There's nothing wrong with disruption. Disruption implies change, challenge and opportunity all at the same time. When organisations face disruption, many focus only on the change, or the challenge, or the opportunity. But they’re not mutually exclusive. I believe that executives that can address all three can traverse the 'age of disruption' being created by a swiftly evolving digital landscape and can create a strong digital advantage.
Much has been written about how the rise of digital technologies – particularly the Internet of Things, social media, cloud and analytics – which is ultimately changing the business landscape. Many organisations are either too reactive or completely paralysed by the pace of change. But it’s critical to step back and thoughtfully develop a clear vision, strategy and supporting organisational design and operating model to realise your future state vision. This will enable organisations to do more than just survive the age of digital disruption – but thrive within it.
"One of the first things organisations need to realise is that a successful digital strategy and operating model is built on synergistic relationships between technology, the business, and the customer."
Partner in Charge, Digital Consulting Services
Key initial questions all organisations should ask are:
It's critical to ensure there's a cohesive and integrated vision and roadmap in place – or real problems can arise. For example, business leaders may be so impatient to implement a new system or digital experience that they decide to disintermediate the IT department and deal directly with agencies and suppliers. This is fraught with danger, both in terms of integration and strategic alignment, and also from a risk management perspective – for example when considering the privacy and legislative issues that need to be considered when customer data is used, or customer facing content is being considered.
Consequently, one of the first things organisations need to realise is that a successful digital strategy and target operating model is built on productive relationships between the business, technology and the customer. The more progressive companies are elevating digital to the level of corporate strategy and enabling the function to be delivered through, or report in to either the Chief Strategy Officer, Chief Customer Officer or the Chief Executive Officer, rather than seeing digital as a marketing or purely technology function.
It's not necessary to reinvent the wheel when it comes to setting a digital vision and strategic roadmap to support the realisation of this. Start with a current state scan and consider the following:
Digital cuts across all business units. You need an integrated strategic vision and roadmap with supporting decision-making and governance to ensure that competing ideas and implementations do not undermine the company. Companies coming off a low base can leverage a life stages approach where they establish a central digital presence then slowly embed into the business over time as the level of maturity grows.
Digital is a mainstream concept – you can’t be reactive. You need a comprehensive, long-term strategy that considers what investments to make, what risks you’re facing, how to prioritise initiatives across the business and how to extract value from digital investments.
The technology teams needs to have contemporary digital skills and capabilities to take its place at the strategy table, adding real value and thought leadership around how digital can help the business achieve its strategic objectives, and indeed generate new revenue streams or even business models to disrupt the landscape.
Too many companies have an annual planning process that looks at where the business wants to be in 3 to 5 years. But to be truly innovative you need to be far more organic in your strategic planning. You need the ability to correct your course quickly and you need those at the forefront of the customer relationship to feed in to the strategy – not just executives who are many steps removed from the customer.
The establishment of accelerators and think tanks to move beyond the boundaries of traditional organisational constraints has worked for many organisations, and has certainly helped these organisations to embed a culture of innovation.
Ultimately, the key to harnessing the power of digital and thriving in the age of disruption is the ability to think differently – and to support unique thinkers with the resources and structures they need.