The Arrival of the Digital Monsoon for Innovation

tropical monsoon 2 If you ever have lived in the tropics you know of the arrival of the monsoons.

Skies darken, clouds gather, often thunder and lightning combine, the wind picks up and the rain ‘announces’ its arrival in sheer torrents of heavy, drenching, wave-upon-wave of unrelenting force.

It is hard to stand upright or know what to do. Everything around you transforms. Dry, often parched land quickly turns to rivers of water, seeking out everything to shift and move along and eventually going everywhere to transform the landscape.

We are presently being told we are at the beginnings of a digital revolution; it has been likened to a tsunami in its eventual (devastating) effect on our organizations and by inference, the impact it will have on each of our lives.

I certainly agree, through technology our innovation activities will be potentially transformed, but as we often see technology is running ahead of our organizing to receive it, understand what it can provide, both in its real value to translate these ‘insights’ into powerful new business models, products and services.

Of course the ‘hype’ is running ahead, just like the initial water flooding in, it is often just passing over the land and not being fully absorbed. Absorption takes time, it begins to sink in and its effect begins to ‘reveal’ themselves at different ‘rates of exchange’ for each of us.

Struggling with the effects of the digital economy

Digital transformationDigital matters, in its raw power and potential impact, I think it will be transformational. The real opening questions all center around our mind-set, preparation and willingness to make the changes. Or will we be sucked up in the void, choked by data?

If it is likened as a “digital tsunami” then ‘all within its path’ can be potentially swept away or altered forever.

The human organizing aspects need to catch up. Will they build defences to warn of future ‘waves’ or take the opportunity to tear down much that has been left standing and rebuild, to take advantage and equip themselves in new ways?

The unique combining of the cloud, big data, social streaming, the internet of things, mobility, the industrial internet, are all making this the time for new growth opportunities through this digital economy and the radical overhaul of the activities to realize the benefits.

Believe me, this is not going to be easy or a quick and painless change, it is going to radically alter much within our entities to receive, translate and transform this digital knowledge into impactful outcomes.

Three prospects that will come from transforming for digital.

1. The new prospects in Customer Experience

The immediate areas of new growth prospects and different engagement lie in changing the ‘Customer Experience’. Growing digital knowledge will enable greater customer understanding. We can begin to build new analytic-based market and customer segmentation; we can become more involved and informed about socially- influencing knowledge.

These can lead to a new top-line growth, more targeted marketing and the potential for streamlining or altering the customer engagement process. We can expand the ‘touch-points’ in new services, cross-channel experiences and coherence and in providing greater self-service and ’empowerment’ for our customers.

2. The transformation of Operational Processes

The second one is Operational Processes. Digitization will radically alter the design of the processes and especially the flow of data, to information, to knowledge, to move informed opportunity. Will it improve processes or collide with already outdated systems, tightly integrated and create a build-up and eventual crash?

Unbundling the integrated systems and replacing these with more of distributed application environments is going to be a major challenge. Completely new features, new approaches and ways to draw down the ‘appropriate’ application needed, will require the use of the cloud, of modular systems, plenty of apps but still locked away in a secure environment of approved applications to be used.

Just stop and think Apple’s app store, then apply this impact on our lives to business, drawing down from the same conceptual (business model) approach. There are going to be massively changed winners and losers for the race to unbundle, to one that will offer a more distributed environment where the user decided on what they need to use, to get the job done.

This will give a significant workforce enablement that wants to work anywhere and at different more flexible times, expecting high levels of response in what they use, to do the job on hand and enable them to build and communicate into ever changing and evolving knowledge sharing communities.

Knowing what, where and how, will be distributed down to the individual. These changes will be far more data-driven in insights and decision-making techniques, many unknown but necessary to allow performance to be timely, relevant and transparent.

