This quote from MIT Media Lab’s Nicholas Negroponte must be one of those I use the most since it perfectly illustrates the paradigm shift we’re living. Negroponte said “computing” but today the quote would apply to much more things :
“Internet is not about networks”
“Digital is not about software and hardware.”
Today, I’d like to focus on the last one since because it illustrates a very deep change. Not only for the “old world” that has to adapt to a digital world but also for the pre-digital and digital industry.
When digital is everywhere it’s not a specific matter anymore
The idea beyond that is already well known : digital is everywhere. No matter where one is, not matter the device. No matter one is passive or active. Player or subject. Let’s also add connected objects that spend their time capturing data that will, in one way or the other, be used in a process that impacts us.
From the moment we consider digital is more a culture, a philosophy, a new approach to one’s personal and business interactions, a lifestyle, from the moment it becomes a cultural, political, social matter, it changes status.
From the moment it’s everywhere, digital does not exist as such, as a discipline anymore. And that changes things for all industry players.
If you’re still making websites in 2020 you’re not digital, you’re old school
First we had computing, then internet, then the web, the web social and then digital. Different words that show the evolution of the paradigm, of technology, of drivers but that were used to mention the state of the art of a single thing at different moments.
Until the digital era, we used to see things through a siloed approach. Either as a channel or as media. One used to produce sites, content, applications. Today, these silos are collapsing : it’s not about sites, content or applications but experiences. The barrier between the digital and the physical worlds collapsed too. Digital set itself free, spreads, sublimates. It’s everywhere, it’s in the air. It’s everywhere except where we used to find it.
When digital is everywhere, doing digital stuff means coming back to pre-digital stuff. It’s about customer relationship, process automation, customer or employee engagement. Employer or product branding. Well being. Learning. Supply chain management. Process engineering. Leadership and management improvement.
In short, all players that have been doing digital for the digital sake and considered it as an end are going to experience very tough times if they don’t change their approach.
Digital has won. So it disappears.
For years or more we’ve been told that digital was going to smash everything on its path. How many times did we hear something about “the death of…”. Of course, digital won. But instead of smashing pre-digital activities, it won the right to handle them and transform them.
Digital as such is not a matter anymore. It’s only worth because it helps to transform what’s been around around.
Years ago being a digital expert was enough to move forward (even if I don’t really know what being a digital expert means). Knowing and understanding what’s happening and turning one’s back on what was there before was enough. Today it’s a necessary but secondary skill (I say secondary, not optional).
Today we need a strategic, financial and ROI-stic approach to digital transformation.
Digital is 10% about communication, 90% about organization and operations
We must apply digital as an approach and then as a technology to HR, marketing, customer relationship, process management, purchases, supply chain, communication, crisis management, innovation, performance management. And, as paradoxical as it may look, to offline activities since it’s not a technology but a way to do things
No matter the name it was given, digital has been as a tool helping businesses to communicate for a long time. Today it’s both a tool and a way to work. Communication is still there but the playground has expanded and is mainly about organization, communication and setting the enterprise in motion.
There’s a gap between digital hippies and transformation professionals
Do you have a finance, marketing, HR or supply chain background ? No ? So maybe you know everything about what’s going on, who’s disrupting whom…if you don’t have a solid background in one of these core functions, you’ll never be a transformation professional. Only a digital hippie. You opened the way but now businesses need more in order to go full speed on the highway.
That’s echoing what’s happening within businesses. There used to be internet departments, then digital ones. They started with channels and content and moved to trying to transform operations. They expect their partners to follow the same path.
So, yes, digital is disrupting the way businesses operate. But it also forces its own pure players to change and move to the next stage, the one where they’ll have to take care of the old disciplines they’ve been turning their back on for 15 years.