Keys to a Successful Digital Strategy: CapTech Ventures

October 20, 2014

One of the major benefits of a modern digital strategy is its innate ability to centralize an organization’s numerous different operational facets. In other words, it gives us the ability to avoid the fragmented approach that we often encounter in the world of 21st century business. Why is this so important? The answer to this question is as simple as it is critical. For any business, interdepartmental accountability is key to streamlined operations—and without effective cross-channel communications, efficiency will suffer as a result. An example that shows the critical nature of digital strategy is the way in which CapTech Ventures provided a from-the-ground-up digital strategy for the energy giant Dominion Resources.

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Dominion Resources supplies power to the states of Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio. The need to provide a robust level of service had placed the company in extremely challenging conditions, especially in the areas of generation, transmission, and distribution, as well as the supervision of their extensive list of commercial and domestic customers. In fact, the complexity of their infrastructure is a perfect example of the challenges that many companies are facing today—in particular, their ability to embrace cross-department collaboration to streamline their production, distribution, and Customer-Relationship Management (CRM) services. In 2013, CapTech Ventures realized the importance of such an approach to Dominion Resources.

Defining the Problem and a Plan of Action

As for any digital strategy, we needed to address the core business metrics of Dominion Resources by

  • listening and responding to the needs of the customer
  • assessing the challenges and opportunities
  • collating the responses of consumers
  • integrating disparate operations within the company
  • achieving the necessary agility and flexibility to meet changing demands
  • offering Dominion Resources the clarity and insight necessary to adapt
  • optimizing current, in-house strategies while creating new operational models
  • implementing their digital technology in a novel and yet streamlined manner

After identifying these and other key metrics, CapTech Ventures entered into an eight-week engagement, establishing a veritable war room at the headquarters of Dominion Ventures, which is located in Richmond, Virginia. Achieving this level of collaboration enabled us to discuss strategies, highlight the company’s options, and deal with issues as they arose. Without such an approach, it would have been all but impossible to enact the necessary digital changes effectively. The intended outcomes of the five-year plan that we subsequently delivered would build upon these core principles:

  • providing an excellent customer experience
  • building strong brand identification and relationships
  • fostering recognizable community awareness

At this stage, we were still looking at the tasks that lay ahead of Dominion Resources rather broadly. So CapTech Ventures developed a step-by-step plan that would successfully enable the necessary shift in their digital domain over the allotted five-year time period. What were the key takeaways from this plan?

A Three-Phase Approach

We developed a three-phase approach. Phase 1 centered around gathering data. This included assembling a core team, setting a viable schedule, conducting peer and competitor reviews, and documenting the current state of their digital capabilities.

During Phase 2, it was necessary to analyze all of the data that we had gathered during Phase 1 and establish key metrics. Phase 2 encompassed reviewing customer expectations, observing industry trends, defining guiding principles, identifying the key areas of strategic focus, and developing initiatives to close operational gaps.

The primary focus of Phase 3 was planning. We needed to define the most critical factors for success, finalize the strategic priorities, map out the ultimate goals, and present the data to executive stakeholders and relevant sponsors.

Of course, this is just a rough outline of the numerous tasks that it would be necessary to complete along the way. Because the progression of our digital strategy was extremely longitudinal in nature—five full years in duration—we needed to further break down our approach, so there would be little confusion, and to streamline adoption along the way.

Research and Analysis

One of the core variables that a digital-strategy plan needs to encompass is the ability to identify an organization’s goals, initiatives, and opportunities to maximize the effectiveness of such a digital transformation. Our research and analysis included the following:

  • conducting stakeholder interviews
  • looking at industry trends
  • identifying the challenges and desired outcomes for Dominion Resources
  • determining the necessary initiatives for Dominion Resources to take
  • aligning the organization’s priorities to industry trends
  • assessing the state of their current digital inventory

In other words, how would Dominion Resources address the challenges that lay ahead—shareholder concerns, brand clarity, technical transitions, and fragmentation—while at the same time focusing on its strategic priorities—brand clarity, customer experience, technology, and corporate culture?

The Guiding Principles

It became obvious that we needed to rely on the set of guiding principles that we had established early on, during our war-room meetings, to keep all of these strategies in line. These principles were as follows:

  • We must make all information broadly available, providing information resources with the utmost level of clarity, transparency, and proactive communication.
  • We must adopt technology that offers efficient and cost-effective options.
  • Customer engagement is a high priority and a right.
  • Technology should not place any customer at an unfair advantage or disadvantage.

The Roadmap to Success

Ultimately, CapTech Ventures was able to develop a five-year roadmap that offered clear insight into every stage of the process. As I mentioned earlier, the stages of our process comprised tasks that included setting priorities, identifying challenges and opportunities, defining the desired future state, analyzing the business case at hand, identifying digital initiatives, and finally, executing these initiatives to produce measurable and positive outcomes. We had defined these outcomes as providing excellent customer service, building strong brand relationships, and fostering community awareness of Dominion Resources.

We segmented each of our metrics into a set of annual goals, or an action plan. For example, in 2014, brand awareness focused on usability testing and communicating through executive blogs. In 2015, this would advance to include digital promotion and customer advocacy. In relation to community awareness, the goals are the same. In 2014, the category of customer awareness revolved around responsive Web design, accessibility strategy, and product usability. 2015 would further expand to include a mobile strategy and management capabilities—to name a few factors. In 2016, factors such as conversation forums and location-based services will complement customer awareness.

Of course, we will also define critical success factors along the way—thus preventing any unforeseen issues from cropping up during the digital transformation. One such variable—and one of the most important—revolves around the concept of governance, a collaborative and multidisciplinary team that spans multiple business units.

As you may recall, the primary stumbling block that we identified in regard to Dominion Resources was a lack of interdepartmental accountability. As a consequence of this fragmentation, growth stagnated, so this was a critical factor in determining the need for a digital paradigm shift. It’s important to deploy governance in an omnidirectional fashion, as opposed to its being merely cross channel. In simpler terms, not only does the right hand need to know what the left hand is doing, these actions need to be coordinated across the entire body of the business. Having this clarity resulted in an effective communications strategy that will serve to streamline the transformation process. Without such an approach, the five-year target would have been nearly impossible to meet.

In Summary

We broke our approach down into nine key steps:

  1. research
  2. challenges and opportunities
  3. strategic priorities
  4. guiding principles
  5. outcomes
  6. determining initiatives
  7. the roadmap
  8. the action plan
  9. governance

Obviously, implementing such a digital plan will require the allocation of a considerable time and resources. We should, nonetheless, understand that the efficient and transparent execution of any such strategy dictates that a great deal of planning needs to take place. CapTech Ventures is currently partnering with Dominion Resources to achieve these lofty and yet completely realistic goals. As the digital age becomes an intrinsic part of the business world, such transformations will be necessary for a growing number of businesses throughout the United States and the entire world. 

VP, User Experience at RealPage, Inc.

Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, USA

Bill RattnerWe help small, medium, and large organizations make the necessary transition to digital businesses. The digital economy is at a decision point, presenting unprecedented challenges for management that impact the entire organization. By understanding the impact of technology on the way we manage and operationalize businesses, we help senior executives to transform their customer experiences, processes, and operations.  Read More

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