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April 6, 2023

Achieving digital maturity: The long and winding road

Summary: From launch to being fully responsive, each milestone in your digital journey comes with a different set of challenges and opportunities.

A dark blue line that curves upward with four aqua dots along its curvature. Each dot represents a state of being in digital maturity: launch, chaos, basic management, and responsive state. There is a red star between the "launch" and "chaos" points.

Digital maturity isn’t a destination that an organization arrives at after a period of years or by implementing a complex tech stack. It’s a journey to consistently improve the digital experience for your audience and your team. As Paul McCartney once sang, it’s a long and winding road, but one that is rewarding, with challenges, opportunities, and positive outcomes along the way. 

Stage 1 - Launch 

No matter how long your website has existed, the Launch stage is the beginning of your journey. At this stage, you are testing or piloting digital channels, and your strategy is primarily tactical. Your organization may be experimenting with various tools and technologies, and few policies or standards are in place. The launch stage is characterized by innovation, risk-taking, and experimentation— you’re inventing and trying out new digital approaches without a clear roadmap.

Some key opportunities in this stage are: 

  • Identify and focus on what is bringing your organization the highest ROI. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the many options available.
  • Determine what will set the foundation for future digital initiatives. 
  • Identify key stakeholders, establish your digital team, and set clear expectations for your digital strategy. 

Stage 2 - Chaos

Chaos might sound negative, but it can also be a magical place to be. There is opportunity even in the confusion. In this stage, digital strategy may be delegated to junior resources, and the organization may lack visibility into the full digital portfolio. There may be confusion or even competition for who “owns” what piece of the strategy, and there’s likely siloing or a simple lack of collaboration between different departments. This stage is characterized by fragmentation, inconsistency, and confusion. You may have too many digital initiatives, and there is no clear roadmap for prioritization.

Some key opportunities at this stage are: 

  • Gain a clear understanding of your digital initiatives and align them with the overall business strategy.  At this stage, high-level is good. 
  • Establish governance structures, assign roles and responsibilities and set clear metrics for success. 
  • Identify where silos exist and establish lines of communication to eliminate them.

Stage 3 - Basic management

Ah, basic management. This is where the hill you’re climbing reaches a bit of a plateau and you can catch some great views, but you’re still a little ways from the top. In this stage, executives and senior digital experts have begun dialogue about the digital strategy. You’ve got an established digital budget, and basic policies and standards are in place, keeping things on the rails. You’ve got a clearer view of your digital initiatives and are starting to manage them more effectively. The basic management stage is characterized by discipline, control, and alignment. 

Even with the certainty of this stage, some opportunities exist, like: 

  • Check in quarterly to ensure that digital initiatives are in alignment with business strategy. Has anything changed on either side? 
  • Effective management of financial and human resources
  • Regularly review KPIs, monitor progress, and make adjustments as necessary

Final Stage - Responsive State

The responsive state is the final stage of achieving digital sophistication. At this stage, your digital strategy is integrated with the business strategy, your team is clearly defined and properly resourced, and policies and standards are effectively defined and implemented. The organization has a mature digital capability that enables it to respond quickly to changing market conditions, audience needs, and emerging technologies.

Is this the end of the road? Certainly not! This is where the really exciting stuff takes place. 

  • Innovate and push the boundaries of your digital capabilities in alignment with business strategy. Is there anything your key competitors aren’t doing yet? Do that. 
  • Daydream and ask yourself, “What if?” Look to other industries for inspiration on how they’re using digital that you may not be yet. For example, what lessons can healthcare learn from retail? 

"You are here." 

No matter where you are on the journey, the hardest part is to focus on the one or two steps right in front of you, and not get overwhelmed by how much there is to achieve. Having honest conversations with your team and stakeholders to identify those things that will make a difference in both internal efficiency and ROI is essential to your continued progress. What a long, strange trip it’s been, indeed. 

Not sure where you are on the digital maturity curve? Take our free assessment to find out