“Digital is the main reason just over half of the companies on the Fortune 500 have disappeared since the year 2000”

– Pierre Nanterme, CEO of Accenture

The above quote by the CEO of Accenture should send chills down the backs of every businessman who is not willing to bring the digital innovation into his/her business. It is not necessary to absolutely change your core competency and strategy to digital, but it is definitely necessary to make digital a part of your overall strategy.

Digital forces are shaping businesses, cost factor is now addressed using intelligent automation, cloud technology is enabling industries to capture a bigger market than ever, and traditional offshoring model is now shifting to captive firm operations. To benefit from these trends companies need to up skill their labor pool to work in collaboration with intelligent machines.

We often see organizations start to address the digital revolution by saying they will digitize their channels in the front office, addressing marketing, sales and services.  However, it’s not a sustainable strategy. The back office is unable to respond and companies generate unprofitable business.

If organizations address processes only—or digitize the back office in isolation—they are unable to get the speed that is required without digitizing the front office.

That is why it is critical to address both the front and the back office to create a digital business. Companies that can combine business, function and technology to create a digital business achieve profitable growth through a digitalized business model across the entire organization.

What is a digital business? Definition: A digital business delivers growth and results by creating unique customer experiences through new combinations of information, business resources and digital technologies that produce innovative outcomes designed to meet the new expectations of the digital world. It executes a unique digital strategy that looks beyond what technology makes possible to what digital business models can make profitable.

Figure 1: The digital opportunity

These numbers have made industries recognize web as a platform worth considering. Global digital advertising spend continues to swell in recent years, the predictions from Juniper Research are estimating a $285bn spend by 2020 from current spend of US$ 160 bn. Social media websites such as Facebook are utilizing their audience knowledge to offer advertisers highly accurate targeting.

The world is changing around us and almost every aspect of business and consumer life is going digital. The impossible is becoming possible with every hour spent and it is necessary to keep up with the changes to gain an upper hand. Design companies around the world are promising the world to their clients and are able to deliver on said promises thanks to the speed and creativity provided by the digital interface. For instance, a small marketing company out Bozeman, Montana in the united States is revolutionizing the way brands market themselves on the digital platform.

They do this by using three simple steps that build around a company’s core competency. They are research, build and refine. In the research phase, the company empathizes with their target audience to understand who they are, after all, if the target customer is not interested in what a company is selling, then there is no need for the product. Once the data is found, they compare this with their web analytics, competitive benchmarks, SEO/SEM data and secondary industry information. Once all the data is collected they build digital prototypes to test ideas with real users. Once the users have been exposed to what they have built, they gather feedback and refine the entire process to achieve maximum compatibility.

Companies like Tadpull exist all over the world. Even the concept of thinking out of the box is considered out-dated now. “Instead of thinking outside the box, get rid of the box.” – Deepak Chopra. Once you get rid of the box, the possibilities are endless. Whether you have the resources to pull off all the ideas you have come up with, without the box, comes later. In the beginning however it is important to get the creative juices flowing.

Customer centric business like this are focussing on the customer experience factor of the project. “The market is not standing still. And neither are we. We have built an amazing company based on design and innovation. And now we have added the capability to deliver cutting-edge products and services into market. Big ideas executed. Products with purpose. Experience users love.” – Fjord. Let’s look at some of the services and tools that is mapping today’s digital world.

Figure 2: Digital & Innovation Disrupting Major Industries

Social media
Social media is something of a mystery to the experienced generation and a necessity for the younger one. As younger generations move into the business world, their knowledge about social media and its potential to reach a vast range of customers, has been harnessed successfully by almost every business out there. Businesses are moving towards the social media sphere for one simple reason, their customers are all there. Not only can they connect with customers in their own geographical area, but can get brand awareness going all over the world.

Social media generates a huge amount of data about your customers in real time. Everyday over 500 million tweets, 4.5 billion likes on Facebook and 95 million photos and videos are uploaded on Instagram. Behind these staggering numbers is a wealth of information about your customers- who they are, what they like and how they feel about your brand. Through daily active engagement and “social listening”, you can gather relevant customer data and use that information to make smarter business decisions. When you have a presence on social media, you make it easier for your customers to find and connect you. You ask how? Its just the way social media is set up. The entire concept of it revolves around CX or customer experience, of which speed and convenience is huge factor. Users do not want to go anywhere and keep searching for what they want for long periods of time. Interest fades eventually and they give up. With social media this does not happen, as information is available live and fast. A study by The Social Habit shows that 53% of Americans who follow brands on social are more loyal to those brands.

