landscaping service at the time the scheduled service has been completed by paying through a linked credit card or other payment options on a mobile app.

With the explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT) over the past few years, almost everything can be digitized in one way or another, which means when you develop your digital strategy, you should carefully evaluate your business to figure out where digitization can benefit you.

Aligning Strategies

Both your IT strategy and your digital strategy are essential to the operations and success of your business. They also depend on and inform your business strategy. As a result, while each should be considered a separate strategy with separate goals, they should all be aligned with one another. Doing so will help create a more balanced and integrated overall business strategy and will help to ensure that while your strategies may overlap, they will not conflict with each other.