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June 24, 2016
Being digital III - Fast forward
By: Narry Singh

In parts one and two we looked at how business leaders – assisted by a willing workforce – could make meaningful advances in their digital journeys. In this concluding article we explore what it takes not just to advance, but to lead in the digital arena.

Accenture’s latest research reveals that business leaders have clear aspirations to take the lead in digital. Multiple billions have been invested in digital pure plays, and 59% of those surveyed plan to take their businesses digital within the next three years. But aspiration has not crystallised into action, and over half of those leaders do not have a digital strategy in place. Adopting one, swiftly, will be imperative for businesses hoping to compete – and win.

One direction, different speeds

The many manifestations of digital apply different pressures at different points across an organisation – some positive and others destructive. Strategies must reflect that, moving the organisation in one direction, but at different speeds. Leaders must be pragmatic, deciding whether to optimise the current business for future growth, proactively embrace new technologies such as big data analytics, or even pre-empt the future by partnering with technology companies to innovate beyond the competition.

As well as catering for different speeds of growth, leaders must assume digital strategies that differ across each layer of the business. Customer strategies, for instance, must be distinct from those affecting enterprise of infrastructure, and having a dynamic approach across each layer of the business is essential for companies to make the most of digital.

Spread your bets

With customer expectations and technology capabilities changing rapidly, there is no one path to digital success. Some have taken a portfolio approach, spreading bets and assigning responsibilities for each across the company. Others, such as BMW, have set out to identify and grow start-ups using a vehicle that is separate from the parent company – in this case BMWi Ventures. In both instances, businesses have spread their bets to maximise their chances of success in an opaque future.

Experiment and act

In such uncertainty, rapid cycles of experimentation and action are important, and companies are in effect required to run a marathon in a series of sprints. eCommerce is an area where such methods are put to good use – with stores able to create and test over 4000 page variations simultaneously, optimising their product based on instant customer response.

These recommendations can seem paradoxical: leaders are obliged to set clear goals and ambitions without knowing what is needed to achieve them. The challenge is to set a direction and work towards it with both pragmatism and purpose. The scale of that challenge is underlined by the reality that so few business leaders have adopted the right strategy yet.

Those that have exhibit three distinct traits: they are focused on growth, proactive in building ecosystems with customers and start-ups, and agile. Success – premised on those traits – comes from a commitment to action, rapid cycles of experimentation and iteration, and willingness to burn through ideas quickly.

Turbulent times call for agile and dynamic strategies. By acknowledging that, business leaders can turn disruption to their advantage, emerging as digital leaders in a brave new world.

Find out more in our ‘Being Digital’ report

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