Digital Business – What does it really mean?

Im heading back home after an exciting day in Atlanta at one of our customer forums. Today’s discussion was centred around  “Digital Business”. Specifically, we spent a lot of time talking about what it means and what enterprises should be doing about it. 

Here is my take – Digital Business is a critical juncture where businesses finally get to tie the key IT projects to tangible business results. 

  • For business leaders it means driving better engagement with your customers resulting in higher revenue streams and higher customer satisfaction. 
  • For IT professionals it means finally moving away from the traditional measures of success (SLAs/cost savings) and instead evolving to be an enabler of innovation a catalyst for revenue growth.
  • For consumers it delivers better experiences through deeper engagement with key vendors

Let’s take a step back and think about how we got here –

  • The 80’s/90’s – Distributed Systems Era – Throughout the 80s and 90s we focused a lot of energy moving our key “Systems of Record” from mainframes to distributed systems. This move was led by internal IT and predicated by cost savings (Capex, Opex) and flexibility (interoperability).
  • The 90’s/2000’s – Enterprise Resources Planning Era – Enterprise Resource Planning(SAP, Oracle) dominated the 90s and 2000s on the promise of consolidating “Systems of Record” into a single Database and an integrated applications stack allowing for more accurate record keeping and flexible analysis. This move was led by the Business and predicated by the promise of cost savings and improved customer service.
  • The 2010/2016 – “The Cloud Era” – Over the last 6 years we have seen enterprises start to embrace all elements of cloud (private, public, hybrid) on the promise of cost savings and Agility. There is no doubt that the advent of cloud has allowed corporations to leverage automation to shift critical resources (time and money) away from the arduous task of “Keeping the lights on” and shift those resources to “Driving Innovation”. The cloud has also facilitated a  lower cost of innovation by driving consumption based economics “pay as you go”. 

All of these Eras have lowered the cost of delivering IT services to the business allowing organizations to do more with less. They have also created an incredible opportunity for the next wave of innovation to take shape.

Now, let’s think about what’s happened outside the world of big enterprise.

  • We have witnessed an explosion of mobile devices and a desire by consumers to leverage them to consume products and services
  • Catering to this desire, disruptive startup companies have leveraged software to deliver exceptional experiences to consumers
  • In turn we have seen massive swings in market share across major industries (i.e. Uber, Airbnb). As Marc Andreesson put it back in 2011 “Software is eating the world”. 

We are now at a critical inflection point – Enterprises need to urgently drive more intimacy with customer base in order to thrive in the future . The good news is that their IT projects of the past have set a strong foundation on which they can harness customer data and leverage insights to deliver “Systems of Engagement” that wow their customer base.

Success is out there! We have seen companies like General Electric extend their IT systems to drive new billing models for aircraft engines “propulsion-as-a-service) and Nike drive a new wave of customer loyalty with Nike+. 

Effectively what these companies have done is bridge the divide between their IT projects and their core business results. This bridge is the epitome of “Digital Business”

The opportunity is out there for every company to think about how they can leverage a “Digital Business” strategy. 

Last September Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware shared his perspective on Digita Business and the 5 imperatives he believes will shape success.  These are exciting times and companies that embrace innovation to drive exceptional customer experiences will open new markets and drive revenue growth. What role do you want to play?



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