Start-up businesses in today’s world can embed all things digital into their Business model from Day One. These are the so called ‘digital natives’ and they can use, If they’re so inclined, lean methodologies, the Cloud, the connectivity of 24/7 devices and the vast reach of the Internet which makes them an immediate global business.
They will have challenges, of course, because at some stage raw entrepreneurial energy will have to be tempered with more professional business skills. Fortunately, there’s a lot of coaching and mentoring support on hand and collaborative thinking and doing today is much more prevalent and available.
For established businesses – the digital immigrants – the challenge is infinitely more difficult. That’s because the way businesses like this are run is to do with tomorrow not today. It’s an observation not a criticism, but leadership, people, processes will all explicitly or implicitly protect the status quo. Marketing may be embracing social media but this is no more than ‘cappuccino froth’ of digital.
So, established businesses need to be thinking about the potentially disruptive impact of digital technology across the business and how prevailing mindsets maybe cloaking the reality of what’s happening around them.
Some of the key areas to consider are:
Many believe that in today’s fast changing world, there’s little or no need to have a formal strategy or strategic planning process. It’s true that businesses are being challenged to be more flexible and responsive but it’s good practice to have a written reference point so that all those in the business – including external partners – understand the shape and direction you’re taking.
This isn’t something that’s set in concrete – it needs to be a ‘living’ document -that recognises and responds to what’s happening around you – particularly the changing and varied needs of your customers.
Quite often strategy used to be set top down by the people at the top of the organisation (the HIPPO’s) and ‘cascaded’ through the business. Now, enlightened businesses actively engage people across the business especially those in direct contact with customers – bottom-up.
The ‘old command and control’ model is no longer fit for purpose and business leaders cling to it today at their peril. Some professions are able to erect a ‘cordon sanitaire’ around their business. But, as the demise of whole industries shows – books, records and travel, for example – and with the imminent digital disruption on other areas such as education, much knowledge is no longer immune to the threat and automation of the 69p App! Part of the reason for this was inevitably the inability of those in control to respond to the changing dynamics.
Before Digital Business Marketing there was a time when consumers were told what to think and feel about a brand. There might too have been discussions about who ‘owned’ the customer. This was the era of ‘push’ marketing’.
Social media fuelled by digital technology and ‘on all the time’ devices has turned this conventional approach to marketing on its head. There’s been a shift of power and influence from organisations to the individual. Brands now live or die not only on the user’s experience but that of the people in their social networks too. Going ‘viral’ – like the weather – can range from a light drizzle to a tsunami!
So the Digital Business Marketing focus now is on conversations and engagement – it might mean a relationship too but that’s the customer’s prerogative not that of the organisation. This is pull marketing – I’ll engage with your business as long as you deliver value – as I define it – to me when and where I want it.
And at the same time I’ll expect you to be open and transparent about what you’re getting out of it and preferably socially responsible too.
Perhaps the greatest challenge here is the move towards a networked community. Social media is to ‘blame’ for the liberation of inter-personal communications. People who are used to this freedom and immediacy in their personal life increasingly expect it in the workplace too. The gatekeeper role of traditional IT functions is now being severely challenged and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) adds more headaches for the risk management and compliance functions.
So, welcome to the irresistible networked age where people are just as likely to look outside the business rather than ask their managers for answers to their business problems. This can only be good, most threats to existing business models come from outside the industry you’re in. So, new knowledge is required which is outside what is known by managers and their experts.
Growing companies often overlook the constraints out dated process may pose to scaling their businesses and also the cost savings and efficiencies from re-visiting them. Digital capabilities magnify this – it’s been put as high as 90% where those that are information intensive are digitalised.
Re-visiting processes is often a good way of breaking down silo mentalities and encouraging cross functional collaboration. Engaging the people who work the processes makes sense too; they’ll be the ones who know where the current bottlenecks are. If the re-design is particularly radical it may be necessary to run the re-design initially as a ‘skunk’ operation to overcome vested interests although this can be high risk.
It would be true to say that ‘consulting’ gets a mixed press – ‘a consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time, and then keeps your watch’. With the pace and scope of all things digital, there is value in talking to people like the Frontier Knowledge Community – who have the time and the interest to stay abreast of these changes – to get a perspective on the potential impact on your business.
Shape your digital journey by having a ‘no commitment’ conversation now!