Digital Tools and Products

February 3, 2023
Catherine Kucharski

In the late ’80s, the number of fax machines operating was around the four million mark. It’s wild to think about how revolutionary that form of communication was for the time. It sparked wonder and awe. Now present day, if someone asked you to fax them, you’d get a funny look. 

As technology advances, we’ve bounced from old-fashioned and obsolete ways and can’t imagine how we faired with past methodology. Imagine taking a road trip without Google Maps to find the fastest way and Waze to keep that $250 speeding ticket at bay, even though you were way over the speed limit.  From paper and pen to faxes and phone calls and eventually emails and slack DMs, technology evolves as much as a monarch in metamorphosis.  Who knows, maybe hologram messages are next?  Possibilities are endless with the scope of digitalization. 

Digital technologies have transformative abilities to improve processes and completely change the trajectory of a business. Try and find the nearest Blockbuster, you can’t. But I bet if you’re locked out of your Netflix, you could find at least five friends with an account to share. After all, you have to watch the season premiere of That’s So 90’s. 

Technologies are seen in nearly every industry and are implemented for various tasks for improvement.  Digital technologies have reached nearly 50% of the developing world’s population within the span of the past two decades. 

Digital tools and products fall under the umbrella of digitalization and are immensely valuable for businesses. They represent the meat and potatoes of a business’s digital transformation. Digital tools and digital products are forms of innovation, yes, that word you’ve heard many times. Implementing these tools and products into processes presents new opportunities to solve age-old problems. They have a multitude of impacts and keep businesses competitive, relevant, and above all, efficient. 

Digital Innovation 

It’s no secret innovation is a massive buzzword in the business world. It’s more often than not a driving force behind progress, growth, and success. It’s the elephant in the room and the lion on the food chain. The idea of digitalization has become more important than ever. As technology evolves it has a trifold impact. While it created new opportunities it presents new challenges for businesses, like a tough football coach or an intense CrossFit instructor.

 In turn, businesses face a dilemma: stay ahead of the curve or risk being overrun by the competitive landscape. 

Digital innovation is the process by which businesses pair new technologies with established products, services, and processes. These innovations mean new software, hardware, or digital platforms. Incorporating elements of digital innovation allows for the anticipation and adaption of solutions. 

The secret behind many Fortune 500 companies is their strong embrace of digital innovation. Zippia found nearly half of CEOs (56%) credited digital improvements for an increase in profits. But don’t take just my word for it, ask the 91% of major businesses that have adopted or have plans to utilize digital innovations in their business strategy. 

Money talks but digital innovation yells. 

Digital tools and products are some of the loudest voices in the conversation. 

Digital Tools: 

The Integration of Educational Technologies defines these tools as; ‘ software, programs, applications, platforms, and (online or offline) resources that can be used with computers, mobile devices or other digital devices, and which incorporate text, audio, and visual stimuli’.

However, it's not that cut and dry.

Digital tools are used to complete a process and achieve the desired outcome. It's the actual implementation of the action. They are typically created internally for an organization but they can evolve into a customer-facing part of a digital product. Complex, I know, but what business initiative worth its salt isn’t? 

Digital tools range in complexity but are always created for a platform to perform a  task or function, like a hammer in a rusted red toolbox is specific to the task at hand, You wouldn’t bring a hammer to install wallpaper. If your construction crew did, ask your neighbors for new recommendations. The same philosophy carries over to digital tools.

A digital tool is constructed for an intended purpose, to enable businesses to run more efficiently and improve overall operations. Digital tools are created when solutions aren’t readily available. These tools are interactive websites, applications, or software that bring value to the user.

In healthcare, a digital tool could be an updated tracking system for patient medication allocation, making already busy nurses’ jobs easier. Or it could be built for a boutique florist tracking their delivery trucks on Valentine's day, the best day for business. Digital tools are transformative for processes because they create a space where needs are instantaneously met. 

