Over the last few years, there have been many ways to characterise digitalisation – a new wave, an approaching frontier, a revolution.
But what all these definitions have in common, ultimately, is a sense of speed, inevitability and being all-encompassing.
This is all before the consideration of the massive benefits of being digital-ready and how disruptive technology is literally to redefining the limits of what is possible in every industry
However, while the concept of digital creates richer, more rewarding customer relationships and gives businesses the power to reimagine what they can do, there is a cause for concern.
The reality is that digital disruption is not a negative force, merely an unstoppable one. So how can organisations avoid being swept over by the wave? And who should be responsible for steering the ship?
Take it from the top
Given its obvious significance, it goes without saying that the digital agenda needs to be taken seriously.
This means it must be a consideration in every area of the business, including board level discussion. It’s no longer just a topic of conversation in the IT department or the sole role of chief digital officers (a relatively new position that some organisations have created), but is in-fact a company-wide concern.
It’s natural for other business units to look to IT as an enabler of digital transformation, but there’s more to it than tech: digitisation is as dependent on culture as it is on technology.
There’s an important reason for this: digital transformation, if it’s to be successful, is ultimately something that will need to be embraced by the whole organisation.
It’s easy for organisations to become set in their ways – and it’s only natural to be nervous of new things or the failure that might come with them. But for digital to work, businesses need to create an environment in which experimentation and innovation are encouraged. Failure is all a part of learning.
Key to digital disruption is prediction…
…and key to prediction is observation. Organisations need to keep an eye on other companies operating in their market – and further afield.
There is a danger for companies if they become too insular and inward-looking that they may end up falling behind competitors and eventually, going out of business.
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Organisations must to watch what competitors are doing, and also learn from those innovating in sectors that are perhaps more advanced when it comes to digital too.
Digital disruptors are cropping up in all sectors, and learning from each other all the time; there’s a huge benefit to being sector- interest-agnostic here and this should be encouraged more.
Utility companies, for example where there is a huge focus on creating ‘customer value’, could learn from how retailers are digitally transforming to serve their customers better.
It could be said that retail is leading the way when it comes to digital services. Fujitsu’s own research revealed that 96% of retailers are already taking measures to ensure they are at the forefront of innovation.
The research also highlighted how over four-fifths (81%) have used digital disruption to invest in new technology, 52% have changed their business strategy and 42% of retailers have invested in the development of new products and services.
Transport presents an interesting example too: citizens aren’t currently treated as true customers, but rather as anonymous passengers. Imagine the business opportunities that a travel operator could generate from cultivating their customers in a similar way to the retail sector?
It’s time that all businesses took a proactive approach to digital disruption – it isn’t something to fear.
By forward planning and crowdsourcing the disruptors early, organisations can decide whether to protect against the threat or to embrace and deploy it before anyone else does.
Innovation on the fringes
More often than not, innovation comes from SMEs, start-ups, independent thinkers with the agility and inherent cultures that incorporate an appetite for risk. It’s time for bigger players to work with these companies to see how their ideas can transform and how they can cooperate to co-innovate.
David Rosewell, head of digital strategy, EMEIA, Fujitsu