This blog appears courtesy of W2O Group and originally appeared here.

Digital has done much to change our world.

It’s shifted the balance of power from institutions to individuals. It’s raised the bar in terms of knowledge acquisition and customer service. It’s connected needs and wants to product development and service enhancement. It’s adjusted pricing and accelerated delivery. All of these elements have resulted in major transformations within organizations, and a new set of behaviors by customers and employees, in how to take advantage of their new-found importance.

Digital has also impacted another, albeit even more, crucial aspect of business – Quality! Whether you’re producing a drug, an automobile, an analysis, an app, a benefits plan, a technology platform or consumer product, the level of quality has ratcheted up exponentially. Quality at every level of ideation and commercialization.

Quality at the speed of digital is about speed. What we’re noticing in the work we do is that quality is now subtle yet powerful in terms of upending your business. In the analog era, quality was a key tenet of success. In a digital reality, quality can get lost amid the fixation on new channels, apps, or worse, assumed because the focus shifted to data and influence. In approaching quality today, a number of considerations are critical from a marketing and communications standpoint.

In this regard, quality must be seen…

In the cracks – The little things from packaging, distribution, follow-up, all speak of quality.

In the appearance – How does the product or service look? Is it consistent with the brand? Does it exude a quality enterprise?

In the experience – From first touch point all the way through the customer journey.

In the post purchase – What do people believe and retain about their decision?

In the thinking – The most important area to remain competitive and relevant in a digital environment is how you think, make decisions, craft strategy and translate insight into action.

In the purpose – Does quality reflect the organization’s efficacy?

In the segmentation – How are you targeting your stakeholders? Individuals or communities?

In the production – Is your manufacturing system transparent? 

One of the key moves to strengthen quality at the speed of digital is to let loose ballast to gain speed and agility. Ballast is anything that is dragging down your efforts to gain momentum and move quickly against shifting behaviors, trends, and preferences. It is the most missed opportunity for value creation through Quality. Hanging onto to ballast not only weighs down the business, but also it erases clarity of thinking necessary in a climate of openness and never-ending choice.

Digital is the great equalizer, it elevates customers to direct commerce vs. being targeted by commerce. This new reality has reconstituted Quality to assume an even greater role in organizational excellence. Assimilating Quality at the speed of Digital has now become the most significant opportunity to achieve relevance in a changing world.

It takes commitment and focus along with a willingness to shed excess baggage to keep ahead.

Are you ready?

Gary Grates is a Principal at W2O Group, an IPR Trustee and the Director of IPR’s Organizational Communication Research Center. Follow him on Twitter @GaryGrates.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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