Digital Products 

When it comes to digital products they’re revolutionizing and are game changers for businesses. They could be thought of as the sister to digital tools. 

While some could define digital products as e-books or goods or services that are delivered or used in a digital format, there is far more than meets the eye. Digital products are typically customer-facing and revenue-generating. They are built to be taken to market and commercialized for broad use. Just as digital tools create value for the user, products follow suit, offering consistent and concise operations. Digital products are taken at face value and represent the product itself.  The impact is multifaceted: they solve problems, analyze systems, and create long-term solutions for a business. They're like a digital present-day, Peter Parker (spider bite not included). Digital products at the core, change how a business delivers a process, product, or service. They add value to both the customer and the business itself. 

One common misconception about digital products is that they are a one-stop shop, and once implemented, they’re low maintenance. But on the contrary, they require consistent improvements to remain competitive and continuously innovative. Digital products are evaluated based on measurable results and tied to top-level KPIs like revenue growth, profit margin, and client retention rate. These metrics evaluate the success of the product and are incredibly important for continuous improvement.  

Similar to Voltaire’s philosophy, ‘perfect is the enemy of the good’, digital products are fluid and always improving, especially with rapid technology advances. 

Customers should use and return to digital products repeatedly.  It creates a cycle of value improvement, the more use a digital product has, the more data is generated which in turn is used to evaluate the product. The data collected from user feedback is applied to improvement leading to more informed changes. Having fast changes for digital products creates value for users. Thereby, giving the consumers what they want rather than what the company thinks they want. 

Digital products grow with users and mimic the evolution of needs. They constantly flow through a process of upgrading. Unlike cars sitting on a lot over time, they don’t depreciate in value. They only get better with time, like fine wine or collectors' art.    

McKinsey found a shocking relationship between new digital product development and high-level business initiatives. Total revenue and profits increased by 25% as a direct result of new digital products.  Businesses releasing digital products means they are competitive, honed in on growth, and have a futurist thinking approach. 

Digital products offer a unique set of benefits, which are limitless. You don’t see the number of Twitter users capped or see come back later, too many users listening to one song on Spotify. Digital products are limitless, like those  Verizon wireless commercials from the early 2000s boosting unlimited texting with that cringy line everyone remembers (IDK my BFF, Jill).   Aside from their endless usage, digital products have a low barrier of entry, allowing anyone with a computer and a wifi connection to access them. The bottom line is that digital products are global innovations that build a path for exponential growth, impact, and value.   

Digital Tools and Products: Equal Not A Sidekick 

Digital tools and products are like Batman and Robin, when you see one the other is bound to follow. However, unlike Batman and Robin, neither of the digital innovations is the sidekick. Digital tools and products can be used interchangeably, and the relationship is flexible. As explored above, while digital tools aren’t typically customer-facing, they can morph into that role. Digital tools and products work together to produce the best outcomes. Both involve some level of customization and a goal of constant improvement. They are implemented with a great deal of preparation and analysis to have transformative effects. 

The main difference between the two is digital tools are designed to assist users with specific tasks, while digital products are finished goods or services that provide value to the user. 

Benefits of Tools and Products 

Integrating these innovations into existing products and processes is like cooking with gas. After implementing digital tools and products, the past methodology would feel like a nightmare. Like driving down to Key West with just a paper map. Or sending business invoices with a carrier pigeon. Digital tools and products have revolutionized the way we work, communicate, and access information. Not only do these tools and products improve the business, but they also provide positive changes to employees' daily tasks, increasing morale and employee retention rate. Innovations like digital tools and products increase the EVP of a company. Would you rather work for a company that makes consistent upgrades to processes or stick with a company married to obsolete outdated procedures? 

Four of the most noted advantages target: 

  1. Collaboration and Communication
  2. Automation, Data Analysis & Visualization
  3. Productivity and Organization
  4. Information Accessibility 

Collaboration & Communication 

Team collaboration and enabling communication should be at the forefront of all businesses. They are a vital force behind a business. How will the common goal be identified and achieved, without them? Like a ship without a captain at the helm, pure mayhem. 

