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How to survive the digital revolution

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To put the digital revolution into some perspective, 90% of all the data in the world has been generated in the last two years.
The speed of technology adoption and innovation has been somewhat blinding when you consider that the start of the digital revolution can realistically be tracked back to as recently as the early 1980’s when companies like Sony and IBM brought us video games and the first in desktop and personal computing. 

Today we now accept the use of digital technologies as common place in both the workplace and throughout most areas of our personal lives, but it is important to note that this acceptance has occurred very quickly compared to previous generations.
For example the industrial revolution occurred over some sixty plus years and indeed changed the face of the modern world, but it was also a slow process compared to the current digital revolution which has seen non-traditional companies arise out of apparently nowhere to dominate and in many cases replace entire industry sectors in little under a twenty year period.

Adding to the rapid rate of digital technology adoption has been the rise of social media.  This has also, in an equally short period of time, significantly reshaped the way we live our lives from how we chose to interact at work, how we learn, how we communicate with loved ones, to the way we access everyday products and services.  

The rapid acceptance and adoption of digital technologies by society at large can be considered the single most urgent issue facing nearly all traditional businesses in today’s economy. It may seem slightly unfair that the digital revolution has occurred at such a rapid pace that many more traditional businesses are not just struggling to adapt quickly, they are struggling to survive as they are being overtaken or replaced by non-industry based digital competitors.  

The term “digital disruption” has been adopted to explain the rapid change in business and consumer behaviour that appears to take place in ever shorter interruption periods, sometimes occurring in months and not years, as more consumers rapidly adopt new digital solutions, new platforms and ever increasing mobile based services that are often adopted within months of their introduction to the marketplace.  
To make things worse the digital revolution has only really just begun and those business who are working hard to adapt to today’s reality, will need to work even harder in the future to remain relevant as the use of digital technology continues to evolve and new consumers continue to demand more from the services that their business offers.   

So how can businesses thrive and survive in the midst of the digital revolution?

View the world through a digital lens

It is not just enough to simply adopt digital as part of your company’s future business plan or include it as a separate department or technology area. Businesses should be looking to hire qualified individuals into senior management positions who can view the world through a “digital first lens”, this means looking at the wider picture of how digital disruption, consumer behaviour or the adoption of new technologies will affect everything from how a company provides customer service, delivers its products to how internal staff work with each other and their clients.

Don’t just follow, innovate

The old theory that only expensive well planned out technical solutions work is no longer true and many smaller companies are taking on their larger competitors and winning, because they have chosen to innovate and move quickly.
The digital revolution comes with many positives for all types of businesses, the first of these being the speed at which a solution or product can be developed, tested and delivered to the marketplace has dramatically increased. Secondly the availability of cost effective SaaS (Software as a service) based tools now allow companies to achieve once complex and expensive exercises with limited resources and capital investment.
So when we talk about Innovation in the digital age, it is not so much about taking major risks or building out large and complex plans for business transformation, it is more about not allowing traditional thinking to get in the way of quick to market innovative progression and problem solving.

Get over the digital migration hurdle

We have all heard of companies that are considered too large to respond quickly enough to the digital revolution. Some put this down to internal bureaucracy or the blindness caused by the size of the organisation and its many competing departments.
To be fair this may be a large part of the problem when it comes to taking on new market conditions, but probably the greatest hurdle that any business needs to overcome is the “legacy” hurdle when established technologies, infrastructure or business process become too hard to change or too expensive to update or improve on.

Getting over the migration hurdle requires new thinking, particularly when it comes to big data and how new processes can be successfully integrated into more traditional technologies or internal practices. Often this may require starting from scratch or building parallel platforms with the view to make the past systems redundant.

Opportunities should not be ignored

When we are faced with the need to adapt quickly to digital change, we often consider the threat to the traditional business models while ignoring the opportunities that a digital economy can present.
The saying that the best form of defence is often attack can be applied to succeeding in and surviving in the digital revolution. The ability to maintain your business advantage in the digital era is fantastic but those who have truly adapted to the new digital norm have gone on to create new services, types of products and most importantly move quickly into new areas of non-traditional business engagement before their competitors do.

Employment and skills growth

When hiring new people into the business, think of what your business might look like in five years’ time and hire those who will be able to lead you into that future with their existing digital knowledge and experience as well as their ability to learn and adapt.
All areas of your company internally and externally will need to change in the coming years regardless of what your company actually  does, as each area will be effected by the digital revolution include marketing, finance, sales, business development, communications and manufacturing.

Those individuals that you hire today who are able to see the world through a new digital lens are the ones who are going to be the most valuable to the future success of your company in a digital age.