How to Adopt a Digital First Business Mindset

Adopt Digital Business Mindset

How to Adopt a Digital First Business Mindset

By Tracy van der Schyff | May 04, 2018

Revolutionize The Way You Work By Becoming A Digital First Business

adopt digital first business mindset
Digital First is not about technology (only). It’s a mindset, a methodology, a new way of working & thinking. Therefore to become a digital first business, focusing on the technology will only be one of your project streams.

It’s about revolutionizing the way we work. Becoming a digital first business is a continuous process. One of improvement, but not on a gradual, evolutionary level, we need to disrupt and COMPLETELY change the way we work. Think cars – we are past the point where we want to make cars faster (evolution), we want to make them fly (revolution).

Microsoft identified the following pillars as the core drivers for their digital transformation roadmap:

  • Engaging Customers – give them the new experiences they love
  • Empowering Employees – reinvent productivity and enable a data-driven culture
  • Optimizing Operations – modernize portfolio, transform processes and skills
  • Transforming Products – innovate products and business models

Here are my thoughts around becoming a Digital First Business:

Understand How Technology will Bring Success

Get to know the technology that will propel you forward into the digital first future. You need to both understand your business and realize the value of how technology will enable you. This means you need a complement of both business and IT involved in your projects. Many opportunities to improve are missed because the actual people doing the task / working in the process is not present or represented.

Understand that the revolution will not only reside in the CRM / ERP space (for example), but also in the base products.

Wondering what I mean by “base products”?

In Microsoft 365 (Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security) we’ve seen incredible features released in Microsoft Office alone. Yes, I’m talking about the Microsoft Office your employees have used for years. Smart lookup and researcher in Word, morph and design ideas in PowerPoint, insights and 3D maps in Excel are some of the features that WILL CHANGE THE WAY your employees work and evolve into “Digital First Citizens”.

Don’t Forget to Focus on Upgrading Your Corporate Culture

Software does not fix culture. That “vendor sales pitch video” might show happy employees working flexi hours, laughing and loving life, but believe me when I say: “Changing the culture in your company will be much harder than rolling out a new technology.”

The example I like to use is upgrading your car by replacing the standard engine with a liquid nitrogen engine. That will not go down well if you don’t also upgrade the tyres & safety belts.

While your IT team works on upgrading the technology environment, you need to launch programs which focus on ‘upgrading’ the company culture.

Train Your Users to Help Them Excel with any New Roles & Responsibilities

A digital first business mindset requires us to trust end users to become power users and deliver value by being part of the optimization of business processes and models. Citizen development will drive productivity in business and based on that, we must ensure that these users not only have the technical skill to accomplish those tasks, but also the soft skills to truly excel in their new roles.

Make Sure Your Users Are Digitally Literate

Gone are the days where only project managers and business analysts required soft skills. As mentioned above, power users now need it more than ever and so does IT. With all the apps and services available to support creativity, collaboration, e-safety etc. it’s easy to think that our job is done. Without creating the awareness around digital literacy, users will be lost as to why they need these productivity tools and not adopt at the rate required for us to become digital first businesses.

adopt digital first business mindset

The Evolution of How We Find ‘Stuff’

The last but not least consideration I would like you to take away with you, is around how we find information.

In a recent webinar Top 5 Roadblocks when migrating to the cloud I shared the below illustration, which explains that the progression of finding content has gone from See, to Navigate, Search and now Discovery. Most users are still stuck between See and Navigate. This needs to be addressed before new technology can be added, as Search and Discovery has become the “new way of working”.

adopt digital first business mindset

Your Training & Support Requirements May Shift

Other functions that will see tremendous change in your business will be training and support. The traditional support function had KPI’s linked to ‘fixing problems’. I envision the first line support changing into a ‘help the users, help themselves’ role which is actually training. This delivers in place training – when training (help) is required. When we look at traditional training in classrooms with printed manuals supplied, I’ll put more energy into the soft skills necessary to change people into self-learners. A self-learner will become curious and keep on learning, which is what’s required for your new “Digital First Business”.

Agile vs. Waterfall

To achieve greatness, faster – you’ll need to let some of the control go. We no longer engage in projects where analysis is done for long periods, solutions are built on development environments, tested, adjusted and rolled out (eventually).

Iterative change is the new kid on the block, which allows us to make changes to our ‘production environments’ on a regular basis. These speeds up improvements, but also adds to the user, system and company maturity.

“Winning or losing are now happing faster than ever before.” Gerd Leonard


Not everyone is geeky about the digital disruption. It’s up to us to create that excitement, start the fire and keep it going. A great video I share with my clients is “Digital transformation: are you ready for exponential change?” by Futurist Gerd Leonhard. This video confirms my sentiment around the importance of the human in the middle of all of this.

Important Terms & Definitions

There are a lot of buzz words flying around which can be daunting. I’ve included some of the definitions and we can play some Lingo Bingo, as I like to call it, to make sure you fully grasp all of these terms.



  • (of signals or data) expressed as series of the digits 0 and 1, typically represented by values of a physical quantity such as voltage or magnetic polarization.
  • (of a clock or watch) showing the time by means of displayed digits rather than hands or a pointer.


noun: disruption; plural noun: disruptions

  • disturbance or problems that interrupt an event, activity, or process.

"the schedule was planned to minimize disruption"


noun: evolution; plural noun: evolutions

  • the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form.

"the forms of written languages undergo constant evolution"

synonyms: development, advancement, growth, rise, progress, expansion, unfolding;


noun: revolution; plural noun: revolutions

  • a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people's ideas about it.

"marketing underwent a revolution"


[sit–uh-zuh n, -suh n]
noun: citizen; plural noun: citizens
1. someone who is a citizen of a particular country is legally accepted as belonging to that country.
2. you describe someone as a citizen journalist or a citizen scientist, for example, when they are an ordinary person with no special training who does something that is usually done by professionals.


noun: developer; plural noun: developers
1. a person or thing that develops or innovates: a software developer.

Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 or "Office 365" refers to subscription plans that include access to Office applications plus other productivity services that are enabled over the Internet (cloud services). 

data driven


  • determined by or dependent on the collection or analysis of data.

"decisions are data-driven and made by committee"

cloud com·put·ing

the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.

digital literacy

Digital literacy is the ability a person has, to access both information and communication through a tool of technology, including (but not limited to) smartphones, tablets, laptops, and traditional desktop PCs. A digitally literate person should also be able to analyze, search for, and critically evaluate information presented on the web.

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Tracy van der Schyff

Tracy is a Microsoft MVP and an energetic, hyperactive adrenaline junkie who sees challenges and issues as opportunities and thrives on improving processes, environments and the general quality of life. Her broad knowledge about IT and Business gives her the ability to communicate on both levels and convey meaningful requirements and narrow the (ever present) gap between the two.

Written By: Tracy van der Schyff