3 Barriers to Organizational Digital Strategy

After a more than a decade working on digital content, strategy, and organizing for a wide range of nonprofits, political campaigns, and civic groups; I see a consistent pattern emerge of three barriers to true organizational level digital growth: strategy, capacity, and infrastructure. Currently, for far too many organizations these barriers or weaknesses work to tear down or slow down organizations. The inverse is true when you develop strategy, capacity, and infrastructure together organizations thrive.


3 barriers to or 3 pillars of success: strategy, capacity, and infrastructure


Strategy, needs to come from leadership or trusted digital and tech leaders who understand your goals and resources. Consistently, I see people in leadership positions make assumptions about digital that they just wouldn’t make in other fields that they don’t know well. This lack of leadership level strategy means you can’t maximize the capacity or infrastructure that you do have, or develop what you don’t have.

Even with the best email list and creative team, if you lack a good strategy to link to real-world goals, the outcomes will fall short. They will fall somewhere between meaningless and low engagement. There will be some engagement created but never the maximum potential. But even worse lack of strategy means you’ll never make solid decisions about your capacity or digital infrastructure.

Lack of strategy leads to questions like: Is digital worth it? Just look around, companies and organizations who get digital are thriving. Those who get it thrive the most.

Success comes from developing a digital strategy with your organization’s goals, resources, and infrastructure in mind. This will mean investing in strategy. Things you’ll need to consider:

  1. Getting real training and development for your leadership team to better understand digital.
  2. Investing in outside support and mentoring for your digital staff.
  3. Understanding that junior staff who are working in creative support roles can’t be looked to for senior-level digital strategy.

Capacity is likely stunting your organization on many levels. We are looking at a continued shortage of capable digital folks with content, web development, design, social media, etc. skills. Part of the shortage is burnout. Weekly, I hear from staffers who are being asked to take on too many projects and work on items outside of their skillset. At the root of this problem is too often leadership level decisions where people don’t understand digital strategy and the complications of different tactics (many of which take seasoned professionals). This leads to staff missing the mark or working constantly fatigued.

Too many organizations have too few people doing the work and too often the work isn’t decentralized. Or another way to say it is you aren’t becoming a modern organization with hopes a few people will fill the gaps. They won’t. When you develop great strategies and start to understand the nuanced complications of digital tactics, you realize if you aren’t building capacity, it won’t mean anything.

As your organization moves in more strategic digital direction here are capacity items you’ll need to think about:

  1. Developing a system that retains and mentors good staff with the skills they need.
  2. Build human systems where current staff bring more digital work into their roles.
  3. A strategic lens for what work makes sense to hire for and contract for given your organization’s goals, resources, and infrastructure.

Infrastructure, lastly is the piece that gets set aside as a magical thing that just happens. When we are talking about digital infrastructure it’s items like:

⦁ Your email and SMS tools.
⦁ Your website and all the applications that power it.
⦁ Your actual email list (the how you reach people).
⦁ How you move content and approvals through your organization.

Infrastructure is all of the unshiny parts of digital work. But you and your board need to start thinking about it as sexy. You should want to know the real numbers of your email list and site traffic. Because if you link up the right strategy and capacity they should know where the infrastructure problems are… but you can’t fix it overnight. And you need to start now.

Changing your CRM can take many months if not half a year. And even a good audit and work with an analyst can take a month and often times a few months. Website overhauls can take months to a year. I’ve seen plenty of organizations talk about their website needs years ago and they still haven’t found the capacity to rebuild and it is usually hurting them.

Just like physical infrastructure digital infrastructure isn’t ever done. You’ll forever need to replace office chairs, change meetings rooms, upgrade or replace whiteboards etc. Here are some key elements you’ll need to think about:

  1. How do you assess your current digital infrastructure?
  2. With the infrastructure you have now can you truly meet your goals?
  3. What roadmaps to future digital infrastructure will you need to build a truly modern organization?

To help organizations tackle these challenges The Digital Plan has been taking on digital strategy and coaching in many ways. Below is a course we’ve created to help organizations get grounded in the fundamentals of digital strategy. After that check out our live training classes to keep developing your own strategy.


Designed to help you kickstart your strategic digital planning, this course will empower you to take it up a level. You’ll learn the core concepts and methodical systems to be a better strategist and planner. We’ll go deep on goals and tactics. We’ll help you think more strategically about your resources and budgets. And we’ll bring it together with an in-depth version of our strategically designed digital project planning blueprint. 

Brad (Schenck) Caldana

Brad (Schenck) Caldana

Author and Senior Digital Strategist & Trainer at The Digital Plan

Brad is the author of The Digital Plan, founder of the website and training community.  Currently, Brad helps nonprofits, campaigns, and organizations of all sizes with their digital strategy, coaching, and training. 


Updates Coming Soon



Updates Coming Soon
On-Demand Trainings