Implementing Digital – Why Bother?

So, how is your organisation doing in terms of digital technology? Is it getting the most from what digital has to offer? How would you know, and how does one organisation compare to another anyway?

One way to think about how well digital has been implemented is to think of it in terms of three areas of the organisation. Typically it can be broken down into;

  • the service (or product) the organisation provides;
  • the communications with customers (clients patients), suppliers and not forgetting internal communications with teams and all other stakeholders
  • all the administrative and management functions that keep the organisation functioning and compliant.

As the internet developed almost all organisations felt the need for some kind of presence, mostly in the form of some kind of ‘online brochure’, thereby ticking a box that they were on the path towards being a digital savvy company. As marketing and PR companies got to grips with digital they persuaded organisations that to get closer to customers they need to have conversations with them through social media, rather than broadcasting ‘at’ them through traditional media. This turned out to be more like social mania than social media with organisations rushing to try out different channels and counting success in terms of the number of friends, followers, likes and re-tweets.

This fervour led to the comms area of the business dominating their digital work. Indeed, if I ask organisations if they have a digital strategy, those that do almost always point to their digital ‘marketing’ strategy as evidence, which invariably neglects the other two areas of their business or organisation.

Bill Gates published Business at the Speed of Thought back in May 2000. In it he described digital technology as the nervous system within an organisation. It’s ability to gather, manipulate and distribute data right across all aspects of a business, in real time. This is a good analogy. Like the nervous system within your body, which passes information about an angry dog to your brain and then your legs to move away from the dog, when it’s working well we make good, or at least prudent, decisions. However, to work well, a nervous system does need to be connected to all parts of the body!

Similarly, for an organisation to really make the most of the incredible opportunities presented by digital technology, it really needs to be thinking about where and how digital is solving problems, reducing costs, improving efficiency, improving the service (or product). That is, thinking about digital across and within all the areas of the business.

For large private sector organisations this initially may seem to be a decision about business growth; however, in our current economic climate, for all organisations and especially for public sector, charities and not for profit organisations, it may well be more a matter of survival.