Stuck in a digital rut? Doing a lot but seeing no results? Not sure where to start with digital? Here are six tips on how to make progress quickly.
Time is of the essence when it comes to meeting the digital challenge. Finding the balance between acting quickly and planning effectively is key.
Doing nothing is not an option but nor is it advisable to rush into action without a strategic approach. But that approach needs to be based on a whole-of-business strategy for the digital world, not on a stand-alone digital strategy. The difference is important.
Digital can be defined as a ‘culture of connectedness’. To succeed, businesses need to plug themselves into this new culture and learn how to operate within it. The shift is so significant you need more than just an add-on to the way your business currently operates.
Responding to the digital revolution requires some revolutionary thinking:
1. Get used to working without the full picture
Things move fast in the digital world. While you need to work strategically, taking too long to develop a strategy risks it being out of date before you even start executing.
To paraphrase Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, you need to learn to work with 70 percent of the information. Being wrong may be less costly than you think, he says, but being slow will definitely be expensive.
The key question is: “What is the minimum we need to know to move forward?” Not all businesses are comfortable taking this approach but the ones who make progress will ultimately be those who learn to live with a little uncertainty.
2. Failure is an option
Working with less information means you’ll sometimes get things wrong. In fact, if you’re not failing occasionally, you’re probably not pushing boundaries enough. But that’s not the same as being reckless and you can mitigate the risks in various ways.
Use low-cost, controlled experiments to learn without exposing your business to financial risk. And you can mitigate any reputational risk from getting it wrong by being open and transparent about your process. People have a far greater willingness to accept imperfection if they are aware that they’re participating in a process that will lead to improvement.
3. Listen to your customers
It barely needs saying, but remind yourself regularly anyway – digital is a customer-centric medium. Everything you do as a business needs to be done with a view to the customer’s needs and expectations.
The biggest shift for businesses when it comes to communication is the change from a broadcast model to a conversation model. It is no longer acceptable to simply push messages out.
Your customers will tell you what they want from you in the digital world but you have to be listening. Ideally, you’ll get to understand what they need at each stage of their journey with your business. Customer expectations are constantly changing so an ongoing dialogue is essential to stay on top of this.
4. Test, learn – then test again
Combine the minimum knowledge you need to move forward with a customer-centric approach: act quickly to test early iterations of strategic thinking with actual customers, collect real data and feedback, and refine your approach. This iterative process should be continuous – it’s a virtuous circle, not a linear path.
5. Get everyone paddling in the same direction
Research proves that successful digital initiatives depend on leadership from Board and senior management but they can also be a leap for middle management. A lot of initiatives die when middle management doesn’t get on board.
If your internal culture is not geared to delivering good digital, the outputs are not going to be great. It may be that your first priority is to focus on getting your internal processes right – encouraging collaboration by establishing internal centres of digital excellence and cross-functional teams that work together on solving problems.
6. Above all – do something
A recent US survey indicated 83% of executives realise the need for digital transformation in their businesses but only 23% are actively doing something about it. The rules of evolution apply – adapt or die.