Put digital at the heart of your business or be left behind

How many of your colleagues have downloaded the latest music streaming apps or use ‘wearables’ such as fitness bands?

Probably more than you expect.

And yet, despite our insatiable appetite for digital technology at home (from top of the range cameras to smartphones and tablets), we often struggle to understand how digital can play a vital role in the workplace. At work, we leave the techie stuff, such as syncing your email to your work phone to the ‘techies’, and to IT support.

Does this matter? Yes it does.

In simple terms, we’re creating a gulf between how we use digital technology at home versus how we understand and use the technology at work. This is one reason why over two million businesses in the UK still don’t have a website – despite their owners using websites in their everyday life outside of the office.

A lack of confidence is holding business people back. Anyone can build a website – anyone. You can create a simple website on WordPress, About Me, Flavors  (to name but a few) in minutes, for free.

But what about your business?

You may well have a website that works across desktop, mobile and tablet (and if not, you need to address this as mobile use of the Internet has overtaken desktop). And you may even have a social media person tweeting your latest offers – but what else do you have?

Below are three key areas to focus on in order to ‘get digital’.

1. Update your communications

Start by talking to your employees and getting a sense of how they use technologies already – both at work and at home. Ask them to think about any hardware and software tools they could use to make their work-lives more productive and more enjoyable.

Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you go out and buy everyone in your company a load of over complicated and expensive hardware, but acting on some of the feedback and introducing something as easy as instant messaging, for example, could transform the way your staff communicate with each other.

We’ve done this at Freeformers by introducing a messaging and workflow communications tool that helps people work together more efficiently.

And once you’ve honed your employee communications through digital, you’ll feel more empowered tocommunicate to customers in a more digital way!

2. Collate all the interesting stuff you spot

Since adopting a messaging app that enables us to work better together, we have a channel that’s purely for ‘cool stuff we’ve spotted that’s relevant to Freeformers. So every time somebody spots something interesting and thinks, “maybe we could do something like that?” they pop a link, image – whatever it may be – into a message for everyone to check out.

This gets exciting – believe me.

But while processes like these work well for younger generations who are sometimes (not always) more at ease with digital communication tools, be careful not to neglect traditional face-to-face meetings.

This might be 10 minutes tagged on to your team meetings where you discuss innovative technology you’ve come across. Always come with something to say yourself so you can kick off the conversation – remember that nobody likes going first.

Talk about what you’ve seen in the digital world recently that could be interesting for your business. And if you struggle to find anything new, look to your competitors. What are they doing – or not doing, as the case may be?

3. Think beyond your sector

Look to other sectors too, you’ll be amazed by the inspiration you’ll find – some of the most seemingly un-techy companies have transformed their offerings by embracing digital.

Because digital transformation is all around you. A favourite Indian take-away of mine was cash only until recently. This was annoying, I hardly ever carry cash. But thanks to a new website, now I can order and pay for my takeaway (lamb pasdanda, lemon rice and sag aloo, if you’re asking) online.

This kind of thing prompts me to examine my own payment structures. Can I improve them – make them more streamlined?

Referencing the digital trends that your colleagues are already familiar with in everyday life can help everyone feel more confident about technology. And once you’ve adopted digital behaviours into your workplace, you can get ready to watch your  business boom!

Emma co-founded and co-runs digital transformation startup Freeformers.