If you ask a number of folks what digital means to them and their business, you will get a myriad of answers. It's really hard to create a plan to get to a digital business if you don't have a common definition of it. To compound the problem, the components of a digital business are all evolving and new components are emerging constantly. Few companies have a similar starting point even if they are in the same industry. So what do the experts say? Compare theirs to my attempt.
Gartner: Digital business is the creation of new business designs by blurring the digital and physical worlds.
Forrester: Digital business must deliver epic digital customer experiences while simultaneously fostering agility and efficiency through digital operational excellence.
IDC: Digital Business employs digital technologies coupled with organizational, operational, and business model innovation to create new ways of operating and growing businesses.
I have no intention of criticizing any of the above definitions as they all capture key aspects and attributes of a digital business. It's kind of like trying to capture requirements to define a process or an application when the business professional only knows it's right when they see it in operation.
Sinur: Digital business is the leverage of available or emerging resources to compete effectively to win temporal or permanent loyalty of all parties that interact with the business while maintaining business longevity by changing / evolving the business model and shifting decisions or work to technology.
With that said, there are a number of trends and moving parts under the covers of all of these definitions. Besides the normal goal of attaining operational excellence while staying germane to a set of customers and prospects, there are new forces to deal with in this new digital world. It's almost like another planet compared to the high quality and stable business models, processes and applications that we have traditionally dealt with in the past.
New Human Experiences:
In the digital world the customers and other business parties will interact in a different way beyond social, mobile and cloud. The customers will be greatly influencing their interfaces with your organization and the way they expect to be treated. At the same time they may not know if they are dealing with a person or a bot of sorts. The visibility and dynamism expected will cause a revolutionary battle for relationship management and experience immersion
A Moving Target:
If you like your business as it is, just wait a couple of nanoseconds. Change will be occurring on grand scales during some periods and quiet in others. This means that your business model, competitive methods and products will be changing even in the hands of the customers while they own them. This means that your business and what digital means will shift as time travels.
All pedals to the metal. The speed of business operations, change and development will increase significantly. Also there will be a dynamic balance between portions of the business, emerging processes, applications and systems that might move slow and those that move in a nanosecond fashion (aka bimodal). This will put a premium on prediction and quick collaboration with the help of algorithms and cognitive assists.
A Cognitive Revolution:
Speed and change alone will generate a revolution in cognitive assists (cogs), but the complexity their interaction plus customer relationship and interaction demands will make it difficult for humans to do it alone, This revolution will put knowledge and wisdom in the hands of people and in the flow of processes, applications and systems. While on the surface, we see only a couple of large participants, their are number of specialty cogs emerging from smaller vendors.This is the first step of distributed intelligence. Imagine a world where humans collaborate with cogs for better results for all.
Once we trust the decisions and actions of processes, systems and machines, we will allow them to swarm to solve goal directed problems. At first, it will be small scale and isolated decisions and operations, but wider latitude will be won. Imagine a world where resources swarm in one way to reach a goal and swam in another when the context changes. This is part of a larger effort to push decisions and actions at the edge of the business with proper governance through constraints and visibility. This is the second step in distributed intelligence and the first step in distributed control.
I'm not sure anyone is ready for what digital ends up being, but it is clearly a journey and we will all have to deal with the incremental change getting to that moving destination. Strap yourself in as we are headed down this road.