Promoting your products and services has never been easier. Social ads are an inexpensive way to promote your business and distribute content. They also offer powerful targeting options so that you can reach the right audience. For instance, and ad campaign on LinkedIn, allows you to segment things like location, company, job title, gender and age. If you are running a Facebook ad, you can target based on location, demographics, interests, behaviors and connections.

Social media increases sales and customer retention through regular interaction and timely customer service. This is heavily used in the travel industry as it is very easy to rate companies and provide feedback on social media. Small businesses around the world are using social media to deal with customer service, by responding to comments and direct messages on their respective platforms instantly. Since these sites are viewed often and the speed of information travels fast, it is imperative that companies take immediate action when negative reviews come through.
Even if you are not on social media, most of your customers would expect you to be. Over 67% of consumers now go to social media for customer service. They expect fast response times and 24/7 support, and companies that deliver win. A study by the Aberdeen Group shows that companies engaging in social customer service see much bigger financial gains (7.5% year to year growth) vs. those without (2.9%).

One of the biggest benefits of social media for business is using it to increase website traffic. Not only does social media help you direct people to your website, but the more social media shares you receive, the higher your search ranking will be. For instance, if every person who follows Adidas on Facebook, shares their posts, it is more likely to rank higher in Google’s search engine results page for variations of “social media for business”. It’s the way Google’s algorithm works.

With social media monitoring you can gain key information about your competitors. This kind of intel will allow you to make strategic business decisions to stay ahead of them. For example, you can create search streams in Hootsuite to monitor industry keywords and mentions of your competitors’ names and products. Based on your search results, you can improve your business to offer product enhancements, service, or content that may they may be missing.
In the past, marketers faced the challenge of ensuring their content reached customers in the shortest possible time. With the help of social media, specifically when it comes to sharing content about your business or for content curation, all you need to do is to share in your brand’s social network accounts. You can also use Geo-targeting to effectively send your message to a specific audience based on their location. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have tools that allow you to communicate the right kind of content to your audience. For example, you can target Twitter messages to followers in specific countries or send messages from Facebook and LinkedIn company pages to specific groups based on geographical and demographic parameters.

Businesses can create the most outstanding product or provide the most outstanding service, but at the end of the day its all about the relationships that you build, that are sustainable. Social media is not about blasting your company’s sales pitch on social. It’s a two way channel where you have the opportunity to enrich relationships with your customers. For example, social media allows tourism brands to create dialogue with travellers, therefore creating relationships with customers before, during and after they have booked a trip with the company. This kind of social media dialogue between brands and customers is something traditional advertising cannot achieve.

Big Data and Analytics
The words above, even though they sound heavy and complicated, are not actually not that complicated. The basis for every business decision is data. No business still operating makes decisions based on their gut feeling. It has proven to be too risky, and where there is a better way to make informed decisions, why not use it. That is what big data and analytics are. They are given such amicable names because of their importance in any business decision. Without proper data to back up claims, decisions remain incomplete and can lead to grave consequences.

The basic meaning of big data is “a term that describes the large volume of data- both structured and unstructured- that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis. But it’s not the amount of data that is important. It is what organizations do with the data that matters. Big data can be analyzed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves.” – SAS. Decisions that had been previously deferred to those with years of experience and a “feel for what the customer wants” are now being challenged with data. Whoever has the data has the power to make strategic decisions. “Organizations that foster a culture of making data-based decisions will be in a stronger position to weather the changes ahead.” – Harvard Business Review.

Today , big data and analytics have been going hand in hand with social media as well. Organizations around the world have harnessed the speed and real time data gathering initiatives of social media platforms and converted them to big data for better decision making. Social media metrics allow a complete overview of your Key Performance Indicators (KPI). This quick collection of data has allowed decision makers to create unlimited real time reports which measure the in- depth performance of your social media platforms. You can also track your team’s performance when it comes to customer service related queries. For instance, how long does it take for your team to respond to Facebook and Twitter questions. Once all the data is collected and analyzed you can make custom reports to prove social ROI.

Big data and analytics can also be used to expand customer intelligence. For any enterprise with numerous customers, it is hard to keep track of each and every customer and remember them every time they visit. That’s changing. Companies such as Visa, are using big data to identify its most valuable customers and it is doing so without penalizing customers who aren’t frequent users. The reason this can be achieved with big data, is because it does not look at just one source of data. Big data examines a broad range of sources that include structured information such as purchase histories, customer relationship management data and intelligence from other industry partners, as well as unstructured information such as social media.

