As with any new business or technology concept introduction, "Digital" has garnered a lot of buzz and hype. I say hype, because as someone who interacts with business people and technology people alike, I think no one really has a firm idea of what that word means, how powerful it is or how to go about it. Some are bullish, some skeptical, some are working on it without realizing it while some are others are working on something entirely different and calling it Digital.
So, I asked myself - how do I view digital. Here's my personal view, and I hope it provides a simplified perspective of the term.
When I was a technologist myself some years ago, I thought that I was driving businesses only to realize that it was exactly the opposite - business drives technology. Technology has always supported businesses, always enabled businesses. The journey from calculator, to mainframes, to client-server technologies, ecommerce, to web services - the technology journey has always been to help business.
In the very recent past a slew of technologies such as Social, Mobile, Analytics & Cloud (SMAC for short) have opened up new possibilities for businesses and hence business people. Importantly, these technologies have brought about 2 significant changes in the world today:
1. Technology driven business models - eg. Airbnb, Uber
2. Technology driven product/services - eg. Fitbit, Nest
But technology by itself cannot bring about the change. What is needed to bring together technology & business together to make this possible.
And my view is that along with the Functional Heads (Chief of Sales, Supply Chain, Operations, HR, Finance, etc.) the Chief Information Officer will and should play a critical in bringing about this digital change. Any enterprise embarking upon a digital journey led by either only the function heads or only by the CIO will fail to achieve their objectives.
So far, the CIO and their team's role has always been to support businesses. As a consequence, the IT department has always been looked upon as a "cost-function". With the advent of Digital, we'll witness a reversal of this role. The CIO will get engaged in driving change in each of the function while helping the CEO in changing the organization.
Along with enterprises, the technology & consulting companies that promise to provide digital offerings will have to change. Just like their clients, technology companies irrespective of their type will have to build functional expertise (eg. Supply Chain, Manufacturing, Marketing, Finance, HR, etc.) and / or build industry expertise (eg. Manufacturing, Retail, Banking, etc.) Or partner with companies that provide such expertise. Pure-play consulting companies will have to partner with technology companies in order to advise their clients appropriately.
Digital definitely holds promise. How an organization adopts Digital will determine its very existence.