Part 1 of a 5 part blog
Digital seems to be the newest catch-phrase amongst all and sundry. Everyone is saying – we need to go digital, or I am an expert in digitization or phrases to that effect. So the word ‘digital’ – is it new? Is it innovative? is it transformative? Is it different from technology industry led disruption? Or is it just another new catch-phrase popularized by our industry experts to create new hype – with limited substance?
Let’s examine this.
To start with the word ‘Digital’ is nothing new, unlike what our consultants, futurists, technologists and finally the headhunters would like us to believe – there was a firm called ‘Digital Equipment Corp’ founded by Ken Olsen and Harlan Anderson that trademarked ‘Digital’ in 1957! Yes 1957!! The firm Digital was a major player in the computer and technology industry through the 80s and 90s till it was acquired by Compaq in 1999 for a then-record US$9B. At its peak in 1987 Digital employed over 140,000 full time staff. So, in essence, the word Digital is nothing new!
So why this hype now? Is it just another case of consultant-created-hype? And while a couple of decades ago, the word Digital meant a firm, an enterprise manufacturing innovative personal computing; what does it mean now?
Let me try and elucidate what the word ‘Digital’ actually means and my personal take on it, but before we do that, lets list out the 5 key trends that are transforming business (actually life) as we know it. Most of them are well defined and I am going to merely list them at this stage.
- Attention spans & behaviour patterns – the attention spans have decreased by over 50% in the past 20 years – they stand at about 6 seconds now. To put this into context, the average goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds. This begs a question – how does an enterprise deliver accurate & relevant content on the right channel (Alexa, mobile, google nest, whatever..) in less than 7 seconds to ensure the viewer feels interested enough to dig deeper into the proposition?
- Increasing pace of change – thanks to ubiquitous technology and ease of development tools, the pace of change has dramatically increased – and it is constantly increasing.
- Era of big data, AA, AI, ML – what was Moore’s law for computing is now relevant for big data – and our research suggests very few firms use data effectively to create sustainable value
- Compliance, Privacy & Security – With great power (tech platforms, data, analytics) come great risks (cyber threats, privacy, enhanced reporting) and platforms increasingly are tasked with proactive user approvals to authentication, encryption at rest and motion and increasing focus on industry accreditation like GDPR, HIPAA etc.
- Enterprise technology isn’t meeting user demands – finally, it is fairly obvious that enterprise technology is rarely meeting user demands, users are demanding a Facebook or Spotify – rather difficult when half of the US banks use Cobol as their core transaction engine. Some Australian banks are trying to implement a front office ‘digital’ platform alone which completely misses the point.
So, what does digital mean and has it fundamentally changed since the time of the Internet in the mid-nineties?
I daresay no – it remains the same & expressed one succinct phrase: it is essentially the democratization of data, technology and business models, ensuring equity and protection for all.
My point is simple – fundamentally nothing has changed – digital remains at the cross section of business models (or any model), technology and data & while the importance of data may have increased significantly over the past 20 years but the three key pillars haven’t!
So in effect: the term Digital for me answers one simple question: “how do enterprises democratise the development of technology and ensure equity and protection for all?”
In my next blog I shall discuss the Foundational attributes, the Strategic levers and the Technology model that will further illustrate my point.