Big data and analytics have been able to improve the operational efficiencies of companies. “Big data will finally forge the last links of the value chain that will help companies drive more operational efficiencies from existing investments.” – CSC. For instance, sensors on a commercial aircraft generate 20 terabytes of data an hour. Automobiles are reporting back data collected from onboard sensors and dealer service systems. Also let’s not forget the growing tide of RFID equipped vehicles, crates and packages in the logistics industry.
Big data and analytics have also gone mobile. Mobility will accentuate the impact of big data on both customer intelligence and operation efficiency by making everything immediately actionable. When you have the ability to use big data and analytics on your mobile phone, you can make decisions on the go hence reducing the lag time between cause and effect. The speed will allow decision makers to come up with solutions to problems within minimum time and stop the build-up of uncertainty.

A live example of the usage of big data and analytics is with UPS. As a company with many pieces and parts constantly in motion, UPS stores a large amount of data, most of which comes from sensors in its vehicles. That data not only monitors daily performance, but also triggered a major redesign of UPS drivers’ route structures. The initiative was called ORION (On-Road Integration Optimization and Navigation), and was arguably the world’s largest operations research project. It relied heavily on online map data to reconfigure a driver’s pickups and drop-offs in real time. The project led to savings of more than 8.4 million gallons of fuel cutting 85 million miles off of daily routes. UPS estimates that saving only one daily mile per driver saves the company $30 million, so the overall dollar savings are substantial.

In this data driven world, companies can use the analysis of big data to determine the root causes of failures, issues and defects in real time. They can also detect fraudulent behavior before it affects your organization. Big data is not hard to get. It is just a matter of keeping track of your progress and converting it into readable data. Due to this many startups have come up around the principle of easy data collection, and have been able to make very effective decisions, often making it difficult for bigger companies to compete with them.

Cloud
“Cloud computing, often referred to as simply ‘the cloud’, is the delivery of on-demand computing resources- everything from applications to data centers- over the internet on pay-for-use basis.” – IBM Cloud.

Trending companies like Uber and Airbnb have all disrupted long standing business tradition by replacing them with cloud enabled marketplaces, and making headlines in the process. There has been a sizable impact that industry-focussed vertical cloud applications can have. Companies like Veeva systems, Opower and Guidewire have become some of the fastest growing technology companies in the last decade. All these companies have one thing in common. They sell cloud applications to industry leaders and enable sales process improvements in life sciences, energy and insurance, respectively.

New companies are emerging with the intention of disrupting an entire industry. These companies don’t work within the constructs of regular business models. They instead build entirely new models. Think Uber for transportation, AirBnB for hospitality and Zillow for real estate. These companies have separated themselves from the existing industry and built direct consumer-to-provider marketplaces where none previously existed. The new marketplaces give consumers a straight, non-stop, path to goods and services, and by directly connecting consumers with providers, creating greater customer intimacy.

These companies achieve what they have achieved through building managed marketplaces. The most successful disruptors to date have been those which have built well-managed marketplaces in which both suppliers and consumers have been motivated to participate. For instance, Uber is a peer to peer transportation network, where users provide their own cars to transport other people while making money. These disruptors are able create customer empowerment by allowing them to choose how/when to engage with suppliers/sellers. These models provide the transparency that many digital-savvy consumers demand.

The entire environment that these companies create, all for suppliers to build customer relationships directly. For instance, in Zillow, sellers can set a “make me move” price to let potential buyers know that they might be interested in selling, representing a company that is both an enabler and a disruptor. Industry cloud disruptors have built their user interface for consumers from the get go, typically with mobile user interfaces at the core. In industries such as hospitality and transportation, well designed mobile user interfaces are compelling for all users. Uber and Ola Cabs are great examples.

With the introduction of the cloud in regular business models has allowed companies to reduce their IT costs. Rather than purchasing expensive systems and equipment for your business, you can reduce your costs by using the resources of your cloud computing provider. You save costs when it comes to systems upgrades, wages to hire expert IT staff, energy consumption and fewer time delays. This will also allow companies to free up vital space in their business for other departments, such as research and development and accounting.

Businesses are also able to scale up or down when it comes to their operation and storage needs quickly to suit the situation. This allows for flexibility as the needs of the company changes. Rather than purchasing and installing expensive upgrades yourself, your cloud computer service provider can handle this for you. Using cloud frees up vital time resources that can be dedicated to other activities.