Business-wide collaboration and communication are fundamentals of success.  75% of employees rate teamwork and collaboration as crucial in their role. On the flip side, 86% of employees identify a lack of communication leading to workplace failures. Effective communication ensures that everyone is on the same page and has an understanding of roles and responsibilities, which reduces confusion and increases efficiency. Communication is critical for building trust and maintaining positive relationships with clients, customers, and other stakeholders. Digital tools and products streamline collaboration and effective communication.

Automation, Data Analysis & Visualization

Automation is another one of those business buzzwords, just ask the accountants. 

66% of accountants saw increased automation as one of the top positive outcomes of the ‘Making Tax Digital’, initiative part of the US government Tax Administration Strategy released in 2020. 

Automation is the use of technology (like tools and products!) to automate various repetitive tasks and processes. It tackles but isn’t specific to data entry, scheduling, and customer service interactions. As a result, accuracy and efficiency are increased and costs reduce, the ultimate gold standard of success. 

Have you ever sat down to watch tv and had the hardest time deciding between the various streaming service you subscribed to? Then you spend 45 min bouncing between platforms?  Before you know it you find yourself in a paradox of choice. 

The same goes for data analysis. 

Businesses generate a boatload of data from customer feedback and sales revenue to internal information, etc. Forbes reports, in the future, a company’s competitive nature will lie in how well it leverages data collection and analytics.  How do they keep track of what’s considered smart data for analysis? 

Digital tools and products can be implemented into businesses to assist with data analysis and visualization. Raw data is collected and presented so that meaningful insights are drawn. The best decisions are data-driven ones. In today’s world, and more specifically the economy, the margin for error is nearly nonexistent. 

Productivity & Organization

Time is money and a competitive company is a productive company. 

Productivity is a direct correlation to the success of a project. Companies with a higher level of productivity measure at a 40-50% higher operating margin than their counterparts. 

Implementing digital tools and products into a system translates to a better way of completing a task. This allows employees to focus on not only different tasks but more. Digital tools and products also affect organizational levels, simplifying the display of tasks, keeping employees on task, and increasing a sense of consistency and transparency.

Information Accessibility

Companies struggle with an overwhelming influx of data and information sharing which results in inefficiency. Digital tools and products improve information accessibility by making it easily retrievable, shareable, and understandable. Tools and products are built that allow searchability, organization, collaboration, and data analysis. This enables individuals and teams to access the information they need, when they need it, and make better-informed decisions.

A recent study conducted found a direct relationship between information accessibility and corporate innovation and explored the levels of innovation in China after Google search services were stopped. The study found that China’s ability to come up with new innovations was negatively affected. Overall finding access to information is important for creating new technology.

While the study explored information accessibility for a country, part of its findings can be applied to businesses. In simpler terms, businesses that use innovations like digital tools and products to present information to employees will continue to evolve. Implementing ways employees access information creates an atmosphere for innovation. 

I know innovation was mentioned a lot, but it's just that important. 

Implementation of Digital Tools & Products 

McKinsey released an article claiming, in today’s world, technology itself is the new value proposition for businesses. 

Every company should be a digital company or strive toward that marker. Companies that enact digital innovation and incorporate digital tools and products constantly learn and adapt leading to alternative solutions. As times are changing innovation is the motivating force behind the change, and it's better to be with the change than against it. Digital tools and products are implemented into businesses to address a specific need or problem.  A company must understand during the implementation stages,  digital tools and products never truly cross the finish line but are a work in progress.  It’s essential to ensure they are implemented with a strategic mindset. 

Digital tools and products are crucial in streamlining business processes and driving growth. They provide the framework for making data-driven decisions, optimizing operations, and scaling businesses. By leveraging digital tools and products, companies enhance their competitive advantage, increase productivity and unlock new opportunities. In today’s landscape, companies that fail to adopt digital tools and products risk becoming obsolete.

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