Most organisations are grappling with this new thing called ‘digital’. But what does ‘digital’ actually mean?
Is it rebuilding a website? Is it making a first foray into the scary world of social media? Is it arming all of your executives with iPhones?
Before rushing headlong into ‘going digital’, it’s probably a good first step to understand precisely what that term means for your organisation. As an organisational pursuit, ‘digital’ is a relatively new discipline and, as a discipline, it’s not necessarily well understood by senior managers.
The word ‘digital’ has its origin in the binary expression of data as either a ‘0’ or a ‘1’. Clearly, the contemporary understanding of ‘digital’ has broadened somewhat since the term was first coined.
For lots of CEOs, ‘digital’ is about getting a hold of new technology: new systems, new software and new hardware. For some, it’s about launching a social media presence or doing email marketing. For others, it’s about reorienting processes and procedures so that the focus is entirely on the customer. For a small few, it’s about totally rethinking and re-engineering the entire organisational business model.
The important thing to understand about digital is that it’s more about people, culture and change management, than it is about the acquisition or deployment of new technology.
Buying a new cloud-based software system, launching a Facebook Page, implementing thin client computers or publishing an ‘app’ is not where the heart of a ‘digital strategy’ lies. Rather, it lies in the underlying cultural fabric of the organisation; its flexibility and propensity for constant change; a relentless desire to satisfy customer needs above all else; and the actions and motivations of the people who will enact the strategy.
A digital strategy that concerns itself only with whizzbang widgets and takes no account of deeper organisational considerations is destined to fail.
I quite like this article from McKinsey and Co that argues that digital should be seen less as a thing and more a way of doing things. The author breaks digital down into three attributes: creating value at the new frontiers of the business world; creating value in the processes that execute a vision of customer experiences; and building foundational capabilities that support the entire structure. Well worth a read.