Cloud computing also allows employees to be more flexible in their work practices. For instance, you have the ability to access data from home, on holiday, or via the commute to and from work (provided you have internet connection). If you need access to your data while you are off-site, you can connect to your virtual office, quickly and easily. With this constant connectivity, comes access to automatic updates. No matter where you are, you can rest assured knowing that your computer and software are always up to date. This could include up-to-date versions of software, as well as upgrades to servers and computer processing power.

There are many types of cloud computing. IBM alone offers 6 different kinds of cloud services. They range from Software as a Service (SaaS), where cloud-based applications run on distant computers “in the cloud” that are owned and operated by others and that connect users’ computers via the internet, to Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), where computing resources including servers, networking,storage, and data center space are available on a pay-per-use basis.

There are many advantages to using cloud based services for a business. However there are some disadvantages as well. Once your computer needs are in the cloud and handled by some other company, you will lose access to its backend. This means that if the company who have hosted your resources on the cloud goes down, you may lose your work. Also there are always the risks of hacking and confidential information being stored in places that does not belong to you. Some of these things might not be in your control. Overall however, the benefit of taking your business to cloud far outweighs the cons.

Mobility
The average modern human checks his/her phone on an average of 150 times a day. We use our phone get suggestions on purchases, compare prices and decide what to buy from where. Mobile commerce already makes up 34% of all e-commerce transactions around the world, and it is destined to disrupt almost every industry out there.

Today, every company, regardless of the industry- needs to find an answer to two very distinct demands: the first one is to stay relevant in a world where customers dictate the agenda; the second one is to build a memorable mobile strategy, to engage customers in every moment of their life. The arrival of the so-called mobile-friendly algorithm, launched by Google, has changed the way we live and create websites and online experiences. Digital marketers already know how the acronym SERP (search engine results page), can influence an entire branding effort. In the internet era, your online presence in critical to manage the overall strategy of your company. Even more so now that inbound marketing is rapidly becoming the best choice to attract and convert empowered customers.

There has been an overtaking of search queries from smartphones at the expense of those coming from desktop computers and tablets. This has changed SEO forever. With today’s pace of jobs being extremely fast, mobile has allowed users to make decisions on the go and with the help of all the algorithms and resources available at their disposal, this has not been very difficult. There is going to be a standard for mobile friendly web pages through Google’s AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project. Google, in the forefront of innovation, has perfectly summed up this complex scenario in its report about the emergence of “micro moments’. Mobile technology is acting as the main catalyst for a digital transformation that is rewriting the rules of the game. Either you are in or you’re out.

Mobile commerce is projected to be growing 200% faster than E-Commerce in 2017. Global mobile commerce is now 34% of all eCommerce transactions globally and is predicted to grow 31% in 2017. E-commerce on the other hand is growing at 15%. Globally 64% users shop on their mobile phones using apps and 52% via the browser on their phone. The major reason for going mobile is the convenience. Payment systems and ease of browsing is literally a fingertip away. The transactions are cashless and a record of everything is kept. Also coupons and vouchers can be applied with ease. Some of the more popular mobile payment apps are Google Wallet, Apple pay and Stripe.
“In 2011, Microsoft Tag predicted that mobile internet use will surpass desktop internet use by 2014. As 2013 got around, it was clear that mobile internet use was huge with 63% of all cell phone owners admitting they use those devices to go online.” – Forbes. While desktops will likely remain the primary method of internet use for most users, there is no denying mobile is a big player. For businesses, this means some serious changes as more workers than ever shift from being tied to a desktop or a laptop to connecting files anywhere. Mobile technology not only allows employees to connect to presentations and documents from anywhere.

The line between work and personal will continue to blur as employees complete work during evening and weekend hours, as well as on vacation. Mobile device ownership means workers have the ability to remain connected to work at all times, as well. The constant connectivity can give rise to innate marketing opportunity in the form mobile-based marketing. Even Google is recognizing that the world of search is changing. The site’s new Hummingbird algorithm addresses the role mobile now plays in search today. Users are more likely to ask questions into a mobile device than type in keywords and Google is now prepared to deliver those answers.

The suite of electronic tools a business needs to conduct daily operations is shifting. At one time, a business owner needed an Office suite, email and industry specific software to open for business. Today’s business owner has an infinite number of apps available, many for a far lower price than traditional software. The trend toward mobile means businesses will open their minds when it comes to the software necessary to run operations. Everything from billing and scheduling to project management may be moved to cloud-based apps, allowing small businesses with small budgets to compete against much larger companies.

