Why your business must be digital by default

Dec 18, 2014

“Wow it’s unbelievable.”
“This is going to transform our business.”
“We’re going to be able to work so much quicker.”

These were the sentiments, if not the exact words, we uttered on that fateful day back in 1988. The day we first became a digital business with the arrival of our new Macintosh SE.

OK so it took an eternity to start up, the screen was black and white with colours represented by cross-hatching. It had 1MB of RAM and the hard disk storage was only 20mb. But make no mistake this was a big moment for us – our first computer.

Looking back, it now seems quaint. And, of course, it was not the fundamental shift we thought it was at the time. Remember these were the pre-internet days and mobile phones were the still size of a house brick.

It’s no exaggeration to say the rate of change since then has been seismic. With digital technology disrupting every sector. The business models of retail, media, music and publishing, to name but a few, altered forever. The roadside littered with the wrecks of big brands who wouldn’t or couldn’t respond. Remember Blockbuster, Borders and Tower Records?

Smart organisations now realise they must transform or else. But what does digital transformation mean?

It means placing digital at the core of your activity. Or as Paul Boag in his book ‘Digital-Adaptation’ calls it becoming ‘digital by default’.

I am not talking about re-designing your website, email newsletter or developing a mobile app. Although those channels are important. I’m talking about redefining your business with digital at its centre and spanning every aspect of your work

Typically large organisations have a web team. More often than not linked to the IT or marketing department. It’s their responsibility to maintain and update the website and social media channels. They work in a silo, left to get on with it. The website has a single function (like marketing) and the business does what it has always done. Digital is a ‘bolt-on’.

In the UK education sector many university or college websites target student recruitment. Obviously this is important. Young people want to learn but the options available for them to do so are wider than ever. Good quality online courses mean students can study in their own time and for a fraction of the cost of going to university.

Our prestigious universities still attract students particularly from the lucrative overseas markets. But for how long? What will happen when you can study online at Yale or Harvard for a fraction of the cost of going to somewhere like Durham?

And what about but the not so well known universities and FE colleges? How will they survive? Especially in this climate of reduced government spending, increased tuition fees and online competition.

The financial pressures on the NHS have never been greater. Yet many Trust websites are not much more than a directory of services. Of course you can’t replicate the clinical functions of a hospital online. But with some innovative thinking Trusts can improve user experiences. Like personalisation when preparing patients and their families before and after a visit? For example.

Internal communication can improve too with a well designed and easy to use intranet. This could solve simple problems. Such as staff being able to connect with each other across a large hospital or over multiple sites.

Digital transformation is not just for large organisations. It’s important for smaller companies and sole traders too.

I recently contacted three local plumbers and asked them to provide me with an estimate to refit my bathroom. All three arrived when they said they would, surveyed the work and provide me with a quote. And all were around the same price.

I needed to make a follow up call to one, who then gave me a verbal quote. The other posted me a quote a week later. But the third took my details on an iPad during his visit and emailed me a quote within 20 minutes of leaving.

Guess who won the work?

This was not because of the technology. But because he delivered a better customer experience. This created trust in me and led to new business for him.

As consumers of goods and services all our expectations have risen. The winners will be the ones who meet them.

If businesses and organisations are to become ‘digital by default’ they need to grasp the nettle. This begins with leadership. Then it’s about a willingness to learn and an appetite for innovation.

Where to start? There are things you can do quickly and some that will take more time and investment. But one thing you can’t do is nothing.

The digital wave of change is so large if you stand still it will sweep you away.

My advice?

Jump in and ride the wave.

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Infinite Design Consultants Ltd

Studio 6, The Kiln, Hoults Yard,
Hoults Estate, Newcastle upon Tyne

T: 0191 224 8910
E: info@infinitedesign.com


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