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How to manage risk and​ change

Part 2 of 3: The Digital Strategy Series

Processes that can help us develop and realise digital strategy

So you know that you need a digital strategy but getting down to developing and implementing any strategy can be time consuming, risky and team buy-in is no guarantee. We believe that these barriers to developing strategy are much more of a problem when working with traditional processes. So, let us introduce you to the Agile philosophy of working.

"Agile is an iterative approach. Each iteration is reviewed after testing. All insights obtained after review, inform the next project step."

One of the reasons why startups like Airbnb are able to respond to changing stakeholder expectations, new developments in technology and an uncertain context is that they are able to be;

  • flexible
  • adaptable
  • learn fast
  • productive

In a charity context, the Agile philosophy can be used to develop new initiatives and services, adopt new processes and collaborate as a team. It allows you to solve problems quickly because you are listening to stakeholder's feedback, throughout the process.

Charities often lack the guarantee of longterm income but adopting an agile approach to realising strategy means that you only spend in short bursts. More importantly, a short-burst spend only occurs when you've proved your project is having an impact. You find this out at iterative reviews, based on stakeholder feedback and data.

Agile processes can help us to;

  • find ways of understanding our stakeholders
  • spot new opportunities
  • respond to change by minimising risk, time spent and resources.

What are Agile Tools?

Agile is becoming increasingly used across all sectors. There are quite a suite of tools and processes that exist to put Agile into place. However, we want to describe three that are key as you look to approaching a digital strategy. Also, these three, can be used without having to first transform your whole organisation to Agile ways of working.


MVP stands for Minimal Viable Product. The MVP can be a solution to the problem that you are solving and therefore could be a product, initiative, campaign or service. The Minimal and Viable describes that it has just enough features in order to test the solution with stakeholders. Once a MVP is developed, testing occurs, in order to obtain learning about the product and its continued development. No more time or resources are spent on perfecting the MVP until it is validated by testing. The MVP continually goes through a cycle of build, measure, learn, until the product doesn't need anymore testing to validate it for stakeholders.

This method would enable us to learn if stakeholder's expectations had changed or required things that were not originally on our radar.

Business Canvases

Traditional high-level planning can often take weeks and months to get sign off and often involves a lot of documentation. Business Canvases: The Business Model Canvas and The Value Proposition Canvas, allows you to document your business model and value propositions on one sheet, each. The Business Model Canvas shown at the top of the blog, was designed for businesses but at PlanLab, we've designed templates for charities that we use when we deliver workshops.

Both canvases are designed in this way to enable you to view the answers in a visible grid, to the key strategic questions of what, where, why and how. This approach assumes that the changing environment and stakeholder expectations will mean that business plans have to be regularly reviewed and adapted. By having it all on one sheet, it saves time and helps you quickly respond to change and uncertainty because you can spot it quickly.

Strategy Hack

At PlanLab, we developed our own product called a Strategy Hack. Taking inspiration from how the Digital Revolution has created more opportunity for the behaviours of participation, collaboration and innovation, this is a quick and fun way to do three things;

  • understand stakeholders and their expectations better
  • collaborate and design solutions with stakeholders
  • spot the un-envisioned ways of fulfilling your mission to beneficiaries

The Strategy Hack can be done in a few hours. It lays out the key objectives and headlines of your strategy to a group of stakeholders. They could be beneficiaries, supporters or people new to your mission, who are particularly chosen because they have a digital mindset. This collective would set out to reveal innovative solutions to how your charity fulfils it's mission. It is a great opportunity to build trust with stakeholders and a tool to help you listen.

Getting Agile

If you'd like to explore Agile in approaching Digital Strategy in your context, we'd love to have a chat.

You may also be interested in...

1. To catch up on Part 1 of The Digital Strategy Series, have a read here.

2. NPC (New Philanthropy Capital) recent blog, explored why it is important for Charities to keep up with the public's changing expectations. We think it is an insightful read and think you will too! Read it here.

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