Innovation requires a digital first approach

October 14, 2021 | David Daly 5 Mins read

The digitization of key operational processes and business critical services at multinational companies continues at a huge pace. Now that we are emerging from the global pandemic, many organizations who were perhaps a bit hesitant of digitizing key processes now have an additional reason to innovate using a digital first approach- this reason is business recovery and keeping pace with the competition.

The global pandemic forced many organizations into either panic mode or survival mode- the last 18 months were not really about innovation, there were too many unknowns to be navigated and nobody could predict what the future was going to look like in a post pandemic world.

Now, things are a little clearer and CIOs are returning to discussions around innovation and digitization. The world has changed, some digital platforms and digital processes were required for businesses to simply survive during the pandemic. And now, it has become very clear that those who do not adapt, innovate and digitize across the board are going to struggle to compete in the new business world.

In this article, we will take a look at the reason why innovation requires a digital first approach and how CIOs are prioritizing digitization as they look to help their organizations bounce back from a turbulent two years.

The only driver

Before the pandemic, many industry analysts and insiders were talking about how a digital first approach could be a key new strategy for global business models going forward. After the pandemic, it really does seem to be the case that a digital strategy will be the only driver-what else is there when the world continues to interact via digital technologies and digital video conferencing technology?

People are used to a digital first approach in their personal lives and they are expecting a similar experience in the business world and various consumer touchpoints. People have smartphones, access to their banking 24/7, interaction with videos all the time on social media and even have their news feeds refreshed every couple of minutes. It is simply a digital first world and those companies who do not adopt a digital first approach for the customer experience and new products are simply at odds with how the world operates today.

The implications of this are very significant and digital transformation officers will start to appear at multinational companies everywhere in the coming years, especially if those organizations are currently operating with legacy technology that is no longer fit to be the kind of business driver they need.

CIOs will have a list of digital related priorities and will likely be entering into significant conversations with digital transformation officers as they look to kick start some key digital transformation projects.

These will not be one-off projects, the nature of digitization is that there really is no end date to be stamped-digital solutions will evolve and get better so CIOs will need to be adaptive and responsive at all times. The big thing now is that they adopt a digital first approach as a mindset and a cultural identity within the organization-everything else will flow naturally from here.

Widespread digitization is simply a necessity

There is really no business department or operating model that will go untouched by a digital first approach-cloud adoption has already entered the mainstream and the work of a CIO is now likely to focus on those business units that are perhaps not yet in the cloud. The CIO will be asking why they are not in the cloud and what needs to happen in the next 12 months to move them into this environment.

When CIOs adopt and embrace a digital first approach, then their likely recommendation will be to have all significant parts of the business digitized- products, sales channels, customer support, operations and human resources to name a few but it really applies everywhere.

Because customers and purchasers of business services are so comfortable operating in the online world or a digital environment, there is a pre-built expectation of a positive digital user experience from pretty much every customer base. Therefore, any organization who is slow to move into the digital world or adopt a digital first attitude, could find themselves marginalized or ignored by the wider consumer market. This would be a disastrous scenario and one that would be very difficult to recover from. CIOs will be extremely focused on making sure this does not happen on their watch.

Digital connections across related departments

Another thing that will be on the minds of CIOs everywhere is how to optimize this digital process and connect departments that share data and rely on each other for information. An example of this would be to take a look at how human resources, global payroll and the finance organization are currently interacting with each other, what systems and data flows are in place, how they need to operate in the future for optimized ecosystem growth and what can be done right now to start the process moving and gain a competitive advantage.

This is a good example of how digital innovation when implemented professionally and quickly can have a genuinely transformative effect on the business.  Global payroll data is needed by HR and finance so any digital platforms or systems integrations that speed up or improve data flows between these interconnected departments can be a major positive change.

One clear option open to a CIO is to move a traditionally manual process like global payroll immediately into a cloud-based environment by moving the entire end to end process onto a global payroll control platform. Introducing automation to take over from manual processes would immediately speed things while improving accuracy and efficiency levels. This would be a great example of a digital first approach where the benefits could be immediately realized-global payroll would dramatically improve in terms of delivery and management, dataflows to HR would be rapid and digitized for greater operational efficiency and the finance department could receive crucial payroll data and reporting a lot quicker and easier than they currently do. This is digital transformation in practice and a great way for CIOs to validate and prove the positive effects of digitizing connected and related departments.

Digital first and data first

These two go hand in hand- as data has such a crucial role to play in the digitization process-many digitization processes are really about rapidly moving or making data available in a digestible format.

Most business-critical service models are driven by data, so it really makes sense to prioritize it right from the start- there is little value in adopting new digital technologies without first considering their compatibility with the existing data inside a service model.

The digitization process needs to access and leverage the data, so it drives the business forward. When it comes to operational processes, this can be about standardizing and automating data flows, so it is easier to share.  When it comes to customer facing channels it could be about personalizing the data so that what the individual sees on screen in front of them is relevant to them-this helps to establish trust and a genuine connection with a customer or potential future customer. The data is simply key so adopting a data first global approach along with a digital first approach is something that can reap long term dividends.

CIOs and digital transformation officers have already begun the process of initiating contact with technology partners and digital service providers for some guidance on digital strategy and how best to transform specific operational services by adopting a digital first approach. The decisions they make right now will have a huge impact on both company direction and the success of any new business models introduced over the next decade.


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Using Payslip, we can manage all our payrolls across nine in-country vendors on one platform. When the global Covid-19 pandemic arose, it was not an issue from a payroll perspective, and critically getting everyone paid. The Payslip platform enabled continuity for our international payroll service including the fast and seamless implementation of the Payslip Employment Self Service during this time.

Colin Smith

Payroll Manager, LogMeIn

Payslip as a technology platform has added a missing piece in our payroll set-up. As an international company with offices in 16 countries, it’s important to us that every employee at GetYourGuide has the same great experience when accessing their pay data.

At the same time, we work well with smaller local payroll providers, supporting us with direct local expertise in their countries. We were able to combine those two elements by placing the Payslip platform in the middle, to simplify reporting and communication with local providers, and to have one simple employee-facing solution across all locations.

Julian Fichter

Head of HR, GetYourGuide

With business and employee growth rates of above 50%, we rely on our vendors to deliver on time, every time. Payslip’s workflow automation, enables Phorest to manage our payroll provider process – data driven, real time and transparent. Payslip saves us time so we can focus on our business growth.

Ana Kelly

International Payroll Manager, Phorest

Payslip positions your team for success, and allows you to onboard hundreds of people when you need them very quickly and efficiently, in the same way for each country. The uniformed approach empowered our payroll teams to keep pace with our business.

Payslip also made our payroll process entirely transparent, which is invaluable to our payroll teams as we continue to grow and scale at such a rapid pace.

Travis Saville

HR Systems Lead, Wave