Brick and mortar stores are realizing the benefits of arming floor staff with tablets. Workers can use this technology to reduce lines by checking people out during busy times or to locate items at other locations. Mobile POS systems have also allowed small businesses to set up state of the art cashiering systems at a minimal charge.
Mobile devices offer numerous treats to the business world and business who use these tend to move forward and distinguish themselves from the competition. Especially small businesses around the world are taking advantage of features like mobile marketing and GPS capabilities to fast forward their business. Mobile business is here to stay and even take over regular forms of conducting business.

Cybersecurity
The internet allows businesses of all sizes and from any location to reach new and larger markets and provides opportunities to work more efficiently by using computer-based tools. Whether a business is thinking of adopting cloud computing or just using email and maintaining a website, cybersecurity should be a part of the plan. Theft of digital information has become the most commonly reported fraud, surpassing physical theft. Every business that uses the internet is responsible for creating a culture of security that will enhance business and consumer confidence.

While breaches at big corporations such as Apple make the headlines, small businesses are still very much targets for hackers. “Small businesses fall into hackers’ cybersecurity “sweet spot”. They have more digital assets to target than an individual consumer has, but less security than a larger enterprise.” – Stephen Cobb, ESET. In almost every case, the end goal of a cyber attack is to steal and exploit sensitive data, whether it’s customer credit card information or a person’s credentials, which would be sued to misuse the individual’s identity online.

There are many forms of cyber attacks. There can Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs), to the more common Malware, Password attacks and Phishing. Phishing is the most commonly deployed form of cybertheft. Phishing involves collecting sensitive information like login credentials and credit card information through legitimate looking websites, often sent to unsuspecting individuals in an email.

There are different basic types of security software on the market, offering varying levels of protection. Antivirus is the most common, and will defend against most types of malware. Then there are firewalls which can be implemented with hardware or software, to provide an added layer of protection by preventing an unauthorized user from accessing a computer or network. Businesses are advised to invest in data backup solutions, so any information compromised or lost during a breach can be easily recovered from an alternate location. Encryption software can also be used to protect sensitive data such as employee records, client/customer information and financial statements; and two-step authentication or password-security software for their internal programs to reduce the likelihood of password cracking.

Companies around the world aren’t just responsible for their own network. We live in a highly interconnected world. Companies are a part of an ecosystem involving partners and customers. “Companies are just beginning to realise the extent that they are not in control of the systems they rely on. We are in a connected world, and business processes span more than just the company’s systems.” – Richard Horne, PricewaterhouseCoopers. Many risk management professionals are not ready to deal with these kinds of problems.

Gauging how harmful a security breach is for a company, often depends on its customers and its employees. “Organizations are taking responsibility for things they really have no responsibility over. The consumer’s role in this is difficult. They transfer responsibility onto a financial service without necessarily understanding that their own systems are where the breach potentially occurs.” – Graham Hales, InterBrand. The biggest challenge is that users don’t take lessons from one context to another. People are very secure on email, however they seldom take that into the realm of social media. They tend to click on a link in social media that they would have never clicked on an email.

When it comes to cybersecurity, companies should always prepare for the worst. It does not mean that companies should spend a lot of money protecting themselves against it, but it definitely means that companies should know what to do when such a situation actually strikes. Come companies have been deemed as having a “compliance culture”, when it comes to protecting themselves. This is when companies security strategy is based too much on satisfying specific regulatory requirements, rather than the worst case scenario. The payment card industry (PCI) is one such example. “People use PCI to help as part of a wider risk management program: ‘Let’s have a team to go through and tick the checkboxes’. People are PCI compliant, but wide open to attacks.” – Sian John, Symantec.

The issue of cybersecurity and data breaches, are not just about technology. It is an issue about culture and education. That explains to how security rules are explained to employees. “Having worked for some very large organizations, one is told what the policy is, one is told what they can or cannot do. Often you are much better to go around and explain why this is a risk, why this is a problem, what you are trying to do and to educate people.” – Richard Anderson, Chairman of Institute of Risk Management.

Transparency and communication is key when a breach happens. Companies that have been affected by breach should resist the temptation to stay quiet. Instead they need to reassure everyone and let them know that there is an investigation going on. One problem is that customers expect the problem to be fixed quickly, even in cases where that may not be a realistic expectation. A cyber event is no different from any other type of crisis management. Once it gets to a crisis, there is some technical issue that someone needs to deal with, but it’s about managing your reputation, managing confidence in your brand, and managing the impact on your customers.