Chapter 1

Thriving As A Digital-First Business

Before 2020, we described businesses as either digital-first or undergoing a digital transformation. The digital era has been underway for the last 60 years — but the pandemic has been the ultimate catalyst. Our friends at Twilio studied 2,500 companies and found 97% report COVID-19 accelerated their digital transformation by an average of six years! Digital products have become essential to how we live and work.

In a soon to be published survey conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services (HBRAS), product executives agree that now presents an opportunity unlike any other for digital businesses. Those that monetize this moment, retain the users that flocked to their digital products, and recognize new user behaviors will win over potential customers and outperform their competitors. The opportunities spurred by changes in customer needs came fast, but the impact is permanent. Approximately four out of five product executives believe their users have formed new lasting habits. Companies that have capitalized on this digital opportunity have learned to anticipate and adapt to new customer behaviors with ingenuity and technological innovation.

We’ve noticed that businesses typically fall into three categories:

  • Surviving: These companies have struggled and faced a loss of market share during the pandemic — all while trying to figure out the best way to implement remote work. Challenges with data governance, backlogs in analytics requests, and limited experimentation have left them stuck in the early stages of digital transformation.
  • Rapidly Adapting: By shipping, measuring, and iterating fast, these companies have accelerated their digital roadmaps, adapting products and offers quickly. Most have delivered entirely new experiences to meet the changing needs of customers.
  • Thriving: For these companies, their product is their business. They’ve been digitally forward even before the pandemic and saw a flood of new users in Q1 and Q2. Prior investments in rapid delivery, superb product experiences, and a data-informed culture have enabled them to win big. Now, they can focus their efforts and resources on retention and scaling.

The thriving companies have two things in common that enabled them to pioneer both before and after the pandemic. First, they build with data. Second, their teams adapt products based on the behaviors of their customers. They use data to anticipate what customers want and deliver relevant experiences quickly.

To many, data and speed may seem like two competing concepts — and therein lies the mistake. Democratizing data accelerates how fast the winners build. And they can build fast because data informs them what to build next. By giving access to customer behavioral data, they put the customer at the center of how their teams build.

Inside this playbook we’ve compiled the unique perspectives of executive experts from the top digital businesses in the world and collected insights from hundreds of executives that joined them in live discussion. You will learn their strategies for success, including:

  • Innovative digital experiences of tomorrow that engage and retain customers allow businesses to build with data (HBO and Calm)
  • Customer-centric organizations that align around shared value for customers and the business enjoy the clarity to move fast (Intuit)
  • Highly productive product owners have both autonomy and alignment with teams to move fast (Atlassian)

We hope this playbook will be your go-to guide to elevating your teams and products through data, customer empathy, and best practices to score big wins.

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