Growing Your Business Digitally
Embracing digital business and developing a digital strategy can usher in new levels of competitiveness and success. Here's how.
The business world is moving to digital. This can be observed in the new mobile apps, omnichannel contact centers, the Internet of Things, the act of moving your first application to the cloud, or simply finally replacing that old analog PBX with a digital phone system. Today, there are more cell phones and mobile devices than desktops and people.
Recently, the GSMA Intelligence real-time tracker put the number of mobile devices at 7.79 billion. The U.S. Census Bureau puts the number of people somewhere between 7.19 and 7.2 billion. One of my own prognostications is that as wearables become more the norm, they will become the device of choice, incorporating and possibly replacing all of today's PCs and mobile devices.
Why Is This Important to Your Business?
Digital offers unparalleled potential for rapid, constant change. It offers the promise of being able to quickly implement new technologies and solutions such as collaboration both inside and outside the internal enterprise network, as well as new levels of interoperability between existing legacy and new digital systems.
Companies like Zapier have the potential to allow average PC users to instantly create their own apps (See related post, RingCentral Brings UCaaS to Zapier). Platforms like AWS and companies like Equinix give the user control over those apps and help a business employ them to their fullest potential. The old established hierarchy of carriers, application providers, IT, and end users blurs to the point of not being recognizable to those who live in the structured communications world. It is virtually non-existent to a generation raised on interactive technology.
Understanding how to incorporate this technology into your business is a key element in ensuring your future success. It is critical for your company to forge its own digital identity, distinguish itself from the competition, and define its digital business success strategy.
Whether you are a traditional brick and mortar mom and pop shop, a retail chain, an Internet e-tailer, or a B2B service business; whether you subscribe to the ideology that technology drives the business, the business drives the technology, the consumer drives the business, or the business becomes more consumer oriented, to succeed in business today you must have the technical infrastructure to ensure that excellent customer experience journey. With the advanced capabilities of the Internet and mobile devices, consumers are empowered with both technology and knowledge. The need for speed and information is foremost in almost every buyer's decision process.
Accenture Strategy research from 2015 found that the digital economy, which involves some form of digital skills and capital, accounted for 22.5 percent of the world economy. Due to the growing importance of digital, the global professional services company expects that by 2020, that will increase to 25%.
The Deloitte Consumer Review Digital Predictions 2015 made the following observations on the enterprise usage of digital devices:
- Every experience is becoming a digital experience
- As consumers become more comfortable with the use of smart, connected devices, there is a noticeable gap materializing between consumer expectations and the ability of businesses to meet them
- Businesses not engaging and investing in connected devices (IoT) risk becoming disconnected from their customers
The research showed that the accelerated rate of technology change can be overwhelming, and many businesses are challenged to keep up with rapidly evolving consumer demands. It suggests that moving forward, we should expect to see the emergence of more startups and new business alliances as companies work to meet changing customer demands with new solutions. As companies realize the value of customer information databases, the battle to win consumer loyalty by providing exceptional customer service has never been more competitive.Defining Your Digital Business Technology Strategy
You may not fully realize it, but you are already using digital technology. Existing technologies your business likely already has in place are based on digital technology. At the very least, your business communications network should be using VoIP for its phone system, SIP trunking for its voice network, high-capacity Ethernet fiber for data connections, and possibly MPLS in efforts to lower monthly recurring charges and improve reliability and flexibility.
The question for the business owner is how do you determine what is the right strategy and digital technology for you?
If you want your business to stay relevant, you will have to embrace digital. You are being driven by your customers, suppliers, creditors, competitors, and the industry to ante up or perish.
On the other hand, you may recognize that digital business provides unlimited opportunities. Now might be the ideal time to expand your business, implement some of those new and creative ideas you've been mulling over, and get out of old service and equipment contracts that are dragging your business and profits down.
Are you ready to move forward into this brave new world? In almost any business segment you can think of, it holds true that those who do not adapt have little to no chance of survival.Factors to Consider
You need to go into the process of developing your digital business strategy with a solid plan. You should have key performance indicators identified as well as a solid initial understanding of the technologies and vendors best suited for your business so that you are able to craft a constructive methodology that identifies and defines critical decision paths, milestones, and progress for lines of business, operations, and IT. Business goals and a comprehensive transition plan should be taken into account when devising the methodology for digital upgrades.
Of course, it is vital that senior management is on board with your digital strategy, but all stake holders should be in agreement on the business's path forward. It's always a good idea to have a fallback strategy, or plan B, and remember that training may be a necessary component of any digital transition so should be taken into account alongside other budgetary concerns such as new technology costs, capital investment, on-going business operations expenses, the cost related to internal and external resources use, and the expected ROI, of course.
A good place to start is with a resource assessment. You'll want to be sure to form a dedicated project team so that the project gets done properly rather than becoming a "when we have the time" initiative. When forming your team, don't be afraid to re-assign staff or even bring in additional knowledgeable personnel. A consultant or other subject matter expert could be a valuable asset to assist with project development, management, implementation, and training.
You should also begin with an assessment of your technology and current infrastructure to determine if your setup is capable of handling new technology. Is your network and network equipment up to date? Can it be expanded in its current state? Has it reached maximum capacity, or end of life? Further, will it cost more to upgrade and maintain than to put in a new system? These are all essential questions to answer at the on-set.
Take a deeper look at the role that communications plays in your current business environment. Is your business dependent on your phone system staying up and running? How about the Internet or your data network? What about your security concerns? How do these factor into your business communications strategy? Consider how you might be able to leverage advanced analytics to improve business management, increase profitability, deliver exceptional customer service, and drive customer loyalty.
When your organization is ready to make the necessary adjustments to implement a digital strategy, there are some additional points to consider:
- Be prepared to continually refine and adjust your digital strategy based on feedback and success shown by key performance indicators
- Are your HR and IT departments prepared to support a changing, multi-generational workforce?
- Do you feel that your information is protected as best as possible against cybersecurity breaches and hacking on premises or in the cloud?
- Does your organization have a comprehensive analytics strategy?
- Does your organization enforce archiving, governance, and records management regulations and procedures effectively and consistently, both on premises and in the cloud?
- Does your organization understand that the collection, management, and analysis of information is a strategic imperative for success?
- Do global business users have easy access to analytics insight, dashboards, and reports to make informed decisions?
Users will continue to benefit from technology innovations that can result in meaningful reductions in the business process workstream, lower-cost application development, and significant productivity gains from improved communication between workers and customers This can add to overall savings and translate to direct bottom line profitability.
Successful companies are already equipping employees, partners and consumers with new technology capabilities that allow an unmatched ability to create fresh ideas, develop cutting-edge products and services, and disrupt the status quo.
"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.