Is Your Business Behind the Digital Curve? (Whose Isn’t?)

Posted by on Aug 6, 2014 in Business

I don’t know about you, but no matter how hard I try I never seem to catch up with technology, much less all the digital customer experience (DCX) innovations constantly reshaping business interactions. So, I was somewhat relieved to learn from a recent report that even big businesses (GM, P&G, Motorola, Nestle, Starbucks, etc.), that have tremendous incentives and resources, are challenged by this evolving landscape. Though it looks as if most are making efforts toward digitally engaging customers, few have worked out exactly what this means for the future.

The report, ‘The 2014 State of Digital Transformation’, was posted by digital analyst and anthropologist Brian Solis of Altimeter Group. Brian is the best-selling author of three highly regarded books with very long titles: What’s the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences, The End of Business As Usual: Rewire the Way You Work to Succeed in the Consumer Revolution, Engage!: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web. If there is a digital curve, he is one of the folks bending it into shape.

The purpose of this report, a follow-up to ‘Digital Transformation: Why and How Companies are Investing in New Business Models to Lead Digital Customer Experiences’ released earlier this year, was to get a pulse on where organizations presently are in the connected-consumerism adaption process. But there’s much more on Brian’s site. It’s worth bookmarking.

Whatever Can Be Digital Will Be
You know that queasy feeling you get when a major upgrade for your stable operating system is released? Get used to it; disruption will likely be the norm for the rest of your career (I’m looking at you millennials). Brian Solis refers to this as ‘Digital Darwinism’ – businesses’ ability to adapt to the rapid evolution of technology and society. But here’s good news from the report’s conclusion: ‘Those companies that get it and invest more in learning about their digital customers’ behaviors, preferences, and expectations will carry a significant competitive advantage over those that figure it out later (if at all).’

However, according to the survey, many companies presently lag in a critical people-focused consideration – mapping the customer journey. Shouldn’t this be a priority? Why would a company create a strategy to optimize customer relationships without first focusing on experience logistics? In a word, silos. Many traditionally structured businesses organize responsibility for the customer experience into decentralized, disciple-based fiefdoms. These fiefdoms have different focuses, goals, skill sets, and leadership making it difficult to align efforts across an enterprise.

However, what presents a major challenge for big businesses doesn’t for smaller ones. Though resources may pale in comparison, smaller businesses are naturally better suited to adaptation. Typically flatter and nimbler, small businesses

• are often closer to the customer experience

• can more easily align themselves so the customer experience is a centralized consideration

• may be able to more readily identify initiatives representing the best business value

• can respond more quickly to opportunities and lessons learned from the efforts of other organizations

• may have fewer speed bumps to leadership support.

The goal, as always, is to remain relevant to your stakeholders. Brian’s core message is for businesses to produce and share compelling content in the communities where stakeholders are active. The rub here is that digital innovation is shifting behaviors and expectations so quickly that everyone has to run to keep up.

On Your Mark, Get Set …
There’s an old joke about two hikers disturbing a bear, which incites a chase. It concludes with one hiker realizing the solution is not to outrun the bear, but the other hiker. Likewise, I think it’s true that no one is currently outpacing the rate at which technology and society are changing. Some people are just faster than others.

In the short term, many may simply try to figure out whom to stay ahead of to keep the bear safely behind. But who or what the threat is isn’t always obvious. More often than not, particularly concerning issues of change, people are their own worst enemies. As you dig in on this you’ll realize you’re in good company. And there’s plenty of help available from innovators and early adopters, such as Brian. Who knows, you may not be as far behind as you think. GD