The five things we must tell our boss and colleagues

Paul Boag

If an important part of our job is to increase awareness and understanding of digital across our organisation, what lessons do we need to teach?

Earlier in the week I wrote a post suggesting that the most important thing we need to do as web professionals is educate our colleagues and senior management about the potential of digital. But what exactly does that mean? What is it we are supposed to be teaching people?

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No doubt you have your own ideas of what your colleagues need to understand about digital and I would love to discuss those in the comments. However, I want to share with you the five most important lessons I believe most businesses need to learn. These are lessons we need to teach them.

My first lesson is to explain the scope of digital.

Digital is about more than marketing

As I have written before, digital is often viewed almost exclusively a marketing medium. Organisations often fail to grasp the wider potential for customer support, product development, supply chain management, productivity improvements, and much more.

As web professionals we need to introduce colleagues and management to the wider potential. We need to show them things like…

And so it goes on. There is so much potential and it is our job to be aware of it and to share it.

It’s all about the objective, not the tools

Bizarrely my second lesson is not to overly focus on digital itself. Ultimately digital is a set of tools that we can draw upon to achieve business aims. For example, if we wish to collaborate with customers to work out how our products or services could evolve we may use a tool like Get Satisfaction or even Facebook. What we shouldn’t be saying is “Facebook and Get Satisfaction look cool, what can we use them for?

We also have a habit of turning to technology as the answer to our company woes, expecting it to solve everything. It rarely does.

Take for example content management systems. Many companies spent a lot of money on content management systems only to discover they solved some problems and created others.

We need to teach our organisations a more mature approach to digital, one that includes digital as part of a broader strategy to address certain business objectives.

Digital has empowered customers

Next, we need to explain just how much digital has empowered customers. Its empowered them with unprecedented amounts of choice. It has also given them a far greater reach to share their good and bad experiences.

This means offering outstanding customer service is an absolute necessity in the digital age. Of course it has always been important, but the bar has been raised and some organisations are being slow to adapt.

Many companies need to learn that where once it was enough to offer great products, now customer support is often the differentiating factor.

Digital has lowered the barrier to entry

Not long ago we lived in a world where to be a journalist you had to be employed by a media outlet. To be a professional musician you had to be signed to a record label and to be an author you would require a publisher.

Those days are gone because digital has lowered the barrier to entry for all those professions. Anybody can perform, write or report with no need for a gatekeeper.

The number of areas where the barrier to entry is falling, grows daily. With sites like kickstarter, funding is becoming less of an issue and Amazon has solved the distribution problem.

Before long 3D printing could start lowering the barrier in manufacturing too. The possibilities really are limitless and with those possibilities, existing companies find their market share under threat.

Digital requires flexibility and speed

Probably the biggest reason companies struggle to adapt to digital is the rate and nature of change. Digital changes so fast and what will emerge next is so unpredictable. That is why the final lesson we need to teach our organisations is the need to be more flexible.

Many traditional businesses just move too slowly in a world of rapid innovation. They also struggle to adapt when a innovation takes them by surprise. We have seen this again and again with companies like Blockbusters, Tower Records and numerous newspapers.

We need to teach our organisations that committee decision making, standard operating procedures and the like are just not flexible enough in the new economy.

So now over to you – what lessons do you think your clients or company most needs to learn?

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