As the Digital economy begins to dominate, it is imperative that businesses exemplify agility, coherence, and market edge in order to establish themselves as relevant and competitive. This is now, more than ever, important given that the marketplace is still fighting to emerge from recession.
Gartner uses an interesting phrase in many of their Digital economy research presentations: “We spend more time in the virtual world than we do sleeping.”
I have young children and it is a constant challenge to keep them away from screens but I have come to accept that it is an important component of our lives, one which we all need to embrace – within boundaries of course — and not lose sleep over it.
That’s easier said than done, as the CEO of an African-based IT business operating in the heart of the Digital age, my team and I are continuously losing sleep as we seek out opportunities in this new Digital economy which will help us counter and support the issues faced by our clients.
There are, in fact, three key “sleep-depriving” issues which keep me awake. The loss of sleep has not been in vain, for I have developed a response to how we embrace these issues, use them to successfully break ahead of the competition, and become more relevant and profitable.
1. Growth isn’t easy
Not only are consumers more savvy, but they are also under enormous pressure to ensure that every cent that they spend is worthwhile and necessary. This makes growth the proverbial elephant in the room of issues which businesses face.
Businesses are therefore required to look at their offering and focus on delivering services and products which enhance and improve. This thinking has directly impacted our own offering, which today looks very different to what it was 5 years ago. As an IT business, our response has been to update our offering so that it not only includes the use of Digital technologies, such as Cloud, Mobile, and Analytics, but also to take into account what our customers can afford and how our offering helps them go from strength to strength as the economy changes.
In this way we have stayed current, increased the added-value of our existing products and services, and experienced growth without facing detrimental risk.
No business’ revenue line is transformed and streamlined overnight, though. It is a matter of research, strategy, innovation, testing, and implementation. That said, those that don’t look to increasing the overall value of their offering, will find that growth, difficult as it is, will be nigh impossible.
2. Deliver on your promises
Delivery is an issue most, if not all, businesses face.
The fact is that consumers are inundated with choice, putting increasing pressure on businesses to innovatively differentiate from their competitors and deliver on their overall offering. The onus is on us to deliver, deliver, and deliver.
This, we know. However, the term “consumers” is not limited to those external individuals buying from us. It also applies to our employees, who are considered our “internal customers.”These individuals ‘buy’ into our culture and vision, and deliver on what we promise.
These particular consumers are mobile and oftentimes invisible. This is especially true in the Digital economy, and the various technologies that underpin this economy, because it is easier to employ the services of people who may never need set foot in your office. Speaking for our company, nearly 30% of our own employee base is semi-permanent and this percentage is growing.
From an IT delivery perspective, we have built numerous self-service portals from which our customers, suppliers, and employees can interact with our business systems. This approach empowers our stakeholders to not only become independent, but to remain loyal and strive to deliver on the business’ promises.
3. Innovation is a pre-requisite of survival
Most business leaders are concerned with being outsmarted and out-innovated by their competition. They’re not wrong to be preoccupied with this thought. Timely innovation coupled with awareness that a competitor could come out of nowhere is a necessary element to staying ahead of the curve.
I have a saying that is often top of mind as I go about my days: “Nobody knows what the future of the Digital economy looks like, but we intend to be the first to find out.”
Note the use of the pronoun, “we”. In my opinion, innovation is homegrown.
Google is perhaps the most famous example of utilising their workforce’s creative capacity and appropriately backs my solution to the issue of innovation. According to Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President of Google’s People Operations, “Google has been keeping the pipeline of innovation going by tapping its employees and letting ideas percolate up.”
Your best ideas are most likely lurking within the confines of your own offices, and should you not be able to discover these ideas there are countless missed opportunities, to say nothing of the effect it could have on your profitability.
This calls for agility, an environment which fosters free thinking, and thereafter a testing-ground for new ideas to be tried out.