I’ve come across plenty of ways to characterise digitalisation in my time – a wave, a new approaching frontier, a revolution. What all of these examples have in common, ultimately, is both a sense of speed, inevitability and being all-encompassing.
And this is all before the massive benefits of being digital-ready have even been considered.
So how do you avoid being swept over by the wave? And who should be responsible for steering the ship? Well, let me give you my take on the matter…
Take it from the top
Given its obvious significance, it goes without saying that the digital agenda needs to be taken seriously. This means it must be a consideration in every area of the business, including board level discussion.
Not just a topic of conversation in the IT department or the sole role of Chief Digital Officers (a relatively new position that some organisations have created), but a company-wide concern.
It’s natural for other business units to look to IT as an enabler of digital transformation, but there’s more to it than tech: digitisation is as dependent on culture as it is on technology. There’s an important reason for this: digital transformation, if it’s to be successful, is ultimately something that will need to be embraced by the whole organisation.
It’s easy for organisations to become set in their ways – and it’s only natural to be nervous of new things or the failure that might come with them.
But for digital to work, you need to create an environment in which experimentation and innovation are encouraged. Failure is all a part of learning.
Yes, there’s room for caution and calculation when taking risks, but a risk-averse culture is not one in which innovation will flourish.
It will take strong leadership to usher in the changes needed to foster these kinds of cultures.
Key to digital disruption is prediction…
…and key to prediction is observation.
Organisations need to really keep an eye on other companies operating in their market – and further afield. There is a danger for companies that have become too insular and inward-looking. They need to watch what competitors are doing, and also learn from those innovating in sectors that are perhaps more advanced when it comes to digital too.
Digital disruptors are cropping up in all sectors, and learning from each other all the time; there’s a huge benefit to being sector- interest-agnostic here.
Utility companies, for example where there is a huge focus on creating ‘customer value’, could learn from how retailers are digitally transforming to serve their customers better.
Transport presents an interesting example too: we aren’t currently treated as true customers, but rather as anonymous passengers. Imagine the business opportunities that a travel operator could generate from cultivating their customers in a similar way to the retail sector?
Again, this is a discussion to be had at board level. Any industry can be disrupted, but this isn’t something to fear.
Instead, take a proactive approach. Put your best heads together and crowdsource to spot the disruptors early – then make a call on whether to protect against the threat or to embrace and deploy it before anyone else does.
Innovation on the fringes
It’s not just the big players that organisations should be keeping an eye on though.
More often than not, innovation comes from SMEs, start-ups, independent thinkers with the agility and inherent cultures that incorporate an appetite for risk.
Every industry will have its own Uber. Work with these companies, see how their ideas can inform yours and how you can cooperate to co-innovate.
Your digital future might depend on it, after all…
Read more from our Digital Disruption blog series:
Latest posts by David Rosewell (see all)
- How to thrive in a hyperconnected world - December 13, 2016
- The 4 essential elements of digital transformation - December 5, 2016
- Digital disruption: how to adapt to the ‘new normal’ - December 1, 2016