If you’re not confused when it comes to charting a course for digital strategies that support your business, then it might be fair to say that you’re not paying sufficient attention to the subject matter. Between ad nausem coverage of phenomena such as Facebook and Twitter by the media (and even Hollywood via The Social Network movie) and the billions of investment dollars pouring into the sector in search of the ‘next big thing’, it’s enough to make you want to take pause and do nothing until the dust settles. Unfortunately, sitting on the sidelines isn’t a realistic option, and the digital maze must be navigated.

During this year’s annual planning exercises, answers to the following five questions — offered up vis-a-vis examples from Michael Lewis’s Moneyball — should provide practical insights into the state of your organization’s digital readiness and enablement, and help to facilitate the digital strategy planning process.

Question #1: Who is in Charge? Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane had plenty of detrators – manager Art Howe being perhaps his biggest – but he had top management’s support to execute his vision. When it comes to digital, it’s likely that no one person has been installed as the leader or owner in your organization, as few organizations have gone this route yet, but the most successful digital strategies are cross-functional and integrated, and require an empowered general manager or equivalent to run the show and orchestrate the moving pieces.

Question #2: Are Fundamentals Being Addressed? There’s nothing new under the sun, and industry fundamentals don’t change all that much over time. The Oakland A’s still needed to figure out how to score more runs than the opposition, regardless of the strategy employed to get the job done. In the digital space, even though the industry is relatively new, core requirements tie to corporate strategy needs and typically involve lead generation, product delivery, and customer service. These activities are supported by multi-functional websites, traffic-generating programs, and internet-enabled communication. Indeed, there’s no shortage of shiny new digital offerings that should be considered in the mix, but digital fundamentals need to be prioritized.

Question #3: Are You Going to Out-Spend or Out-Maneuver The Competition? In 2002 when the A’s and Yankees met in the playoffs, the key storyline was budget comparisons: the Bronx Bombers’ $114 million payroll versus $39 million for the Athletics. Two important points are worth considering here: 1) in 2002, baseball was a mature, 50+ year old industry, with well-defined rules for success, and 2) information availability was structured, accurate and voluminous. Neither is true when it comes to digital marketing, which means innovative strategies can be employed by testing new techniques and, and those who can make the most sense of the data will benefit by identifying opportunities.

Question #4: What is the Organization’s Underlying Philosophy? ”Why pay $80 million when $40 million buys me just as many wins?” is the famous quip by Billy Beane. Sure, in theory every MLB team starts the season with a World Series title as the target, but it’s really only a realistic goal for about 10 teams, and Oakland wasn’t one of those 10; behind closed doors, the team wanted to be competitive in order to provide enough excitement, attract a decent amount of fans, and turn an acceptable profit. Given market conditions in your industry, your organization’s strengths and constraints, and corporate strategy, what kind of digital philosophy makes sense: a market-average program to keep pace, a market-leading platform to leapfrog the competition, or a laggard approach so that dollars can be allocated elsewhere?

Question #5: Is There An Opportunity to Change the Rules of the Game (If Only Temporarily)? In “Everything You Think You Know About Moneyball Was Wrong,” the author argues that Beane did not revolutionize MLB management strategy, but rather exploited a temporary misalignment of marketplace conditions to his advantage. Perhaps digital’s greatest attribute is speed-to-market, and is an ideal lever for testing ideas in real-time. Digital tools and programs such as search-based marketing campaigns, microsites, and even web-based applications can be developed, launched and shuttered within a month’s time, at modest cost. Assuming that standing still is not an option, are there opportunities for your organization to use a digital-based approach to alter the rules of engagement to your favor?

For more information about how East Coast Catalyst can help your organization develop a digital strategy roadmap that deliver growth and competitive advantage, contact Tim Bourgeois at 617-314-6400 or tbourgeois(a)eastcoastcatalyst.com.