You Need a Digital Strategy (Part 2): 5 Key Steps for Creating Your Strategy

By Bob Latino

July 15, 2021

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Articles

In our last post, we discussed why you need a digital strategy. Now, let’s talk about what it takes to create one. 

While there are many forms a  plan can take, I believe there are 5 key elements to  any successful digital strategy.

1. Facilitated discovery meeting

Before anything else, it’s important to set time aside to review and analyze your company, plant, or site. Depending on the size and complexity of your company, the amount of time needed to do this will vary. Generally, a  2-4 hour meeting  is what you should budget for as it keeps everyone focused.

Invite  your managers or executive team to the meeting to complete this assessment. It’s necessary to have decision makers and key stakeholders in the room, so that they can hear, challenge, and provide input to the strategy they’ll soon be accountable for executing.

A discovery meeting is all about honest, clear, simple articulation of your operation’s facts. You should ask hard and straightforward questions that reveal clear business answers. 

This is not an exercise to uncover “‘why things are the way they are;” rather, it is about grabbing a snapshot in time of how things sit today. While you should still include the context surrounding the company’s facts, this assessment is less like a documentary movie and more like a still photo. 

I also recommend enlisting a third-party facilitator. An internal stakeholder could chair the meeting; however, it may be challenging for that person to solicit open and honest answers to tough questions if they are the boss, or if they have a vested interest in keeping things the way that they are. An external facilitator improves both the discovery process and the final product by leading discussion in the key areas of the business and incorporating feedback from everyone.

2. Qualitative review of digital initiatives

So, what facts are you discovering in this meeting? You’ll want to find two things:

  1. The overall health of your company/plant/site 
  2. Your current digital initiatives

To review your overall company health, you’ll want to consider the past year’s accomplishments and current year’s goals. Take time to examine: 

  •  a review of key success criteria and metrics
  • an analysis of key growth statistics such as number of engineers, product volume, revenue, and profitability
  • a high-level examination of your asset performance,  including a basic pareto to see where improvement opportunities exist 
  • an evaluation of your costs, especially those relating to technology 

To review your current digital initiatives, there are several methods you could use. My personal favorite is the “7 Practices” framework, which we developed specifically for the digital strategy discovery process. 

While another post will detail this framework, overall, in this step, you’ll want to look at: 

  • digital strategies and performance in your machines and processes
  • the software and tools you and your engineers use
  • your ability to track and measure the impact of digital technology on production
  •  how effectively you’re equipping and training your reliability engineers to succeed in a digital world

In taking a measured approach to reviewing your current initiatives, you’ll emerge with a clear picture of where the greatest opportunities for improvement are within your company or plant.

3. Quantitative analysis of your performance, productivity, and profitability

Steps 2 and 3 are basically two sides of the same coin. You’ll gain qualitative insights by reviewing your digital initiatives, but you’ll also need quantitative facts as a baseline to accurately measure the impact of new digital initiatives over time. There are a number of ways to do this.

Start by creating an operating model of your company or site complete with key variables, such as engineers, teams, machines, processes, revenue, number of products, etc. With those specifics, you can begin analyzing the impact of your current technology and asset performance  initiatives. Perhaps most importantly, you can connect your current initiatives with your goals of increasing uptime, improving efficiency, expanding output, and providing a safe and secure environment.

I also think doing a long-term deep dive into how your engineers and machines are using digital tools is particularly helpful. By analyzing these tools at a detailed level over time, you’re able to identify patterns, variations in quality, and possible inconsistencies or problems. This gives you a ground-level understanding of your site as opposed to an aerial view. 

Ultimately, the goal of a quantitative analysis isn’t to follow a particular methodology; it’s to emerge with a clear picture of your performance, productivity, and profitability. 

What currently impacts the bottom line? What changes can you make and what impact should they have

4. Initial digital strategy report

Once you’ve done the hard work of steps 1 through 3 in your team meeting, you’ll want to invest the time to pull all of those insights together into a report. In essence, those first steps were like finding the recipe, buying the ingredients, and measuring everything out. Now you need to bake the cake!

There are many styles and forms a digital strategy report can take. I’m partial to presentations, but others are equally comfortable with a text document, a white board outline, or even index cards. The point isn’t how you present  your ideas but to simply create  a compelling and actionable digital strategy.

In your report, you’ll want to:

  • summarize the high-level observations, goals, and challenges of your company (from Steps 2-3)
  • explain in fuller detail the key initiatives you plan to pursue
  • model the expected operational, financial and business impact of those initiatives
  • create an implementation timeline that details how and when you plan to execute on your strategy 

For your implementation strategy, I highly recommend a phased plan – perhaps over several quarters or years – as experience shows the steady tortoise usually beats the quixotic hare.

5. Final digital strategy

After creating the first draft of your digital strategy, present it to the same team from your discovery meeting for review.  We have found that when your teammates see their own input in a new strategy, they take greater ownership of promoting and implementing it. 

Use this time to get their suggestions for and approval of the plan. Often, presenting a thorough analysis of your organization or plant triggers additional ideas and energy. Perhaps you initially overlooked an important area. Maybe there isn’t as much energy and enthusiasm around a particular recommendation. You’ll want to ensure your team has another chance to review it before the paint dries.

Once you incorporate additional feedback from the group, you’ll have a digital strategy. Then, it’s time to implement it!

Quarterly Review

I just shared 5 key components or steps to creating a digital strategy. I also want to mention the benefits of a quarterly review. Now, while a quarterly review isn’t necessary for creating a strategy, it does help in implementation and course correction along the way. 

The good news is that a quarterly review requires far less effort than creating the initial digital strategy. Essentially, in your quarterly review you will look at the digital initiatives you decided to pursue and evaluate your current progress against them.

  • Have you implemented the initiative(s)?
  • If so, what are the results?
  • Do you need to make changes?
  • If so, what are the changes and what are your new targets?

By reviewing quarterly, you’ll protect the investments you’re making and ensure continuous improvement. 

Want help with a digital strategy study?

We’d like to see every company, plant, and site create a digital strategy. We believe it’s the most important first step in navigating the digital landscape today. In these articles, I’ve given a brief overview of the process and how you can achieve it on your own team. 

However, the Reliability Center offers a  professional and detailed facilitation of the digital strategy process and has led numerous companies through it. 

We follow the same process I’ve outlined in this post but add our professional analysis of your current company practices and our recommendations for digital initiatives. We facilitate a discovery meeting,  do a qualitative review of your company’s facts, and then a quantitative review to understand your future opportunities.

We implement our “7 Practices” framework that we’ve refined over our nearly twenty years of experience. The principles in this framework are based on thousands of conversations, learning from mistakes, and constantly striving to deliver the best solutions and results to companies, teams, and sites. 

After we create your personal digital strategy, we meet with you and your team again to review. Based on your input, we then finalize the strategy and implementation begins. We are also available for quarterly review meetings to measure how your progress is tracking against your goals.

Apply now for a digital strategy study

Set up a call with us today if you are interested in hosting  a digital strategy study with the Reliability Center. We are looking to partner with forward-thinking, innovative leaders and welcome the opportunity to help you thrive in this digital world.  

Let’s partner to make this world a more reliable place. 


About the Author

Sebastian Traeger is the Managing Director of Reliability Center, Inc. (RCI).

Sebastian brings a background in technology, business and executive leadership to RCI. He has spearheaded the effort to bring digital revolution to RCI and the PROACT® RCA methodology through EasyRCA. EasyRCA is a cloud-based RCA solution that teams love, allowing companies to do more RCAs, find better roots, and deliver quicker results.

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