Becoming a digital enterprise is not an option for anyone these day, no matter what industry you’re in. We’ve all seen the numbers from Gartner and others: By 2020, more than seven billion people and businesses, and at least 30 billion devices, will be connected to the Internet. Gartner also says that business leaders who do not respond to the challenge of digital business will find their own careers sidetracked. The upside for IT is being part of truly transformative change; the greatest risk is in not making the transition intelligently enough or fast enough.
Transitioning to a digital enterprise for many of us is like walking into a predominantly unknown space. As an IT professional, no matter how grounded you are in technology and your business, you will be challenged with new realities and obstacles you couldn’t have predicted. As you make the move, here are some tips to consider:
Know your data. Since the tech boom, we have online and internal systems for just about everything we do, and the amount of data we produce is mind-boggling. Many organizations, data rich but information poor, don’t really know in detail what they have and even when they do, the “gotcha” factor is the legal implications of how data can be used and who owns it. You should know:
- what data you have in detail and in relationship to the totality of data that you have
- how certain domains of data relate to others
- who owns what data and how it can be leveraged
Know your customer. Great organizations really understand their customers and the rest of us may not. We lose sight of the buying process because we focus so much on the selling process. You need to know exactly who it is that you serve and how your customers make decisions because, at the end of the day, it’s all about conversion: How do you set the stage and deliver the right information – the right thing at the right time to the right person? Some people think that if they build an attractive website, they’re automatically a digital business. Not so. Digital businesses don’t have the benefit of a smiling face and warm greeting – you have to dig deeper.
Let go of the old to embrace the new. There’s a stark difference between a consumer-targeted website or service and a corporate online system. You have to ask yourself why that is. The people in your organization know how to build the kinds of things they see and use as consumers, so why haven’t they? The reason is that it’s not only a different orientation, but also a different skill set. You have to be willing to make hard decisions around infusing your organization with people who think differently.
Be courageous. So much is happening at blinding speed in this digital space. Every day, there’s a mobile app startup, a piece of work done at a university or an open source project that could only have been accomplished in this new normal that is all around us, invisible but saturating everything we do.
Becoming a truly digital business is all about the insights you collect along the way – as you come across them, be ready to pivot. It’s easy for startups that don’t have years of institutionalized policy and practice, not so easy for established organizations that do. In the digital age, if you’re not taking any risks and not failing ever, you’re not taking enough risk. It’s only through experimentation that you gain the insights and discoveries you need to transform your business. Be bold, change like this is not for the light-hearted.
In a future post, I’ll talk about the practical things you can do to make these ideas work. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on this one.