A dual strategy for digital

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In my previous article I discussed the Digital Truths, a set of principles that illustrate why markets work differently in the digital world and why, as a result, the way we do business is changing. The Digital Truths also help to explain why companies need new capabilities in order to compete in this new type of market. The need for these new organisational capabilities and the process of developing them is a key theme of my new book, Digital Uncovered.

The Digital Truths are, in effect, the rules of business in the digital age; they are the characteristics of a new technology-enabled style of business that will come to every industry at some point. And, when it does, the Digital Truths will apply to every market – they will become the norm for every organisation and every sector. Hence to survive and succeed in the long-term, every company needs to build the new organisational capabilities required for this new style business; every company needs to transform for digital.

Building the new organisational capabilities will take time; it will require changes to people, processes and technology throughout the organisation. For most businesses it will involve a multi-year programme to reach the required level of maturity across all areas.

But digital is happening now and disruption could happen at any time. Organisations that do not start using technology to enhance their products and services or to change how they work, risk being left behind. Given this dilemma, it would be easy to concentrate entirely on the short-term need – to focus all the organisation’s efforts on creating digital offerings and solutions – as building the organisational capabilities will be pointless if you are not in business to benefit from them. But this approach will quickly become a never-ending cycle that requires increasing amounts of effort to keep pace with competitors that are built for digital.

Focusing exclusively on adding digital experiences and tools to the existing organisation is not a sustainable solution over the long-term. At best it will buy the organisation some time and may provide protection against the immediate threats of disruption but that threat will not go away entirely. To be competitive in digital markets in the long-term you need to build the new capabilities – you need to transform for digital.

And that is why in Digital Uncovered I describe a dual strategy that balances the short-term need to add digital to the business now, with the longer-term requirement of building an organisation that is digital by default. This is the approach that the digital leaders are taking – those organisations that existed pre-digital but which are successfully making the transition to being a business that is built for digital. Under this dual approach they are already using technology to enhance their existing products and services, create seamless customer experiences and create new revenue streams as well to change how their organisation works internally and with its partners and suppliers. And, at the same time, they are making the changes required to reach maturity across the new organisational capabilities they will need to compete in digital markets in the long-term.

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At first sight the two aspects of this dual strategy can appear to conflict with each other: delivering short-term impact versus building long-term capability. But if managed correctly they can actually be complementary. For example, short-term initiatives can be used as pilots to learn lessons for the longer-term transformation, or to create centres of excellence that can be used to develop the capability of the wider organisation. And, as the business increases its maturity across the seven capabilities, it will find that it can identify and exploit opportunities for using technology to enable new experiences, products, services and ways of working far more quickly and easily.

Digital Uncovered is available from Amazon in print and Kindle formats. Country links are listed below:

UK, US, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Japan, Spain

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