3. The third area is the era of the new Business Model.

We have been ‘grappling’ with the concept of business model designing for some time. To a large degree the economic situations in Europe and America has held this back to be fully embraced in large organizations. They focused on ‘risk containment’, extracting the final juices out of effectiveness and efficiencies but that ‘well’ of opportunity is finally running dry and extracted.

Business needs to grow, it needs to stop hankering down, it needs to come out and explore the rapidly changing landscape in new and different ways.

Facing a digitally modified business landscape will need very different business models. The shift of resources, the transitioning and blending of the physical with the digital, the way digital will shape the structures, provide the ‘driving forces and insights,’ all will demand changing the business model.

We will see multiple business models that combine and blend product and service in very different ways, more tailored to new customer understanding and their demand and need.

What digital products will move alongside physical product, different services and how will that set of radical organization redesigns alter existing organization boundaries or established turf?

Agility and adaptability will be essential

Disruptive innovation 1The enterprise integration will need to be constantly evolving, adapting and become highly agile, it will totally redistributed, decision authority will move more rapidly towards evolving business models and distributive decision-making, to seize breaking opportunities quickly.

Those  that quickly go through piloting, pivoting through digital and physical learning into scalable models to capitalize on rapidly shifting trends, disrupting the existing.

Business models will not stand alone, they will interlock in intelligent ways, to benefit from scale that essential need of a greater appreciation of sharing services,  that will open up different partnerships, opportunities for shared cost of new channel developments, separate value propositions driven through common back office services and increasing platform management, to manage this

The key to unlock this new promise of growth is digital capabilities.

This is the ‘rub’. The human mediation of ‘going for it’ or ‘giving it lip service’ will determine a new class of winners and losers. Those that get it, embrace all of what it means and then choose to make radical changes and those at the other end of the spectrum, trying to keep it at bay, perhaps in denial. Those who will be playing with selected parts and not recognizing the eventual strategic decay that slowly trickles in, to undermine performance and shift customer perception away, into that different landscape of ‘digital engagement.’

Unlocking the human mindWe need to unlock our minds. The analytical capabilities are going to be the human roadblock. Algorithms are promising to partially unlock this and help us absorb this ‘torrent’ of data to make them ‘meaningful’ and ‘insightful’.

Then we have the difficult choice of solution delivery, of new integration of IT and the business of where authority will lie as well as that real need of ‘simply’ letting go, does need to be worked through will lead to some uncomfortable times.

The whole attempt to unify data, processes, reconciling both business and customer needs and delivering the process capabilities to enable the translation of date into insights, into business outcomes that have real growth potential will be a wicked challenge.

The immediate ‘getting organized’ challenge

The engagement within this needs real top management attention. Digital has the potential to destroy or change your organization. The existing landscape of business will change forever as this digital deluge or tsunami will alter our structures significantly.

Industry and Social competitive landscapes will be redefined, in many ways unknown today but all around us we have those ‘weak signals’ that require us to manage this transformation along the three horizon methodology I often espouse.

There are four opening steps within the digital challenge. We each within our organizations need to: 1) frame the digital challenge, 2) mobilize the organization, 3) focus investments and 4) sustain the digital transformation in multiple ways.

None is easy; all are hard as much is still  in the unknown and this is a real-time of leadership to be stepping up to the plate and showing its potential for making the winning hits or striking out.

There are so many roadblocks

Today organizations lack critical technology, tools and required skills, many existing systems still lack any form of real integration to allow data to flow across the organization, the business practices will mostly have to be rapidly relearn, senior leadership has the real, urgent need to get on the ‘same page’ and finally, this (radical) change will require reliance on managers that might lack the transforming skills, schooled in ‘containing and risk reduction’ and lacking real risk assessment and decision-making capabilities.

The pursuit of this digitization will ‘suck up’ an awful lot of funding, much of it constantly being thrown away as organizations transition from the existing to the preferred for it to be accelerated in being written off as part of the transition, alongside all those legacy systems sitting on today’s balance sheets. Are the ‘healthy’ financials for this in place in many of our organizations?

