Why don’t you share a digital strategy template?

By John Fitzgerald on 2nd Nov 2022

Quite a few of the charities we support with digital change ask for help with framing their digital strategy. Sometimes people ask us if we have a template for a digital strategy. I never share one, because a good strategy needs to be your own, not something off the shelf. But what would I put in a digital strategy? Here are some key ideas gleaned from talking to hundreds of organisations at all stages in their digital development.

Some key choices and questions

  • What stage are you at with digital? Are you looking for a basic starting point, or are you looking to optimise things that have already been in place for a while?
  • How ambitious do you want to be? Are you a small organisation with very limited capacity, or are you a larger organisation with a significant team and budget? What are organisations like yours achieving in terms of digital?
  • How much resource? This covers both financial budgets and the amount of time you have available. Do you have a dedicated digital team or will this work be fitted into other roles?
  • Over what timeframe? Digital technology moves very fast, so a 5-year digital strategy would be rather unwise. On the other hand if your strategy only covers 12 months you will have limited time to effect real change.
  • Stand-alone or embedded? Some organisations who are just getting started with digital can find it useful to write a dedicated digital strategy document. Other organisations who are at an ‘optimising’ stage may find it better to embed strategic digital goals into their wider strategy documents.
  • Organisation’s mission and type of work. Your digital strategy needs to be closely aligned to your organisation’s wider role and key goals. An advocacy organisation looking to raise awareness of an issue will have different digital challenges and priorities to a large service provider.
  • Organisational culture and ways of working. ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. How does change happen in your organisation? What helps your team feel inspired about change? A consultant I know often highlights the fact that ‘corporate’ documents with dozens of pages of numbered recommendations are often a poor fit for the sector. On the other hand, a strategy that is just hand-wavy aspirations may struggle to get traction.

Core themes any digital strategy needs to cover

  • User needs and social impact need to be front and centre. Who will be enabled to do what differently and why? What tangible differences will you see if your strategy succeeds?
  • You need to be an optimistic realist. Don’t settle for things as they are but remember that not everything will go to plan. A zero-risk strategy is almost certainly not ambitious enough.
  • Responsibility and accountability: who will do what, and how will you know that things are on track?
  • Be really clear on overall goals and intentions. A really clear overall story about what you are trying to do will help people understand what you are trying to achieve and will help your team set priorities and make choices.
  • Be flexible on specific work areas, especially where there are unknowns

Core topics within digital

Spoiler alert: you shouldn’t try to cover all of these areas. You’ll end up spreading yourself too thin and not achieving anything. This won’t be your last ever digital strategy, so it’s better to do a few key things well than try to do everything. You can use tools like an effort/value matrix to help you work out which areas need most investment and attention. And you can use a framework like a knowledge board to help you spot your riskiest assumptions.

  • User insight, learning and testing
    Using trends and insights to improve your services. Developing and running tests and sharing learning as you go.
  • Strategy and leadership
    Who ‘owns’ the strategy and who is backing it at a senior level? Are you modelling optimistic realism and openness to change?
  • Team culture, confidence and skills
    Draw on the strengths your team already has and look for ways to build capacity and confidence over the longer term. You want your team to become confident choosers, users and shapers of technology.
  • Audience, reach and profile
    Simply, who you are engaging with and how well your communications activity is performing.
  • User experience and service performance
    If people are doing things like booking appointments, using services or getting advice, what is their experience? How could it be improved?
  • Content, marketing and data
    What content are you delivering, how are you promoting it and what data are you gathering about how this is used?
  • Tools, technology and infrastructure
    What kind of technology (websites, IT systems, online platforms) do you have in place? What needs updating? How is it supported? Are your team able to do what they need to do with technology?
  • Cyber security, business resilience and data protection
    How do you keep the show on the road should the worst happen? A major data breach or a significant interruption to services. How do you take steps to prevent the worst happening?
  • Investment, procurement and key partnerships
    Have you got the right investment and budget in place to deliver the changes you need to see? How do you commission new technology? Do you have effective technology partners?

This post has covered a lot of ground but hopefully it will help you make progress with your digital strategy. If you’d like some more support, why not take SCVO’s free digital checkup? This gives you a valuable digital capability baseline and you can book a free 1-to-1 call to explore your next steps.