As we enter the post-pandemic era, most companies have begun to recognize the importance of digital transformation. Early shutdowns, followed by more than two years of adapting to remote work, have taught us valuable lessons. But with a significant portion of both employees and customers now preferring the digital space, it’s time to fundamentally rethink and redesign the digital experience. A digital-first mindset takes things to the next level, preparing your company for a long-term, true transformation. Let’s look at the five basic pillars of a digital-first mindset and how you can adopt them.
What is a digital-first mindset?
During the pandemic, many companies were understandably reactive. With no time to plan, the best you could do was add technology as needed to keep your operations running as well as possible. A digital-first mindset shifts from reactive to proactive. Technology becomes a core part of doing business, and staff members at all levels are empowered to identify, assess and implement tools that make sense.
Why is it important?
The biggest lesson of the pandemic is that we never know what’s around the corner. Companies need to be flexible and able to rapidly pivot as situations change. With a digital-first mindset, you’ll be better prepared to drop processes that don’t work for you while switching to those that do, no matter the scenario. Digital-first companies are also less siloed, with employees trusted to collaborate cross-departmentally and make decisions without bureaucracy layers. This can build loyalty and engagement, helping you retain your top talent.
The five pillars of a digital-first mindset
A digital-first mindset is a fundamental shift for most businesses. Instead of adding technology for its own sake or to solve an existing crisis, you’ll start leaning into technology as a core part of your business model. Follow these pillars to guide your digital transformation.
1. Vision and strategy
For many businesses, developing an overall vision and business strategy is the toughest part of shifting to a digital-first mindset. It’s easy to get lost in the various technology options and start using the ones that sound good with no real guiding principles. But this is an expensive and time-consuming approach that can ultimately derail your business.
Instead, start from the assumption that the technology you need to support your goals is readily available and that you’ll know it when you see it. Then meet with key stakeholders to revisit your existing vision statement and expand it to reflect a digital mindset.
Nothing about your company’s basic goals and direction is changing. You’re still manufacturing something, creating content, or providing goods or services. But you’re changing your roadmap to find newer and smarter ways to get from here to there. With your team, identify what’s working well and what you could do better. Then game out ways that a digital-first mindset could help meet your goals while making your organization nimbler and more prepared for future challenges.
Finally, create a short mission statement for your digital transformation. It could be as simple as “Using technology to deliver the right goods to the right people at the right time.”
2. Core business processes
Don’t forget to revisit your core processes as you shift to a digital-first mindset. Your core processes are the rudimentary steps that make your business run. For example, if you’re in manufacturing, they might include:
- Source raw materials
- Take delivery of raw materials
- Turn raw materials into finished products
- Perform quality control
- Ship finished products to customers or wholesalers
If you’ve been in business for a while, you might tend to forget about these basic functions, assuming that they can keep operating as they always have. But often, it’s these basics that need updating more urgently than anything else.
Can you use technology to streamline operations? There’s a lot more that goes into each step, of course. Look at the elements involved with each one. With your team, draw up a list of your core processes. Then drill down to determine whether there are better ways to automate or execute them.
In the manufacturing example, how are you ordering your materials? Does someone take manual inventory and call in new orders? Would it be better to use barcodes and automatic reordering? Maybe an autonomous bot? You don’t want to add technology for its own sake. But it’s worth asking the questions so you can make informed decisions.
3. Customer and employee experiences
Ultimately, the goal of digital transformation should be to improve the daily experiences of your customers and employees. Like you did with your core processes, map out the customer experience. Walk through every step of the purchasing process, from making initial contact to delivering the product or service. Also, analyze less common scenarios, such as talking to customer service or making a return. Then do the same for each department’s daily employee experience. At every level, identify the pain points.
With a primary focus on alleviating roadblocks, map out a new journey for customers and employees. How can technology support a more streamlined, engaging experience?
4. Metrics and iteration
The only way to truly know if a new initiative is working is to track the results. Turn your new goals into action plans with short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives. For each objective, set specific metrics and track them over time. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to try something new. Rapid iteration, pioneered by enterprise software and private spaceflight companies, allows for failure so you can quickly fine-tune your tactics before they become forever baked into your business model.
5. Collaboration and communication
One of the biggest changes for many companies adopting a digital-first mindset is employee empowerment. Rather than tech decisions coming solely from the top down, educate your employees on tech as a whole as it relates to your overall vision and business model. Then use open communication and collaboration to teach your teams to iterate. Empower them to make technology decisions based on what works for them and the company as a whole.
Of course, you’ll need to put guardrails in place. Set budget limits, require team or management approval for technologies that would affect multiple departments, and above all, keep the lines of communication open. Encourage individual workers to bring new ideas to collaborative meetings, where multiple minds can refine and perfect them.
Putting it all together
A digital-first mindset is essential for companies to remain competitive in the post-pandemic era. It can be a significant undertaking that requires you to rethink all aspects of your company, but the basics will not change. Follow the five pillars above, and you’ll be on your way to creating a leaner, more agile version of your business that’s ready to meet the challenges of the future. See how Slack can help.
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