Organizations will scrabble to employ integration specialists, digital business architects, risk professionals and those critical analytical scientists. By 2018 Gartner predicts “digital business will require 50% less business process workers and 500% more digital business jobs. Attracting the right talent is the key to digital leadership”.

Finally, this is not going to be easy in presenting a business case that has ‘hard’ return on investments; it will be made up of what is known and can be quantified with a real leap of faith, a steady hand and real belief that transformation does actually mean that,  a total transformation. I’m not sure there are going to be many ‘half-way houses’ on this digital journey. It is promising to be a real evolution.

Some compelling numbers that “speak of a massive change

digital tsunami 2Let me raise a few arguments of this change hurtling towards us. Gartner offer some compelling numbers, “consider this, since 2013, 650 million new physical objects have come on-line; 3D printers became a billion dollar market; 10% of automobiles became connected, the number of Chief Data Officers and Chief Digital Officer positions have doubled”.

Yet fasten your seat belts, in 2015 alone, Gartner predicts these things will double again! Digital seems to have a certain compelling power to climb on board, fast.

Gartner also reckon the meshing of digital and physical and the rise of the Internet of Things, enterprise in 2014 will spend $40 billion designing, implementing and operating IoT.

The whole of IT is projected to pass $3.9 trillion in 2015 and all the spending will be driven by the digital economy needs.

Just a few more predicted facts

So are you beginning to build that compelling case for change? By 2015, more than half of traditional consumer products will have native digital extensions and by 2017, 50% of consumer product investments will be directed to customer experience innovations, as the key to lasting brand loyalty.

The dark side of Gartner predictions lie in this “by year-end 2016, 50% of digital transformation activities will be unmanageable due to a lack of portfolio management skills, with high levels of operational risk and the whole discipline of risk management will simply not be able to keep up.

Then Accenture  believes big data analytics, seen as essential for competitive growth that are needed for the Industrial Internet are projecting this will be worth $500 billion in worldwide spending by 2020, taking into account hardware, software and service sales.

Already certain early leaders in this industrial internet race are placing 20% of their overall technology budgets into Big Data analytics. Just take a few minutes to look at the really big bet that GE are making on the industrial internet and the power of big data, investing already a billion dollars and still significantly investing. They plan to lead.

Going for the big prize being dangled in front of us.

digital tsunami 1The big prize that digitization offers is gaining market share on those that do not quickly follow, many unable to ever catch up or recover if they leave it too late and then one of the consequences is that the talent will move to those that ‘get it’ leaving those competitors that don’t even more vulnerable.

Over time investors begin to alter their investment portfolio, attempting to predict the winners and putting space between them and who they see as eventual losers.

I think the digital monsoon has arrived; you can watch in fascination, pick up and run for your lives, as the torrent of data rains down on you or attempt to prepare for all the uncertainty it brings. It will alter much in tough choices and challenges and a landscape that will be very different when this ‘torrent’ of change subsides.


Acknowledgement: I want to thank the MIT Center for Digital Business and Capgemini Consulting, Gartner, Accenture, GE and numerous others that are exploring and explaining the impact of the digital economy, so as to help me in my own recognition of such a ‘force of change’ coming towards us.

5 thoughts on “The Arrival of the Digital Monsoon for Innovation

  1. Quite a lot to think about in here Paul. We can’t deny that the onset of the digital monsoon is changing the way we work, but other forces are equally powerful, and perhaps even more timeless – such as getting closer to the customer, differentiating with incredible service; and perhaps the biggest of all: hiring the right talent (which you mention). The latter probably remains the single most important thing a company can do. With the right talent, the trends and shifts in how the world works can be absorbed.

    To the big data point – I think it is upon us, there is no more waiting around for the change. The question now remains, how can companies make better interpretations of this data? Everybody has it, and everybody is rather proud of their big data… but who is really making game-changing use of their data? I’m not sure how much of a tool problem that really is, and how much of a skill and leadership problem. Signals and noise.


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