Organizations that have no relevant strategy for the online world are in love with technology and content for its own sake.
Many organizations want a mobile app. They don’t know why but everyone else has one so they must have one too. They want to buy a new content management system because they believe buying technology will automatically make things better. Every couple of years they go through a "redesign" where they graphically change the first couple of levels of the website but leave the deeper levels alone. They focus on formats and channels and actions. They talk about how they need more video, more content, how they need to be on Twitter or Facebook.
Michael Porter, a pioneer in thinking on strategy, has talked about how strategy is often confused with a particular action. “My strategy is to outsource” is not a strategy according to Porter. The activity (outsourcing) is what results from a strategy. Creating more content is not a strategy. Why did you create it? What for?
Porter also states that we often confuse strategy with goals. It is not a strategy to be number one in your market. That is a goal. A strategy is about what you are going to do to become number one -- and stay there.
Nor is strategy about having a vision; it’s about implementing one. According to Porter, “the core idea of strategy is to provide an overarching view on how a particular company is going to succeed in the marketplace.”
According to Roger Martin, strategy is really a “mindset” that views “business life as not entirely random; stochastic but not random. While it may be absolutely necessary to revisit and revise choices more often than convenient, the assumption holds that effortful, determined, revisable strategy is better than simply letting happen whatever will happen.”
Strategy is about trying to take control and trying to win. Strategy is about trying to predict the future or at least enough of that future that will give you a competitive advantage. Strategy is about being specific. It is about helping you get from A to C by doing B. It’s about putting your cards on the table, placing your bets.
More than choosing what to do, it is about choosing what NOT to do. Because today, more than ever, there are far more things that you could do -- but shouldn’t. These things distract and create complexity. They take valuable time and resources away from what really matters. Strategy is about understanding what really matters and acting on it.
According to Ken Favaro, a senior partner at Booz & Company, strategy is about answering the following questions:
- What business or businesses should you be in?
- How do you add value to your businesses?
- Who are the target customers for your businesses?
- What are your value propositions to those target customers?
- What capabilities are essential to adding value to your businesses and differentiating their value propositions?
You don’t need an online strategy. Online is too important for that. You need the online world (the Web, the Internet) -- call it what you like -- to seep into every aspect of your strategic thinking. Online changes the game. Online changes the playing field. Strategy needs to change because of online.