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July 05, 2016
Turning Digital Dreams into Reality
By: Nick Taylor

In my more recent conversations with execs across multiple industries, there are several issues which are blamed for keeping them awake at night, the three most commonly cited are: How do we retain our customers and earn their trust? How do we increase our employee engagement? How do we become more agile and rapidly innovate?

81 percent of IT and business executives say that industry boundaries will dramatically blur as platforms reshape industries into interconnected ecosystems.

The common thread across these issues is routed in economic evolution. Consumers are no longer consuming in traditional ways. Employees are no longer employed to do traditional jobs. Above all else, digital technology has evolved so quickly it has fundamentally changed the way the world lives and works.

There is no quick fix to these issues but there is perhaps benefit to looking at them in a different way so that, rather than keeping you awake at night, you sleep soundly dreaming of the possibilities digital solutions can bring.

Don't just transact, build experiences

Companies are judged on everything from the quality of their goods and the ease of their services to their use of consumer data and what they are like as an employer. To keep customers (and employees) coming back today more proactivity is required.

Learning about your customers and using those insights to build exciting experiences that are personal and relevant is a must. Being transparent in how customer information is used and demonstrating the benefits it can bring through new experiences is how trust and loyalty is built. It’s also about being convenient. No one wants to have to work to consume a service, they expect it to be easy.

I would apply the same thinking to people within the organisation.

Employees are consumers first and foremost. But the increasing gap between an employee’s digital experience at work and in their personal lives is often a source of deep frustration. Not only that but millennials now make up a larger proportion of the workforce and will continue to do, accounting for 76 percent of the global labour pool by 2025. They are digital natives. This raises expectations for the speed and ease with which they are able to complete tasks, access services, and interact with friends and colleagues.

There is also a change in how careers are formed. Tours of duty, with the offer of new experiences, now trump that of decades of service to a single company in the eyes of millennials.

How, then, to overcome these much larger and more opaque challenges? Companies must do two things: treat their workforce as they would treat digital customers, and understand the long-term motivations, aspirations and ideals of both. By applying the same digital standards to customers and employees, businesses can satisfy their liquid expectations. Building positive experiences will more likely lead to loyalty on both sides of the camp.

Agile operations

By their very nature, smaller companies and start-ups create and market new innovations quickly. They have changed the face of everything from transport to communications overnight. For larger organisations, this is difficult to achieve.

The answer is not in doing away with established processes entirely. These are important. Instead, companies should inject some agility into their structure and look to create sub teams which can bypass hierarchies to find new solutions. This works best by bringing in the right people across different disciplines and seniority.

These teams are then set free to conduct "innovation at the edges". This involves developing and implementing new ideas outside of normal business processes, with a clear structure of oversight as necessary. This helps avoid bureaucracy and enables larger companies to keep pace with start-ups without completely losing the structures that allow them to operate effectively.

Digital dreams

I’m sure after reading this post people will still have trouble sleeping at night thanks to those three recurring questions. The point is these issues won’t ever go away completely. They will evolve, they will adapt and they will change. The pace of technological transformation means that in a year, new, more complex challenges will present themselves and demand a response. These will probably cause many a sleepless night too. But by accepting that transformation is continuous hopefully you will be able to turn these digital dreams into a reality.


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