What is a digital platform?
The complexity of websites is out of control.
When the web first came along, websites were simple tools for organisations to share information with a global audience. Coupled with email this provided a whole new way to communicate and conduct business.
Many websites now try to support all manner of functions. These include:
- digital marketing
- event registration
- online communities
- management reports
- custom tools
...and all on top of their primary focus of presenting content.
Digital is central to how most organisations work today. The ever-expanding website now needs to integrate with various ‘back office’ tools – with varying degrees of success.
This situation soon results in a huge monolith of a website that’s complex and costly to maintain. Changes that were quick and easy in the past are now difficult and slow, and often result in compromise.
And just when you think it’s stable, there’s the horrible realisation the website needs updating to keep up with technology advances, business needs and user expectations.
I’ve seen many organisations go through this cycle several times, typically every 3 to 5 years. The costs and duration of these rebuilds keeps increasing too in line with the complexity and number of digital tools in use.
But I believe there’s a better way.
The website needs to get back to basics. It’s just one tool of many. And its job is to present content that serves the specific needs of your primary audience(s).
Complementary tools include contact databases (CRM), ecommerce platforms, payment systems, email marketing software, event registration systems, analytics and reporting tools, accounting software, social media management, custom applications – and pretty much any other tool you can think of.
All these tools together form your digital platform.
The focus of your website will depend on your business. For some, ecommerce is the main use case. For others it’s supporting a membership community, promoting events or publishing regular content.
But your website is not the system to do everything. Nor is it the hub through which you should integrate all your various tools.
People need to be at the heart of your digital platform. It therefore follows that your contact database (CRM) should be at the centre of your implementation:
This makes sense for two powerful reasons:
- Every organisation is about people. Your success depends upon meeting their needs.
- People information – the contact database (CRM) – is the bedrock of any business and usually has the longest lifespan of any component in your digital platform.
(There are plenty of CRM options aimed at sales-driven organisations and selecting a CRM is a topic for another article. If your focus is on events or membership management though, I recommend Sheep).
Benefits of a digital platform approach:
- places people not your website at the heart of what you do
- each tool focuses on the job it does best
- components can be changed in isolation – important as different tools have different lifespans
- lets you exploit the skills and offerings of many suppliers, each experts in their own field
- greater resilience – any issues usually only effect one component
- cheaper, safer and faster to implement, maintain and upgrade
- requires a shift in thinking within some organisations to understand that no single tool can (or should) do everything
- realise that the digital platform underpins the whole organisation. It needs managing as a strategic asset. Elements can be outsourced but the overall ownership remains with the business
- you may need help to plan and deliver your digital platform to ensure everything works smoothly
- finding and co-ordinating suitable suppliers can be difficult
Tall Projects is your trusted digital platform partner. I work with a select group of forward-thinking organisations to address these challenges and implement successful digital platforms.
Are you planning another website rebuild project?
Or are you struggling to get all your digital tools talking to each other?
We should have a chat. Contact me now and we’ll agree the best path forward.