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7 Digital Strategies of Top-Performing Companies

by Chris Curran on January 31, 2012 [email] [twitter]

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Growing a multimillion dollar corporation during a recession is no small feat and it’s no accident. Companies that are swimming against the economic tide are doing things differently than those that are treading water, or worse, drowning. So, what exactly separates the best from the rest?

In a world of tech-empowered consumers and employees, companies that are bucking the economic trend exhibit key behaviors that allow them to exploit technology and weave it into their businesses. We call this a company’s Digital IQ.

We surveyed 489 companies across industries with annual revenues of more than $500 million to find out what successful companies are doing that the others aren’t. Following is how the “top performers”—companies that grew by 5% or more last year—are making the grade.

1) Integrate Technology into Strategic Planning

Naturally, creating a strategic plan is the first step in implementing any sort of large-scale corporate effort. However, the effectiveness of the strategy is what counts. 89% of top performers feel confident about their strategy versus 63% of the pack. Top performing companies are also more likely to integrate IT in their strategic planning process. Of the companies that are excelling, 86% said that their CEO is an active champion in the use of information technology to achieve corporate strategy. That number drops to 56% for the remaining respondents. Moreover, the crème of the crop is more likely to have a CIO who not only reports directly to the CEO, but has strong relationships with other C-suite executives. In winning companies, the CIO is seen as a business champion.

2) Set and Share a Single, Multi-year Roadmap for the Overall Business Strategy

In the mobilization stage, executives create a blueprint for breathing life into the strategy. Too many companies bypass this critical step. Not the best companies. 77% of top performers have a single, multi-year roadmap. That number sinks to 54% among average performers. Furthermore, sharing that strategy throughout the company is also critical to success. 76% of top performers say that their strategy is well communicated throughout the company. Only 44% of the rest make that claim. Additionally, 78% of top performing companies say that their business and IT leaders share an understanding of the strategy. Only 49% of the other survey respondents feel that everyone is on the same page.

3) Look Beyond Delivering IT Projects on Time and on Budget

Setting a strategy leads to IT projects that are delivered on time and on budget so it’s no surprise that superior corporations are meeting their goals more often than the others. 67% of top performers say that their initiatives were delivered on time. In stark contrast, only 38% of the rest of respondents hit the mark. Coming in at or below budget proves to be more difficult for both groups, but nonetheless, 54% of top performers did so compared to 35% of the larger group. However, many organizations downplay the trade-offs in cutting scope and therefore potential business value in favor of bringing a project in under cost and time targets.  Almost 100% of top performers say that they frequently or always deliver their planned scope versus only 35% for all surveyed.

4) Invest in Mobile Workforces

Top performers spend more on empowering their workforces with mobile devices than the rest. 44% of the high performers will invest between $250,000 and $1 million and 33% will invest more than $1 million. For the remainder of respondents, those numbers are 37% and 27%, respectively.

5) Interact with Customers Using Mobile Technology

Only 44% of the pack interacts with customers via mobile devices “quite or very significantly.” That number jumps to 66% among the top performers. And, top performers are putting their money with their mouths are: 50% of them plan to invest more than $1million in mobile solutions for customers in 2012. That number plummets to 29% for the rest of the group.

6) Reap the Rewards of Social Media

Both the best and the rest are investing in social media at almost the same rates, but the top performers claim to see more of a benefit from their efforts than their lower-performing counterparts. 41% of top performers say they are benefiting from their investments in social media compared to 24% of the others. To gain a greater edge, 40% of the top performers expect to increase their use of social media. Only 26% of the rest of respondents plan to spend more in this area. In fact, 36% of the top of the heap plan to invest $1 million in social media for internal communications in 2012.

7) Invest in Cloud Computing

Top performers are investing more aggressively in cloud computing than the pack. 52% of top performers will spend more than $1 million on public cloud applications. Only 34% of the remaining survey respondents plan to spend that much. For private cloud investments, the gap is even wider: 58% of top performers will invest more than $1 million, compared with 39% for the rest.

Overall, top-performers link strategy to specific programs and actions while mobilizing the organization around that strategy. Everyone knows what role they should be playing and what success looks like. Top performers also don’t shy away from opportunities to innovate. The role that the CIO plays is to drive superior execution and innovation.

In this post, we didn’t address the roadblocks that stop companies from becoming top performers. What is preventing the rest from being the best?

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  • http://www.it-sales-leads.com/ Nadine Stevens

    Thanks for the info Chris.  Technology integration really brings empowerment into the hands and minds of  those who use them.  It makes life easier and more manageable.  

  • Anonymous

    Love the insights you’ve shared here.  Do you think that businesses will be wiser these days if they adapt the Lean Startup process?  It’s just that changes happen so quick nowadays that when you’re done writing your 30++ page business plan, someone has already started that business you have in mind.  Anyway, I’m excited to see more developments in the field of social media, cloud computing and mobile tech.

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