Creating a digital strategy roadmap

A good roadmap not only outlines what you want to achieve with digital, but sets out the detail of how you're going to get there.

 

by Liam Thomas24 January 2017

Many organisations approach digital ‘strategy’ like a game of Frogger – dealing with obstacles and grasping at faster, shinier things as they pop up. This, of course is not really ‘strategy’ at all. It’s a game of survival. Then there are those that have a vision of where they’d like to be with digital, but no solid plan of how to get there. This is where a digital roadmap comes into play.

A digital roadmap is a high-level blueprint for action that allows you to align digital initiatives with business objectives over the short, medium and longer-medium term. (You’ll notice I’ve deliberately avoided using the phrase ‘long term’ here, because any digital strategy that purports to be applicable beyond five years is probably kidding itself.)

A roadmap should essentially answer the following questions: Where do we want to get to with our digital channels? What are the major milestones between where we are now and where we want to be? What initiatives do we need to implement to achieve these milestones? What is each initiative going to cost? Where are the barriers and dependencies? How long is each initiative going to take? How do we measure ROI? What does success look like?

Of course, there will still be a need to factor in a certain amount of flexibility to allow for shifts in competitor landscape, the wider marketplace and other unpredictable influences, but a digital roadmap can mean the difference between a series of disjointed initiatives and a cohesive strategy that makes your business goals a reality. 

What’s an appropriate timeframe for a digital roadmap? 

This really depends on your objectives. If you’re looking at a digital campaign in isolation, your timeframe will obviously be shorter. For a broader organisational roadmap, three years is generally an appropriate period, with the greatest density of deliverables being in Year One. The more immediate the initiative, the more detail you will be able to provide. Initiatives to be delivered in Years Two and Three can be outlined more broadly, with the finer details to be fleshed out and adapted as time unfolds.

Your roadmap should also have built-in timeframes for review. It should be seen as a living plan that evolves as you implement and analyse, and should be updated periodically (ideally year on year for a three-year plan). Having a roadmap is about having an eye on the horizon – and getting prepared for it – without being a slave to a pre-determined agenda.

Defining your digital strategy

Before you can embark on creating your digital roadmap, you need to have a clear idea of the direction you want your digital strategy to take. In particular you need to determine what your business objectives are and a have ballpark idea of what you’re prepared to spend to achieve them. This is a process that needs to start with the input of your broader marketing team and C-level execs. You should take into consideration all of your digital assets, present and future (websites, apps etc) as well as all supporting digital marketing activities (e.g. email, mobile, social media, PPC).

Your digital strategy should fit within your broader business ecosystem, drawing on any other information you might have available, such as your marketing plan, business plan, SWOT analysis and KPIs.

Once you’ve locked down the nuts and bolts of your digital strategy, it’s a good idea to involve a digital agency to help you conduct a strategic review of where your existing digital strategy sits in comparison to the broader marketplace, and in relation to your competitors and consumer expectation. This stage of the process is typically led by a digital strategist (with the support of a team of specialists) who will be able to give you a solid idea of how much things are likely to cost and any dependencies that might affect the order of execution. 

This process tends to be very collaborative and involve multiple workshops with your team. It should be seen as a creative exercise, giving participants an opportunity to think broadly about what’s possible and to not be constrained by what’s been done before – including what has or hasn’t worked. 

Want to see what a digital roadmap looks like? Download a sample.

What to include in your roadmap

The two fundamental elements we typically include in our roadmaps are streams and initiatives. Streams represent your marketing objectives, and initiatives are the deliverables (e.g. ‘Create a campaign landing page’ might be the initiative and ‘Convert prospects to customers’ might be the objective). Objectives will obviously vary from one organisation to another but broadly speaking these are aligned with the stages of your customers’ journey (e.g. Awareness, Consideration, Conversion, Retention).

Initiatives can also be aligned to departmental streams, such as IT, HR ot Legal. This helps to conceptualise the necessary involvement of parts of the organisation other than the one driving the digital strategy (usually marketing). If a new technology platform is required, this would be aligned to the IT stream. Similarly, recruitment requirements would align with the HR stream.

Initiatives may share more than one stream but for the purposes of this exercise, each one should be assigned to a primary stream. For example, you may want to launch an e-newsletter (the initiative) to help with the twin objectives of customer retention and conversion (streams), however you might deem retention to be the primary stream.

How should the roadmap be structured?

There is no set-in-stone formula for structuring a roadmap but at Get Started we tend to use the following approach:

  1. Diagrammatic representation – a visual illustration of the roadmap with initiatives numbered and aligned to streams.
  2. Overview – outlining the purpose of the document, its internal custodian, version history and timeframe for review. This section should also provide a summary of the organisation’s digital strategy.
  3. Summary – a brief explanation of initiatives, split by years/milestone stages with an overview of the main aims of each year/stage at the beginning of each. Initiative descriptions outline the level of impact (low, medium or high) and any relevant dependencies.
  4. Detailed description of initiatives – a more detailed explanation of each initiative, divided according to relevant streams, including: a slightly more extensive description, current capability analysis, barriers (e.g. legacy systems), requirements that the initiative must meet, intended outcomes, success metrics/KPIs, sponsor (person responsible), resourcing (e.g. in-house or agency/external), and budget.

The aim of your digital roadmap should not be to create a ‘War and Peace’ style tome. You can have supporting documentation that provides further detail, but the roadmap itself should be a concise and high-level document that is easily accessible to anyone within your organisation. Having this simple and consistent reference point will not only keep your strategy on track, it’ll also provide the transparency and accountability you need to reassure your stakeholders that you’re not just launching Frogger-style into a random assortment of fast and shiny things. 

Download a sample Digital Strategy Roadmap.

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