Eating Our Own Dog Food

People are increasingly comfortable living a bigger and bigger portion of their lives online. Because of that, essentially all businesses are now digital businesses.

A digital business is a lot more than a website and some social media: It’s a 24/7 commitment to making the experience of interacting with your company online as great as it can be. Primarily going digital is to improve your customer experience, but it is also for your staff, vendors, or investors. It encompasses every aspect of your business from production to shipping, and often prompts you to come up with faster and better ways to run everything.

Back in 2016, I’d been talking to a lot of customers about that, and it got me thinking… just how digital is Digital Opera? As it turns out, not nearly as much as I would like it to be.

Digital Opera Process Engine (DOPE)So, as we often do, we decided to eat our own dog food and make sure Digital Opera is leading the way and practicing what we preach. Here are the top 10 things we digitized that made the business better, and help us to continue to improve:

  1. We created “approved” items for our tech stack, and we stick to them, getting every ounce out of them, until we can make something better or something better comes along.
  2. We created Raceday as a totally digital company, but then we made it a client of Digital Opera so we could monitor every aspect of how it really is to do business with Digital Opera – from invoices to reports, to results.
  3. We created DOPE – The Digital Opera Process Engine, where we took all the processes we had unknowingly created in spreadsheets, notepad, Word Docs, and private web pages and put them into a single, online repository with a slick little process for creating or updating a process. Now everyone has access to them, and it has saved us an enormous amount of time, money, and irritation.
  4. We invested in a CRM program – Active Campaign – and we use it to stay in touch with current, potential, and previous clients.
  5. Our accounting and invoicing are now 90% automated. We will get to 100% soon.
  6. We created a new client portal for their account so they can check it at any time they want to.
  7. Pre-production used to be a series of meetings. Now it’s a very simple DIY assessment for whichever area of a digital business someone wants to improve. Clients can do it at any time, and it takes no more than 15 minutes.
  8. We added simple, easy-to-take action on monthly reports for each client, partially for continued communication but more so that clients know what we did over the past month and what the plan is for the upcoming month.
  9. We invested in a number of services to put more of our work online and automate it:  Clockify for tracking projects, Asana for other types of projects, Calendly to schedule meetings, and Zoom for online meetings (Way before the pandemic!) Bidsketch for proposals (We’ve since ditched that for our own tool).
  10. So much of our production was automated! The two biggest and most important of the automation we did was to move all re-usable code to Github, so anyone can grab it and not re-invent the wheel. The other big one was to develop some fantastic checks & tests along with backups that allow us to do mostly automatic software updates to the servers, customer applications, and websites without the fear of an update breaking anything.

That’s the list of stuff we set out to do over seven years ago already – so as you can see, becoming a digital business does not always happen overnight, especially when you put serving clients first. Could it be done faster? You bet! If it is done from the get-go and with proper funding, no problem! But, as you see here, it can be done incrementally on a time frame and budget that works for you.

Here’s the key: Prioritize what can be done the fastest that will give you the largest return on that investment in the shortest amount of time. For us, turning Raceday into a Digital Opera client was a huge eye-opener that lead us to make a lot of changes that have been positively received.

The bottom line is that these changes have so far made a 1,403% increase in our revenues. Wouldn’t anyone want that?