Future-ready Podcast Technology

Podcast: Doing digital vs. being digital

Let's talk about how to become digitally savvy — how to become a truly digital organization.

It’s not as simple as it sounds. You can’t just about employ some digital technologies and think that you’ve made it. Doing digital and being digital are not the same things. Not even close.

You know what this is like? Think back about 5 or 6 or 7 or 8 years, and the difference between doing social media and being social. Using social media is about trying to bolt a few cool new tools onto your outdated business model — and, often, looking completely foolish and lost as a result. Being social is about building a completely new business model. It’s a new mindset, a new culture.

Becoming digital is the same. You can adopt some cool new digital technologies, but that does not make you a digital organization.

So, how do you and your organization become digital?

To answer that question, I spoke this week with Matt Loeb, principal of Optimal Performance Seekers near Philadelphia. They provide interim CEO leadership and executive advisory services to both start-ups and established companies. Matt is also acting CEO of SECURE, a start-up public-private partnership that’s pursuing funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to launch an innovation institute focused on cyber-secure clean energy efficiency solutions aimed at increasing the competitiveness of the U.S. manufacturing sector.

More to the point for this week's show, Matt is one of the deepest thinkers about what it means to be digital in an increasingly digital world. Quite frankly, too many people get this stuff wrong, and Matt is here to point us in the right direction.

In this conversation, we cover:

  • The difference between using digital products and being digitally savvy.
  • Why there’s never been a better time to hire a liberal arts major.
  • How equipped most leaders are to deal with digital transformation.
  • Regulatory and compliance issues.

Listen to our conversation here.



(Don’t) do the do The 2019 DigitalNow Conference is geared toward helping associations become a bit more future ready, and the most recent event, held earlier this year, was all about the difference between doing digital and being digital.

First, Don Dea and Hugh Lee, the hosts and founders DigitalNow, shared some research that showed the major reasons why digital transformations fail:

  • Your culture doesn’t support it.
  • There’s a lack of alignment between staff and volunteer leadership.
  • You’re not attracting and growing the right digitally savvy talent.
  • You’re fighting the legacy battle — in other words, “This is how we’ve always done things, so why change?” This thought process will kill your organization in the long run.
  • You’re not applying the right data and analytics.

Another speaker at this year’s DigitalNow, MIT research scientist (and future guest on Future-Proof) Jeanne Ross, also talked about the distinction between “digitization” and “digital.” Digitization, she said, is all about the essence of your business. How do we protect our most important data? And the first step toward digitization, she said, is to clean up your most important data and the processes and systems that use it.

Digitization, however, is not the same as digital. Digital is about empowering people to experiment, release, and constantly enhance digital offerings. Digital changes a company’s business model to one inspired by the capabilities of digital technologies, to allow yourself to be inspired by those possibilities, Ross said. It’s similar to the difference between technology and true innovation.

This reminded me of another guest I've had on this show recently — Neil Irwin, the senior economic correspondent at the New York Times. In his best-selling book How to Win in a Winner-Take-All World, he says, “Making your people more valuable — more productive in a true economic sense — is the north star of being a manager.” In other words, if you can you connect your people’s jobs with the overall strategy of the organization, you will win your team’s hearts and minds.

And if we help our people understand how to be more digital and how to connect being more digital to the overall strategy and culture of the organization, we can help them move past just doing digital stuff.

Matt Loeb even said so at DigitalNow. He said there are three things that are critical about being digitally savvy:

  • You have to understand what technology is capable of — what new things can you now do that you couldn’t do before?
  • You have to understand your business itself — from how it makes money to the critical processes running it.
  • Then you have to understand how to connect the dots between those first two things.

Connecting the dots between technology and strategy. That’s the difference between doing digital and being digital.



William D. Sheridan