At last, businesses can join the digital dots and create effective adaptive strategies to succeed in this post industrial world.

It can be argued that where most businesses are today is through no fault of their own. If you think about the growth and hype around Mobile, Social, Data and Cloud, you’ll find a vendor heavy landscapeflocking to provide products and services to specific functional areas of the business around one of the above. What you find quickly is a picture full of tactical and siloed decisions and strategies that lead to short term gain without really providing solutions to the business which will help them become adaptive and holistically competent to deal with the pace of change and new consumer demands.

It’s pretty safe to say that the professional services industry, or management consultancies have been slow off the mark to promote and provide services around digital strategies. Usually when a transformational change happens, a ‘change agent’, there tends to be a consultancy shift towards support services to deal with that change as a result. We might fully embrace the traditional management consulting model for a variety of reasons but when they do engage and take note of a shift, the result is copious amounts of surveys and research swiftly followed by recommendations promoting new models and frameworks to herald the dawn of a new service industry. Yes of course, in this case we are talking about Digital Transformation.

Let’s just take a step back in time to look at how we got to where so many businesses find themselves today, still siloed with presence of digital visible but either ad hoc or tactical at best. Only a few businesses can really say they are embracing the full potential that digital has to offer the audience experience and the resultant business success awarded to those who can look outward and forward, those who can adapt to a changing environment moment by moment – always refining the audience experience to deliver business objectives. As an example let’s look at ACME Co. (only because I used to love The Roadrunner on TV!). As a business they have been adopting various aspects of Cloud, Mobile, Social and Data but mainly in silo; essentially trying to embed channel shift. Why? Because on the surface this seems the best way to cope with the new and evolving environment, especially with lack of understanding or buy in at a senior level. So, channel shift serves a purpose, providing some evidence of success but invariably the audience experience falls short in specific areas and there is an increasing pressure on internal systems, competency and capability.

Around 2011/2012 a tipping point occurs. For whatever reason, be it market analysis, boardroom buy in, a growing confidence in digital spend – we see the big consultancies officially launch a new service industry; ‘Digital Transformation’. For the first time, a customer-focused approach at a business level emerges and a new mindset and wave of thinking begins to bubble up. Coupled with the dawn of digital disruption and the millennial consumer, hindsight shows us something huge and globally relevant was taking place – we just didn’t think it was happening to us right?

Since 2012, Digital Transformation has grown exponentially, as a term, as an industry, as a mindset.

But for us the story doesn’t stop there. A silent shift from consumer to audience has taken place – all driven from the digital opportunity. What this means is that businesses everywhere must look to define and refine the audience experience across all 4 corners of the business: Customer, Employee, Supply Chain and Stakeholder. Dealing with the audience holistically means a pretty big deal for any business small or large, public or private.

  • You need to break down barriers so that the audience journey can be mapped and refined holistically.
  • You need to get buy in from the whole senior leadership team, not just the CEO – yes they should endorse and mandate the business wide change but more support is needed to drive it home.
  • You need a pretty good situation analysis of your current competency and capability to adapt.
  • You must ensure that digital doesn’t become either a point to point change programme or a bolt on to your current business strategy: you want a journey that starts but never ends and a business strategy that embraces digital.
  • You need guts. Not just in one person, that’s not enough, find the people with the guts to try, the guts to drive, the guts to risk and the guts to vision a future.
  • Don’t think your thinking stops at the business strategy – for this to succeed you need to ensure that there is a strategic focus on culture, which means communications and people. Bring those who lead these areas on board at the start to ensure inclusion, adoption and a basic belief that change for good can be achieved.

Heed this warning: If you are reading this blog, great, but if you are reading it with a half-hearted attitude you’re likely in trouble already. If you are still thinking mobile, cloud, social and data, raise the alarm within your business immediately, these are the forefathers of the modern digital business, they are the building blocks of your future so get them right now. Why the scaremongering? Well we are fast moving into the next phase of the modern digital business, that of ‘things’ and machines. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning algorithms are gaining breakthroughs every day. And it doesn’t stop there. These aspects are already here, around us, part of our lives making connections and creating opportunity, forever new connections that will bare the fruit of a new phase and a new phase beyond that and beyond that.

During a recent conversation with a global business leader he mentioned that the leaders of tomorrow will be those who can look forward and outward. This really resonated with us as a team and as an organisation that provides the support to help businesses and people adapt to this constantly evolving landscape of connections, made possible through digital.

Think forward and outward. Look beyond your current vision to where your audiences will be tomorrow. As the pace of change becomes ever faster, tomorrow might well be here.

So here is a quick summary of where we think we are today:

1. Businesses are not stupid, they know they need to address the digital revolution but they don’t necessarily know how urgent it really is or what it might look like to do something about it.

2. The view of the future is already becoming a reality; those who are only addressing channel shift are behind the curve. Just look to Moore’s Law to see that the future is coming so fast, it’ll hit you when you least expect it.

3. Disruptors will continue to enter markets and industries. It is predicted in 10 years, 40% of the Fortune 500 will no longer exist (Source: Socialnomics), so start to look beyond your current line of vision to influences that might impact your very existence.

4. People matter more than ever, but not just what they can do and how they do it, it’s becoming more about how they think and how they feel. Treat your audiences with the respect you would expect from another human being – that’s the power of digital.

5. There isn’t any area of the current corporate structure that’s immune. This revolution doesn’t discriminate it will demand change across every industry, every size of business, private, public and charity…it really will turn into a Tsunami.

Maybe it really is about adapting or dying…