We might have fond memories of the pre-pandemic office as the mecca of watercooler laughs and catching up on the latest shows, but Covid-19 has made that a thing of the past. A recent Gartner survey reports that in 2021, 32% of the global workforce worked remotely. That number is expected to grow as people seek more flexibility and businesses try to keep up with the competition.
There’s no doubt that digital transformation is on the rise. A McKinsey Global Survey found that the digitization of customer interactions and internal operations has accelerated by three to four years. On top of that, digital or digitally enabled products have evolved even faster, by a whopping seven years. Digitally transformed enterprises are increasing as well. A study by Statista, a market and consumer data research company, estimates that they’d make up more than half the global GDP by 2023.
Still, building a digital-first culture can be a challenge, and doing it right involves all aspects of your business. If you’re in the early stages of digital transformation, you might be wondering what digital-first actually means and how it can benefit your business. Here’s what a digital-first organization looks like and how to start taking a digital-first approach in everything you do.
What is a digital-first culture?
Building a digital-first culture involves more than just integrating the latest technologies. Digital-first means creating an agile organization where technology and corporate culture work together to improve processes, maximize efficiencies and offer unparalleled customer experience.
To achieve this, business leaders must first focus on embedding a digital-first mindset where every employee is digitally savvy and comfortable adapting to new technologies. Another 2021 Gartner survey found that 60% of employees are frustrated by new software because of inadequate training and support. So building a digital-first culture starts with an engaged workforce.
What are the benefits of a digital-first culture?
Technology has allowed companies across all industries to grow and innovate at an unprecedented speed. Being digital-first is no longer a question of standing out but keeping up.
That said, ideally, a digital-first culture can help you future-proof your business and emerge as a leader who sets new industry benchmarks and standards. At a minimum, it will help your business stay agile and adaptable to market and socio-economic circumstances.
Here are some of the more-specific benefits of investing in a digital-first workplace:
Break down team silos and improve transparency
When teams adopt a digital-first approach and use the right tools at hand, they can collaborate cross-functionally and asynchronously without the delays or misunderstandings that happen in isolated, face-to-face collaboration.
A digital-first approach to team collaboration makes it easier to ensure everyone follows the same processes and makes corporate intel equally accessible. Digital-first encourages transparency and makes information readily available.
Build greater agility and adaptability
Technology allows you to be more agile. You can better meet changing consumer needs and market demand with less disruption to your business. This works for both tangible and intangible products and services.
Imagine what you can do in your own business if you can digitize something as physical as makeup. Take the example of GLAMlab, a virtual makeup try-on tool. While Ulta Beauty had the app available pre-pandemic, its post-pandemic engagement increased seven-fold, with users swatching more than 50 million shades on the app.
Improve data collection
You inevitably leave a larger digital footprint when you rely on digital interactions and processes to run your business. Leverage it! Use it to analyze business inefficiencies, uncover patterns and improve your overall performance. This can be particularly useful for building a robust omnichannel strategy. Data on your customer interactions and preferences will help you create a seamless customer experience across your sales channels.
Four ways to build a digital-first culture
1. Focus on the people
Tech is useless if you don’t know how to use it. People are often resistant to change, so implementing new technology without the proper support will not yield the desired results. In addition, you will also come across some employees who fear that technology and automation will take away their jobs. You need to address these issues as soon as possible if you’re to successfully build a digital-first culture.
Head these concerns off with solid training and a transparent communication strategy. First, assess your team’s initial skill level. Offer job-specific training on how each role can make the best use of the software. For example, software developers might use Slack to ship code and monitor issues, while a legal team would use it to source patent ideas and collaborate with outside counsel. Both teams would use different apps, integrations and functionality to make the best use of the tool. Second, invite employees to give feedback and emphasize how digitization will help enhance, not reduce, the value they bring to the company.
2. Start from the top
When it comes to creating a corporate culture, senior management holds the key. Regardless of the values listed on your website or painted on office walls, if your managers and executives don’t reflect them, neither will your employees.
When you’re trying to build a digital-first culture, leaders must evangelize the approach in everything they do. Lead by example. Imagine how it looks if employees are told to use Asana to manage and share tasks, but their boss still relies on the good-ol’ spreadsheets.
3. Embrace technology
In today’s workplace, you’re only as strong as your least-digitized business unit. Empowering one department while leaving others to run as-is means that you’re missing out on critical efficiencies digital transformation can bring to every facet of your business.
Digitizing minimizes the risk of losing data or people missing critical information. That’s why it’s essential to integrate your various tools as much as possible, so different business functions can operate efficiently.
For instance, instead of having separate platforms for sales and marketing, choose one that helps you manage both or build an integration between the two to make sure data flows seamlessly. HubSpot is an excellent example of this, as the platform comes with integrated sales and marketing functionality, allowing both teams to share data in real time. If you happen to use separate tools, Zapier can integrate the two.
4. Communicate a shared vision
Managers, executives and employees are all working toward one common goal: Make the business successful. Yet, according to McKinsey, nearly 70% of change programs flop because of employee resistance and a lack of management support. Avoid this by getting your employees invested in the change you’re making. The proof is in the numbers. The same McKinsey study has found that when people feel like they have a say in the transition, these initiatives are 30% more likely to last.
When drafting job descriptions, make sure you list the technical tools, skills and working style you expect. Do this with your current employees and potential new hires as well. Clear expectations and transparency go a long way in fostering a shared digital-first mindset.
Ready to get started?
With most of our interactions and work now happening online, adopting a digital-first culture is a must for any business that wants to stay in the game. And while there’s no doubt it requires profound changes to how we do business, the rewards can be truly transformative.