Jersey City, New Jersey, USA --- USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Architect working on digital tablet --- Image by © Tetra Images/CorbisDid you know that less than half of the world’s population has Internet access? When you consider this fact, it’s easy to assume the Digital Economy is a fleeting trend rather than a new era in our world’s history. But don’t be fooled. The Digital Economy is here to stay. Not only does it impact how we live and interact with each other, but it’s also transforming how businesses run.

A recent study released by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a specialized agency of the United Nations, revealed that information and communication technologies have grown exponentially over the last 15 years. Internet use in the global population has advanced almost seven-fold, from 6.5% to 43%. Plus, the number of households with access to the Internet has risen from 18% to 26% in 2015.

As Internet growth continues to steadily expand towards the remaining five billion people who are still offline, businesses of all sizes are embracing how this new reality is changing consumer behavior. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) reported that 59% of executives believe failure to adapt to hyperconnectivity brings the highest level of risk to the overall business.

The Digital Economy brings a new level of business automation

As the customer experience continues to become increasingly digital, the buying journey and sales pipeline are accelerating at a dizzying pace. There are many more opportunities to initiate transactions, for customers to make requests to businesses, and for businesses to deliver those demands within a time frame the customer expects. As a result, processes have to be instrumented – leading to automation.

During his SAPPHIRE NOW session “The Rise and Implications of Economic Hyperconnectivity,” Pete Swabey, senior editor of technology at EIU, supports this reality by stating, “Where things get really interesting is when those demand signals are fed back into the supply chain. And we have automated systems that draw patterns in demand signals and then pump them into the supply in a market without any human interaction.”

Automation requires more than just technology – you need to simplify, too

However, there’s a hitch. Research from KPMG recently found that automation reduces operational risk inherent in manual processes and controls. However, technology tends to introduce unintended and potentially severe risks. “Piecemeal patches may only add to the danger. Meeting the challenge requires a consistent, coherent, and above all, sustained long-term strategy,” the report states.

Automation is not as easy as taking an existing process and putting technology behind it. Steps will be forgotten. Gaps will happen. Customer requests will fall through the cracks. This is something no business can afford – especially when a world of connected consumers are empowered to make sure that everyone is aware of any shortfall.

Before taking advantage of the Digital Economy in the form of business automation, business leaders should step back and dissect their existing processes. By removing unnecessary steps, bureaucratic bottlenecks, and communication gaps, automating the customer experience will become seamless and deliver insights into the next opportunity to give customers a reason to be loyal.

Is simplification a part of your business’s plan taking advantage of the Digital Economy? See Business Simplification 2015: The Unmet Strategic Imperative.