If you don't invest in digital, and fully embrace it, says David Mansfield, professor and founder of The Drive Partnership, you'll pay the price. Today, companies are judged by their digital presence. The option of digital no longer remains. What might have been a ‘nice to have’ is now required and expected. We don’t ask if a hotel or restaurant has wi – fi, we cut to requesting the password. Yet many organisations are still operating in a grey area and haven’t fully embraced digital, even though it’s how the world now works. These companies need to get up to speed because if they don’t respond to customer’s expectations they’ll get passed by.

Here’s a harsh example of a company that found out the hard way that they’d been left behind. Put simply, they received an invitation to pitch to a large client in the financial sector. The brief was detailed and required recommendations on the use and impact of digital media. Although the team were experienced professionals their digital knowledge was limited as their strengths lay in the traditional way of doing things. Their response to other areas of the brief was pretty spot on but their digital weakness immediately excluded them. The client said it was very straightforward “we divided the responses into those with digital knowledge and those without, unfortunately you were in the second pile”.

Expectation failure and a loss of opportunity to earn some substantial fees.

How you behave in the digital economy will determine your success or lack of it. If you don’t understand what it is you don’t know then hire help. And if you don’t know what help you need, get help with your help. Yes, it’s a minefield and there are countless companies out there waiting to take your money. But don’t use that as an excuse for inaction.

Recently, a friend joined a new company and was presented with the latest marketing materials. There was a new website and brochure positioning the company as experienced and worthy of further interest. At least I’m sure that’s what they intended. But the result was confusing and mostly dull.

On further discussion it transpired that the various divisions of the company couldn’t agree. Politics had prevented the right decision being taken and the CEO was very old school -“we don’t want any video”. The result was built on a series of compromises and was far from compelling. Lack of leadership and client focus will cost this company money, no question.

Companies are judged by their digital presence. If your website, app or any other digital interface are letting you down your bottom line will suffer, be in no doubt.

But problems and opportunities are not just limited to what the world outside can see. As part of your digital review look at how you store and retrieve data. Many companies who should know better are keeping sensitive information on Excel spreadsheets instead of cloud based encryption. CRM systems, a critically important client management tool, lie unused, alongside the company intranet which was supposed to transform internal communication.

I know a lot of this stuff is difficult to get right. I’ve run and worked for companies (still do) who absolutely get the importance but struggle with the execution. I’m not a consultant in this area and have no qualification to offer advice other than my own experience.

My one observation based on my own mistakes is one of expecting too much. By that I mean building systems that are too complex for the user to easily grasp and require too much input before they produce anything meaningful.

Designing digital systems that can be built on, as users become confident, is a far more successful strategy. The all dancing, all singing show rarely delivers. Think about it this way. Apple update their iPhone operating system and we mostly complain we can’t find what we’re used to. After a while it becomes the norm. Their very early operating system bears no real resemblance to the current one. As Apple developed it they took us with it. When buying or building in-house digital tools, do the same.

A final thought. If you’re still using an out of office response that says you’re away and can’t access emails remove it. It’s not true anymore and you’re sending people the wrong message!

By David Mansfield, founder of The Drive Partnership and visiting professor at Cass Business School

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