How To Build A Digital-First Organization

December 29th, 2022

The term “Digital-First” is familiar to most people, especially those who regularly follow technology trends. In order to meet the demands and expectations of their customers, businesses have begun to alter the way they operate a business. In particular, many organizations now place a high focus on adopting a digital-first strategy in an effort to meet changing customer needs. Based on Foundry’s 2021 Digital Business study, 89% of all companies have already or plan to adopt a digital-first business strategy. Therefore, the growing digital-first culture is helping to strengthen the importance of global digital transformation.

However, a misunderstanding has always occurred so often when people try to catch up with this concept. Many businesses aim to be “digital first,” yet they can be more concerned with implementing digital technologies as much as possible than building a comprehensive digital-first organization. On the other hand, here is what digital-first should look like and how to build a digital-first culture in your organization.

What Is A Digital-First Organization?

“A digital-first organization is where people, processes, tools, and structures are all focused on optimizing digital so companies can be more productive,” says Stephen Redwood, principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Becoming a digital-first organization does not merely mean adding software, but starting to think about the way that new technologies will influence the way work gets done and the kind of behaviors that they want people to exhibit as well in the organization. It requires adopting an agile mindset, not just in terms of technology but with people, processes, and tools. Thus, such organizations embrace the idea of continuous innovation and improvement.

The ultimate goal of a Digital-First organization is to establish a corporate environment where technology and corporate culture collaborate to enhance business operations, increase efficiency, and provide customers with an unmatched customer experience.

Establishing A Digital-First Organization

5 Steps To Build A Digital-First Organization

People are at the heart of the transformation

Building a digital-first organization might be difficult in the beginning because of issues and uncertainty that may arise among your staff. People have a tendency to oppose and reject changes when they must accept something new or a working process that is different from what they regularly do every day. This is even made worse for technological advances because people tend to worry that they will replace them. Based on CNBC|SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Survey, 37% of employees between the ages of 18 and 24 are concerned that new technologies may cause them to lose their jobs.

Solid training and a transparent communication strategy are indeed required for businesses to overcome this challenge. According to a subsequent Gartner survey conducted in 2021, 60% of employees reported feeling frustrated by new software due to insufficient training and support. By demonstrating that technological advances are tools that help individuals better perform their duties rather than stealing their jobs from them, enterprises can inspire employees to accept the necessary transformation to create a digital-first culture in the organization. Additionally, another viable solution that can be put into practice is to make policies to aid with the inevitable confusion, anguish, and even fear of the shift to digital transformation.

People are at the center of the transformation process
Management team holds the key

Any change in company culture needs to start at the top, and the transition to a digital-first organization is no different. What’s worse when your corporation announces initiatives centered on innovation and disruptive technologies, and 50% of the workforce, including your management team, has trouble uploading an under-1-minute video? According to McKinsey, 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support. People frequently look after their team leader, which is why the role of a team leader is crucial in digital transformation as well as many other areas. The organizational values and operating procedures required for a digital transformation must be embraced by and reflected in the leaders of your organization.

Not only possess the ability to become digital role models themselves, but managers can also encourage employees during the digital transformation, set the standard, and foster a culture of collaboration. In addition to communicating the organization’s strategic vision to its team, managers also need to give them the tools they need to comprehend it and adjust their job accordingly.

Starting from the top with the management team as digital role models
Embrace technology and innovation

The next step in building a digital-first organization is to focus on empowering all departments with technology. Leaving departments working as-is will cost you the crucial efficiencies that digital transformation may bring to every aspect of your business.

Modern workplaces place a high value on digital literacy, thus it is the responsibility of businesses to ensure that their digital-first workers are keeping up with the trends. On the other hand, you should precisely choose which tools should be used or try integrating various tools for not to confuse your staff and different business departments can operate efficiently. Instead of using two different platforms for different departments, for instance, choose one that can be utilized for both or create an integration between the two.

Break the team silos

Creating a shared vision can help break barriers between groups and encourage a team mentality. When employees can understand the purpose of changes and how they can each contribute to ongoing growth and success, you can establish an agile mindset within the organization and increase the efficiency of all implemented technology.

One way to approach this is to get employees interested in how other employees are adapting to changes in applying new technologies. Scheduling regular development meetings where employees can share their knowledge, technology trends, which tools they are using, as well as how it pertains to their work and others. This sense of community fosters knowledge exchange and keeps the team enthusiastic.

Fosters knowledge exchange and keeps the team enthusiastic
Ready to fail fast and learn

For many people, learning new tools or skills can be a challenging task. The team may therefore encounter complicated and confusing technology. It’s okay if your strategy doesn’t work out at first. In fact, failing will provide your employees with learning opportunities as well as frameworks for the digital reskilling that you already prioritized.

Make it safe to fail and learn lessons so your team won’t be afraid of the digital transformation process. Then, businesses should develop a long-term strategy to measure risks, how to react when failures occur, and most importantly, how to learn from them.

A Digital-First Leadership

Become A Digital-First Leader

We all know how important the role of managers or leaders is in shaping a digital-first organization. For business leaders to thrive in digital, they need to leverage the following key characteristics that have been identified by Heidrick & Struggles as essential in establishing a true digital-first culture:


As empathy for employees and customers was a key element in driving innovation, compassionate CEOs should understand the financial, health, and psychological constraints that their faced employees. Thus, leaders at digitally successful organizations exhibit high levels of empathy in a variety of situations. Empathic leaders will provide employees with a deep connection with their job and the company culture, making it easier for them to adapt to changes and stick with the business in the digital transformation journey. On the other hand, a lack of alignment between leaders and employees will result in lower levels of digital acceleration.


The digital-first leaders concentrate their efforts on coming up with fresh ways to express and exhibit purpose and integrity. They reinforce the collective mindset that their employee efforts are helping to accelerate the long-term goals and digital-transformation efforts of the business. Employees will collaborate more effectively and achieve success in ways you never imagined possible when they are engaged and connected to the business’s broader purpose. This enables employees to establish an agile mindset or react quickly to changes because they have ingrained purpose-driven values that are shared throughout the organization.

Driving imagination

The entire organization needs to be dedicated, motivated and focused for the digital transformation to succeed. A corporation can only truly adopt a digital-first strategy by coming up with fresh and innovative ways to interact, use, and connect with digital technologies. In addition to being evangelists for new tools and processes and sharing their ideas, vision, or perspective on innovation,  leaders should set an example by living the values, monitoring processes, and measuring success along the way.

Start Building Your Digital-First Team

In today’s market, successful businesses are not just integrating technology into their teams, but creating workforces that are digital-first. With global spending on digital transformation is expected to reach $6.8 trillion by 2023,  business leaders need to realize that turning digital is not a project but rather a potentially fundamental, long-term shift in how businesses operate. There is no doubt that digital transformation as well as digital-first is here to stay and can happen in every industry in the future. And while there’s no denying that significant adjustments are needed to the way we operate business, the benefits of building a digital-first organization could be genuinely transformative.