Just like Marty McFly in Back to the Future II, we have crash-landed in October of 2015 and oh, boy – what a future we’ve found. We’re only two years away from Gartner’s widely-quoted prediction that 20% of all market leaders will be displaced by companies formed after 2000 due to a lack of digital business advantage.
What does it take to be able to label your business as a Digital Business and get a digital business advantage? Marketing thought leaders argue that having an eCommerce, mobile, IoT or Cloud strategy will make you a Digital Business or put you on the path to becoming a Digital Business. Yet, while these technologies enable a Digital Business, their mere technical implementation alone does not make you a Digital Business.
In our experience with global enterprises that have transitioned into being digital business, we find it’s essential to emulate the following four practices:
Establish a Platform
First, you have to establishing your business as a platform. This means being open to and enabling other businesses to build on top of your business. Some companies, like Facebook and Twitter, embrace a completely open platform, others are more selective. Other examples of great platforms can be found in businesses such as Amazon, Ebay, LinkedIn, Concur and Netflix.
To establish yourself as a platform, you need to be brave and open enough to allow even your competitors to build on top of your business as you build your ecosystem. What better validation of your solution could there be when your competitors leverage it as well? It is a fine line, knowing which part of the platform to open and how open it should become, but it can be done. Amazon is an excellent example of this type of platform openness.
Create an Ecosystem
The ecosystem is such a critical part of your Digital Business. Without an ecosystem, Amazon wouldn’t be Amazon, Netflix wouldn’t be Netflix and Concur wouldn’t give you the ultimate travel expense experience. You need the ability to grow your ecosystem of customers, suppliers and partners at scale. You can’t take weeks and months to onboard them to your platform; it must be seamless and smooth. The Digital Business is about networking at scale.
Build a Community
The community helps foster and grow your ecosystem. It is the communication channel by which your ecosystem can help each other, innovate, and ultimately grow your business. It will become your number one non-marketing marketing channel. It will be the largest contributor to your success or failure. If your platform upsets anyone in your ecosystem, word will quickly get around in your community. However, if your platform delights your ecosystem members, your community will grow and it will grow your ecosystem. Always work to delight your ecosystem and foster you community.
Enable The Digital Business Experience
The digitization of the world has shifted power to the consumer. It is not enough to just have a Digital Business. Consumers expect a personalized product experience and access anywhere and anytime. Personalization is what is added to a Digital Business to provide the Digital Business Experience.
Personalization is the ability to communicate the smartest thing at any moment in time consistently across all channels. This is not an easy capability to implement, but it allows you to delight your target audience, whether it’s employees, partners or customers and drive a desired business outcomes. There are three main drivers of personalization, which is also starting to be known as Cognitive Computing:
- Context – The ability to deliver a message in a personalized context for the user, relating to the specific “what, where, when and how” that the user cares about.
- Person – Deliver a message based on the user’s profile – the who and the why
- Learning – Test and learn what works and what doesn’t to optimize the experience.
Cognitive computing will be the buzz of 2016
The Digital Business – Networking at scale + Personalization
The Digital Business is more than a technical strategy. It is truly a business strategy. Having the technology in place helps enable your business strategy, but without a solid business strategy to become a Digital Business, you’ll just be running “business as usual.” Ask your business leaders what their thoughts are on establishing a platform, growing an ecosystem and creating a community. How are you going to enable personalization through that strategy to get the digital business experience your consumers expect? Figuring out, and then executing on your distinct digital business strategy will likely be the key to business survival as the future inexorably advances.