According to PwC, by the year 2020, an entire generation – Generation C (for “connected”), would have grown up in a primarily digital world, with little experience of physical media. Similarly, a Bain & Co survey marked the advent of Generation #hashtag – “a new generation of content consumers that cuts across ages, combining the digital natives that live and breathe the social media they were born with, and the over-25 migrants that have already embraced digital media as their primary source of content”.
The message is clear – from a consumer point of view, the digital world has now penetrated every aspect of our lives and its influence will only continue to grow.
From a business point of view, many have realised the effects of digitisation and have changed their strategy accordingly. But I think 2015 will truly be the year of digital innovation in business. This year will be the turning point, I think, where many companies will have no other choice, but to adapt in order to survive.
In fact, according to research from The Altimeter Group, not only are organisations adapting, but many are pursuing a formal effort of “digital transformation”. A simple search through the websites of the major business strategy consultancies is also a proof of this – all of them have established offerings focusing on helping organisations understand and benefit from the digital revolution.
Some companies have made big steps to keep up with the rapidly evolving digital environment. The truth is, however, that many still have a long way to go in terms of remodelling their business strategies so that they are fit for purpose. Here are four things companies can focus on to make 2015 their year for digital innovation:
- Go beyond the corporate website and let it go – it’s true that digitisation has meant that companies cannot control their brand assets as they used to anymore. This challenge, however, has presented big business with the opportunity to build much stronger relationships with their customers through a new multitude of innovative ways and channels. For many companies this means they have to go outside of their comfort zone – i.e. their corporate websites – and explore new territories like social media and direct online customer engagement platforms. In such an environment, crisis management and content development has become key. But companies also need to focus on nurturing a culture of entrepreneurship so that their communications function operates in a much more immediate and fluid manner. Frameworks and guidelines remain essential, but adaptability and integrity increase in importance when building a communications strategy in a digitised world.
- Kick off a digital revolution from the inside out – many companies have focused on building their digital strategies for external communications, but have completely forsaken digitising their workforce. I think a much more fruitful approach would be to start from the inside out. An employee population that is empowered and trusted to navigate the digital world with the right processes, tools and content – inside, as well as outside the walls of the company – can be an enormous asset in terms of communications, new product and business development, and consumer engagement.
- Security, security, security – living online or through technology, means that companies need to ensure that their information is well protected. This is absolutely key and needs to remain an ongoing focus for any business who is braving the digital world.
- Help emerging digital processes coexist with traditional ones – a recent McKinsey article I read suggests that “digital competition may dictate a new organisational architecture in which emerging digital processes coexist with traditional ones”. The article examines how this could be done through a “two-speed” approach – i.e. functions that address evolving customer experiences and must change rapidly operate at a faster pace, compared to the remaining functions, where the speed of adjustment can remain as is. It also offers suggestions on how companies can achieve this by making digital dialogue more strategic and setting up joint IT-business teams to coordinate new initiatives. I couldn’t agree more with the article and it made me think of the importance of the executive team in the corporate digital revolution. A much closer collaboration between the CEO, CFO and CIO seems to be crucial when it comes to rewiring businesses for the digital world and should be of focus for organisations in 2015.
2015 can be big for big business, but only if companies take advantage of the opportunities that digitisation has to offer. A McKinsey report, for example, estimates an untapped market of £774 billion across four industries – consumer packaged goods, consumer financial services, professional services, and advanced manufacturing – that can be unlocked by social technologies. But organisations need to put in some hard work to reap the fruits of digitisation and I think focus, innovation, bold actions and commitment is what will divide the winners from the losers.