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Digital Experience

Essentials for Your Digital Strategy: Organizational Alignment

Organizational Alignment

Delivering seamless, consistent, and engaging experiences starts with a customer-centered digital strategy. This ongoing series explores the characteristics that make up a great digital strategy and how to deliver powerful brand moments that solidify customer loyalty and drive differentiation for your organization.

True alignment of your organization around digital ambition produces tremendous benefits. Communication, strategy, culture, and operations all begin working seamlessly as you transform your business.
Without organizational alignment, however, your digital strategy cannot come to fruition. It is the core of your strategy, the backbone of your business, and an accelerator of what you hope to achieve.
Here are some reasons why you need to align your organization – now – and some ways to make it happen.

It is impossible to implement digital strategy without alignment.

An inconsistent understanding of digital among leadership has been cited as a leading cause of digital strategy failure, leaving companies struggling to connect digital strategies to their businesses. To some leaders, digital means eCommerce and social media. Others think of digital primarily in terms of analytics, CRM and cloud. Without alignment of the meaning of the term and its relevance to a given business, it’s hard to move forward.
Realizing digital strategy requires orchestration of multiple departments and disciplines – no single group can be solely responsible for delivering on the brand promise. A robust digital strategy is built upon data and insight, backed by compelling visual depictions of the future state, and intended to reaffirm purpose and prepare people for challenges ahead. Without a clear path forward, organizational alignment crumbles and resistance to change grows. However, by establishing a shared vision early on, you can prepare your people for change and your teams can remain aligned and motivated.
You can achieve organizational alignment through the following steps, which are part of our Envision Framework:

  • Vision articulation
  • Goal setting
  • Collaborative ideation
  • KPI development
  • Culture/change management planning
  • Role definition

Creating the vision and communicating it needs to come from the top.

What is your vision? Your business’ reason for being?
If that vision is unclear, not purpose-driven, or not in sync with your strategy, it will be harder to achieve organizational alignment among employees. While 65% of companies have an agreed-upon strategy, only 14% of employees understand it. To be able to commit to a strategy, they must understand it fully.
When communicating this vision, don’t underestimate emotional factors – it is your connection to internal and external audiences.
Meaningful change can’t happen without employee buy-in, which is easier to get if you’re an emotionally engaged leader and able to convey personal commitment to change. Get your people invested in alignment and transformation by creating a sense of urgency and talking about the need for change.
When many companies try to improve their culture, they focus on fixing the negative aspects. This sounds reasonable, but what we’ve learned is that the opposite approach is much more successful. You should identify a few positive attributes within your culture that are connected directly to your identity and specific capabilities that drive success for your business. Then, double down on them, and find ways to accelerate and extend them throughout the organization. Empower a few critical managers and employees who personify the best behaviors and can help you bring those characteristics to the forefront.

Articulate from the top down the key attributes of your enterprise that people genuinely care about and will help move your strategy forward. Support these behaviors and leverage them to break down barriers to building your distinctive capabilities. As these traits expand across the organization, they will squeeze out the negative aspects in your culture.

When a client that understood the importance of digital transformation brought us in for guidance, it quickly became apparent the C-suite was not entirely aware or supportive of the project. We immediately took a step back, spending the necessary time to make the case to leadership, explaining what the initiative entailed and why it was important.
Without taking those steps to get alignment from leadership, that project would likely have gone nowhere. Plenty of reports and business literature backs this up as well. Articles from Forbes, CIO, and McKinsey, to name a few, support our point: the most successful digital transformations enjoy executive support and engender comprehensive organizational alignment among leaders and staff.

If you think you’re aligned, think again.

We often ask clients to take our CX IQ assessment, a proprietary tool that measures customer experience maturity. The results not only provide an understanding of organizational capability across seven critical CX dimensions, but they also help business leaders understand the degree to which leadership is aligned.
Respondents to date consistently rank Strategy as the dimension with the poorest alignment of the seven. Conversely, Culture has consistently topped the rankings. Other dimensions include Design Processes, Insight, Operations, Measurement, and Technology.
After years of companies talking about and focusing on digital transformation, an important realization has emerged. Leadership mindsets must shift to understand: digital transformation is not really about technology. It’s about strategy, culture, and alignment.
Because of this, no two digital strategies are the same, and a company seeking to transform must develop its own unique plan. Yet while there’s no magic pill, there is a process, and organizational alignment must be in place for that process to move ahead smoothly.

There was a time when silos worked. That time has passed.

Organizations developed silos (tight-knit subcultures, processes, and ways of communicating) many years ago as a means of controlling information flow. That team does one thing, this team does another. Operational efficiency reigned supreme and as long as everyone got their jobs done, it didn’t much matter how the teams interacted.
Today’s business environment demands the free flow of data and insight to drive innovation. With so much riding on speed, collaboration, and shared insight, silos, as they were constituted originally, no longer work.
Departmental, data, and channel silos are now detrimental to building customer empathy, supporting the customer journey, and building customers’ trust and confidence.

40% of companies say each department has its own agenda, admitting to CX silos, according to a report by Econsultancy.

The challenge is not to rid ourselves of silos, but instead to master them instead of allowing them to master us, as author Gillian Tett puts it. Companies must understand how silos fit into their new purpose and develop their team’s constitution in a way that that makes sense for the work that needs to be done.
Learn more about how silos can affect CX for your brand.

Know your customer, then align to them.

Customer-centricity is achieved by fusing customer focus and business purpose, then linking the business’ core purpose to its strategy, capabilities, and culture.
When Starbucks set out to be a ‘third place’ between work and home, and not just to sell coffee, that larger mission fostered alignment in every employee. The people behind the counter understand how their work fits into a common purpose, and they recognize how to accomplish great things together without needing to follow a script.
The Age of the Customer has seen a shift in control from institutions to customers. Aligning your organization around your customer allows you to be more streamlined and make decisions about what’s important. Creating better experiences often comes down to maintaining an outside-in point of view that takes market needs and perspectives into account. This allows customer insight to penetrate and guide the organization.
Don’t underestimate how much culture directly impacts your CX and creating better experiences. Seeing your brand from a customer’s vantage point can help prevent internal divisions and cultural differences from getting in the way of customer experience effectiveness. Instead of relying only on past success or focusing on what you want to show the customer, the focus needs to be on what they want or need from you.

Creating stand-out digital customer experiences that attract, engage, and retain customers is a tall order. Perhaps you’ve already done some of the foundational work, and you need help with the next step.
When working with clients, we make sure you know your customers and understand their journeys. Through design-thinking tools, industry research, and pragmatic ideation to execute from end-to-end, you will have what it takes to deliver experiences that surprise and delight your customers.
Ready to get started with your digital strategy? Dive in for more resources.

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David Stallsmith

David has expertise in applying user insight and design thinking methods to solve complex customer experience, marketing, and employee engagement challenges. He’s an accomplished strategist with extensive experience across a range of industries, notably branded manufacturing, technology, financial services, retail, and healthcare.

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