Happy birthday, digital 
Published: Jun-27-14
Picking a date certain on when a trend started is likely to start a discussion as we all have our own ideas on the birthday of a new trend. Here goes.
Let's call June 29, 2007 the birthday of the broad based digital economy. The type of digital we know today. June 29, 2007 represents the launch of the iPhone and more importantly the app store distribution model. I choose this day because people can recall when they saw or used their first smartphone rather than out of any zealous devotion to a technology company named after a piece of fruit.
Recognizing digital’s rich heritage – the chickens before the digital egg
Digital is older than most may think, going back more than 30 years to EDI and digitization of corporate operations. More than 60 years of investment in corporate IT can also be viewed as digital. But digital in a different way than the broad based digital world we are coming into.
Prior IT related solutions revolved around increasing automation of back office transaction processing, so it is digital in the sense that it turned physical resources like paper into information based processes. This type of digital changed the way companies work but it had a limited immediate and visible impact on people’s lives and not reflective of the way we use the technology today.
Broad based digital seeks to capture the world we see today where technology is omnipresent, integrated, focused on people, and rapidly innovating the relationship between human beings, business and information.
The launch of the Mosaic browser, the dot.com boom, Amazon and others can all lay claims to being at the start of digital. Their claims are legitimate, but I will suggest not indicative of what we consider digital today. For one, these were called Internet companies applying web technology to perform tasks in new ways.
The internet and eCommerce are progenitors of digital as we know it today. They are critical for digital’s future, but they are less the focus of digital innovation and disruption.
A birthday denotes the start date for something different
Setting broad based digital’s birthday is an arbitrary exercise. It serves as a marker for digital’s growth rate and maturity. A birthday is a broadly recognized event and tied to a date certain. The iPhone and more importantly the app distribution model behind it changed the way we thought about the relationship between humans, business and technology
A period of time provides a ‘handle’ to talk about what has happened and to imagine what will happen in the future. The exact date does not matter, so if we all agree that this form of digital – broad based digital – is around 10 years old then we can look at what has changed and how things may change in the future.
So, Happy Birthday Digital!
My guess is that most people believe it is primarily the iPhone with only a little understanding of the greater importance of the the app distribution model. The iPhone continues to be updated with new features and functionality but it is the app distribution platform that is the game changer. foundation that really
Chris ONeill   |   Sep-15-14   |  04:15 AM
Mark - although, we haven't met as you left soon after I joined Gartner. I was a big fan of your blog and research notes - Looking forward to what to see what is yet come. Cheers.
Syed from Gartner   |   Jul-02-14   |  01:14 PM
I agree Mark. The iPhone truly converted the analog interactions to digital in its entirety. 1. being mobile, it transformed the speech into digital 2. the text is digitised thru SMS 3. It enabled touch functionality. 4. provided rich graphics enabling high end visualisation. This ability to appeal to all human senses (touch, visual, hear, speech, imagination) gave it the desired 3rd dimension. Hence the 'real human experience' came to life through iPhone on 29th June 2007. Other companies have digitised parts of it. Only iPhone digitised the entire experience of all the senses in an integrated manner and created the 'real experience'. Hence declaring 29th June 2007 as Digital Birthday is appropriate & apt.
Chary Chigurala   |   Jun-30-14   |  09:14 AM

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About the Authors
Bruno Berthon
Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Global Lead, Digital Strategy

Bruno Berthon is managing director for France and Benelux within Accenture Strategy. His role focuses on advising companies and governments on b...

Mark P. McDonald
Managing Director, Accenture Strategy

Mark McDonald is a Managing Director and Digital Business Strategy Lead in Accenture Strategy, which helps clients to strategize, architect and ...

John H. Cassidy
Accenture's Digital Strategy Lead

Dr Cassidy leads Accenture’s work in Digital Strategy in ANZ. He helps organizations develop strategies to use Digital to further their business...

Ryan McManus
Ryan McManus
Senior Manager, Accenture Strategy’s Digital Strategy Group

Ryan McManus is a senior manager within Accenture Strategy’s Digital Strategy group. His role focuses on advising companies on digital business...

Glen Hartman
Global Managing Director
Digital Consulting, Accenture Interactive

Glen Hartman is global managing director of digital consulting for Accenture Interactive, a business unit dedicated to delivering integrated mar...



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