Why e-strate­gies will help you sur­vive

Business First - - FRONT PAGE -

Adam Has­san, the busi­ness di­rec­tor for in­ter­na­tional de­sign-bureau De­sig­nit, fre­quently uses the word ‘dig­i­tal’ in his daily work. How­ever, he ad­mits the term is ac­tu­ally quite im­pre­cise. It can re­fer to ev­ery­thing from a con­nected dig­i­tal-world to smart phones and tablets, right through to “The In­ter­net of Things” – the idea that any ob­ject, an­i­mal or per­son can con­nect to the in­ter­net and com­mu­ni­cate.

Has­san’s busi­ness helps com­pa­nies to grow and cre­ate busi­ness value through strate­gic de­sign. He says many com­pa­nies, pri­mar­ily those in the in­dus­trial sec­tor, are hav­ing a hard time defin­ing their dig­i­tal iden­tity.

“For some rea­son, these par­tic­u­lar com­pa­nies are find­ing it dif­fi­cult to get started,” he says. “Those that try of­ten project a rather clumsy im­pres­sion.”

Part of Has­san’s job is to get busi­ness lead­ers to un­der­stand the value of In­ter­net-based ser­vices and pos­si­bil­i­ties. But does ev­ery­one have to jump aboard the In­ter­net band­wagon?

“Yes, at least those that want to sur­vive,” Has­san says. “Not util­is­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties that dig­i­tal chan­nels pro­vide is like driv­ing a horse-drawn wagon when ev­ery­one else is driv­ing a car. The on­go­ing dig­i­tal-revo­lu­tion is the new in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion. Roles and tasks are dis­ap­pear­ing while new ones are be­ing cre­ated and so­ci­ety is un­der­go­ing rad­i­cal change.”

The ad­van­tages of “driv­ing the dig­i­tal sports car” can be boiled down to three el­e­ments: knowl­edge, pres­ence and ser­vice. Let’s take knowl­edge first. Big data* and the pos­si­bil­i­ties for mea­sure­ment and anal­y­sis pro­vided by the In­ter­net en­able the gath­er­ing of in­for­ma­tion and data about mar­kets, cus­tomers and prospec­tive cus­tomers, as well

as about their needs and be­hav­iour. A com­pany with this knowl­edge also un­der­stands how to cre­ate in­creased in­ter­est in its prod­ucts and ser­vices.

With re­gard to pres­ence, Has­san thinks it means be­ing where the tar­get group is. “At the mo­ment, you may have cus­tomers who are not ac­tive on the In­ter­net but it won’t al­ways be that way,” he says. “Most people born af­ter 1970 have a nat­u­ral re­la­tion­ship to the In­ter­net and dig­i­tal ser­vices.”

And then there’s ser­vice. Over the last century, com­pet­i­tive tools in many in­dus­tries have de­vel­oped from fo­cus­ing on range to qual­ity and ser­vice.

“The dig­i­tal space is al­ready play­ing a de­ci­sive role in this area,” Has­san says. “When the goods or ser­vices you sell are not clearly dif­fer­en­ti­ated from those of your com­peti­tors, you have to de­velop and re­fine your ser­vice and the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence. Dig­i­tal and net­based ser­vices of­ten dra­mat­i­cally boost the ser­vice ex­pe­ri­ence.” But how does one go about it? How does a com­pany change from be­ing tra­di­tional and ana­log to a cred­i­ble dig­i­tal player?

“Many com­pa­nies start at the wrong end of the stick ask­ing, ‘What will we get out of this?’” Has­san says. “In­stead, I rec­om­mend in­ves­ti­gat­ing how dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion can en­hance ef­fi­ciency in the or­gan­i­sa­tion of these com­pa­nies. How can you save money and time as well as make things eas­ier for your­selves? Start from the in­side by mak­ing life eas­ier for em­ploy­ees and thereby ac­cli­mat­ing people to work­ing dig­i­tally and cre­at­ing pos­i­tive con­di­tions. From there you can progress and in­ves­ti­gate what you can do for your cus­tomers.”

Has­san says in many cases this means chang­ing a cor­po­rate struc­ture from the ground up. “The clas­sic cor­po­rate struc­ture with one leader at the top and a pyramid of em­ploy­ees be­low does not func­tion that well any­more,” he says. “Many busi­ness lead­ers do not un­der­stand how change­able the new dig­i­tal cli­mate is. They try to squeeze new op­por­tu­ni­ties and meth­ods into old par­a­digms.”

In­stead, or­gan­i­sa­tions need to be­come flat­ter. Ideas and knowl­edge at the fur­thest reaches of the com­pany must be cul­ti­vated, where they must be taken se­ri­ously and al­lowed to de­velop. Faster de­ci­sion paths and greater free­dom for em­ploy­ees at the base of the pyramid are of­ten nec­es­sary.

“Mak­ing such a change is not easy,” Has­san says. “First there will be chaos and then things will fall into place. This may sound off-putting, it’s called a revo­lu­tion for a rea­son.”

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