How To Move Towards a Digital-First Business Model

This article was previously published for the Forbes Tech Council

With roadmaps to recovery spoken about in excitable, hushed tones across the business community, talk of increased transformation drives is inevitable. When I speak to potential partners, one of the primary conversation points at the moment is new digital initiatives and how to help facilitate them. It seems everybody wants to accelerate their digitalization after Covid unearthed vulnerabilities in how things were done before.

A time for reflection

If we look back over the past year, the changes within some sectors and indeed individual businesses have been unexpected. As I spoke about in my previous article, we saw small eateries hop on board the Uberized food delivery train, fitness instructors rebrand themselves as YouTubers with online classes and cooking how-to’s streamed live from the kitchen. Necessity breeds innovation, it would seem.

If that’s indeed the case, and all signs do seem to say so, then the same goes for larger enterprises. As we’ve seen with neo-banking’s successful efforts to capture the market share of their more established high-street counterparts, standing still — particularly amid unusually large-scale disruption — isn’t an option.

What is digital-first?

It’s a good and perfectly understandable question given the liberal usage of such buzzwords. Simply put, going digital-first means approaching any new opportunity or solution with the understanding that it should be as digital as possible. Becoming a “software-driven business” is sometimes used as a synonym, but this isn’t strictly accurate — although there’s certainly overlap.

If I had to boil the first steps down to three key things, I’d say modernization, culture, and talent. But what do I mean when I refer to these?

The first steps to becoming a digital-first business

Modernization of outdated legacy technology — that continues to hold business back — with cutting-edge architecture helps your organization to build, deploy and maintain digital services at speed in the cloud.

However, it isn’t only legacy technology stopping businesses from adopting a digital-first approach but outdated cultural attitudes too. The benefits to the wider business aren’t always as understood by the rest of the C-suite as they are within IT. To better influence strategic objectives, CTOs and CIOs need to demonstrate a clear connection between a digital-first approach and business velocity, innovation, and scalability.

Lastly, we get to talent. Even with your architecture in place and a progressive culture instilled throughout the organization, you still need the right skills — and it’s a seller’s market.

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