The future of sustained competitive advantage hinges on the ability to effectively manage the collision of disruptive innovations. The digital disruption driven by Mobile, Social, Big Data, Cloud and the Consumerization of IT is impacting every industry. To date, much has been said about these individual areas of innovation. But the areas of intersection – critical to creating value from these innovations – have mostly been ignored. As innovations collide, the intersection must be effectively managed – or the result is distributed chaos. As the digital disruption takes hold across every company, in every industry, the need to transform becomes a business imperative – and future digital strategies will define success or failure.
2011 in my mind will be viewed as the launching point of a digital revolution. The momentum started in 2010 and kicked into overdrive in 2011. The rapid adoption of tablets and Smartphones fueled an aggressive development of mobile applications, while E-Book sales increased at a remarkable pace. Meanwhile, the world continued to go social in ways that few would have imagined. World leaders felt the power of Social Media, as revolutions expanded through the organizing power of Facebook and Twitter. Business leaders came to grips with the power of social media, as skepticism waned and social business turned the corner. Data continued to grow exponentially, expanding the gulf between available data and meaningful insight. Lastly, 2011 marked the year that cloud computing burst onto the enterprise landscape – In fact, 2011 may eventually be viewed as the year of the Cloud.
These factors combined to drive an aggressive digital expansion that in most cases happened through isolated initiatives driven by marketing. Businesses with indirect channels to market looked towards direct to consumer models. Regulated industries embraced the opportunity of social media, while addressing its risk. Customer experience became the mantra for many businesses, as re-inventing customer relationships topped most priority lists. New digital executive positions were created in response to growing questions about effective governance models. The notion of holistic digital strategies was in fashion again, and innovation and operating dexterity rounded out the top priorities for most executives in 2011.
This recent Big Data Article from the Mckinsey Global Institute focuses on three key themes – some or all of which will impact every company in the future.
- Big Data will increasingly form the foundation of competitive advantage for years to come.
- Big Data will drive new business models across every industry.
- Decision processes will forever be changed.
A company’s use of Big Data will increasingly be driven by competitive pressures from those that effectively leverage its insight. As these companies mature in their use of data, they will shift from competitive response to competitive advantage. Decisions will improve, driven by an ability to simulate and model various scenarios that enable optimal outcomes.
The really interesting aspect of Big Data – and the analytics that help us derive insight – is the potential impact on complete value chains. This article provides some good examples of this phenomenon at work. In essence, data will drive new business models. Members of a value chain that own data may have an ability to monetize it. Those that have a proven ability to deliver insight from this data can monetize a core competence. Some companies may find themselves driving revenue from a business model that was never envisioned.
Whether it is new business models, better decisions, or enabled actions, the effective use of Big Data requires a level of analytic excellence that few companies have with any level of scale. This Mckinsey article echoes an earlier report that identifies a scarcity of analytic resources as a key obstacle to Big Data success. As I talk to companies about their digital strategies, I continue to focus on Big Data as the centerpiece of the strategy.
The explosion of data and content is not limited to social media and represents a top of mind issue for many companies. The opportunity exists to create unprecedented business value – but there are significant hurdles like greater risk exposure, more complicated risk management, and difficulty extracting relevant insight from large volumes of data.
As volume grows, automation is critical. For example, social media monitoring is a common practice today, one that becomes increasingly ineffective and costly as the social web expands. Monitoring tools that enable the analysis of dialog on social networks like LinkedIn, FaceBook and Twitter provide a basic level of insight. But a deeper level of insight still requires a manual process, where irrelevant content is filtered before finding meaningful insight. Information management is therefore a growing challenge.
I find myself talking a lot lately about the slow evolution from basic social listening to a more robust use of analytics to truly gain actionable business insight. I have long felt the evolution was inevitable – of course I often think these things and they take years to materialize – a story for a different day. This Recent Forrester Blog Post touches on the notion of moving from social listening, to integrating social and customer data. It also presents a roadmap for how to move through the crawl-walk-run-fly stages.
I am sure the authors realize that although this is a piece of the evolution, there are other steps along the path to actionable business insight. I’m already seeing the movement from basic social media monitoring to the broader use of text analytic platforms. Companies that started their journey focused on brand mentions are evolving to new use cases that deliver considerable business value. One of the signs that we are reaching an inflection point can be found in a growing move towards evaluating text analytics software for a broader set of use cases.
As I reflect upon a month full of customer discussion, it becomes clearer that future and sustained competitive advantage hinge on excellence in two critical areas: collaboration and analytics. The need for a relationship-based enterprise becomes more apparent as we look at the critical need to:
- Re-invent customer relationships
- Leverage the collective knowledge and talent of our organization
- Partner to facilitate operating dexterity
This relationship imperative makes collaboration excellence a critical success factor; and a key enabler is social computing. I don’t mean Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or YouTube (although they play a role) but rather the use of social technologies to drive effective collaboration and communication. This evolution to social business moves the enterprise up the collaboration axis as described in the diagram below.
In a recent presentation, Forrester describes the uniqueness of our current business environment as a perfect storm of technology innovation. In the past, technology cycles were driven by one major innovation (mainframe computing, personal computing, networked computing). The current environment sees a perfect storm of cloud computing, social business, mobile computing, advanced analytics and smart computing. This latest cycle begins a period of accelerated innovation, and introduces a larger potential for disruption than in past cycles.
Disruption in many different forms is not just possible, but likely. Business models across many industries are already under attack. The Information Technology (IT) function itself will see considerable change over the next several years. As the workforce and business leaders play a bigger role in technology selection, the role of IT will evolve. What IT looks like in the future is anyone’s guess, but change is almost certain. The current outsourcing model that so many companies have embraced over the years, will change as cloud computing widens its footprint. The way companies build and deploy applications will change, as mobile apps and app stores shift from the consumer world to the enterprise. The way companies interact and communicate with all stakeholders will change, as social media evolves to social business.