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Technology

Equipping businesses for a digital world

Subscribe to Technology 9/24/2014 Victoria Stead

It is a fact – technological advancements just keep accelerating. Digital technology has taken over our lives and digital convergence is within sight. If digital skill sets are not continually refreshed, they can rapidly become as obsolete as an old Nokia flip phone. Don’t be fooled into thinking this does not apply to you. The business opportunities in digital transformation transcend all industries and geographies, and are already abundant in e-commerce, mobile, social, cloud and embedded technology in virtually all business processes.

Some of the more visible impacts are currently within customer engagement and sales. Social media has become completely indispensable to brand management – 74% of consumers now rely on social media to influence their purchasing decisions and 71% say that if they receive a quick response from companies on social media, they are likely to recommend the brand to others. Secure cloud technologies are also creating opportunities for industries to deliver an enhanced customer experience. Hilton Hotels & Resorts, for instance, has recently introduced a service that enables travelers to use their smartphones as secure automatic check-in devices and room keys – no more check-in lines !

As consumers across the world continue to enter the online domain, it is estimated that global business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce sales will reach $1.5 trillion this year and $2.35 trillion by 2017, making the online economy one of the largest in the world – even bigger than India’s current GDP.

More accessible data capture and analytics technologies “Big Data” is enabling companies to make better products and win and retain customers in both the B2C and business-to-business (B2B) spheres. Companies in industries as diverse as Utilities, Automotive and Airlines have started recognizing the importance of understanding their end-users better. State-of-the-art digital skill sets are essential – from embedding the necessary technology in product design, to harvesting actionable business solutions from the efficient analysis of massive customer data sets. A new breed of digital talent is urgently needed to deliver on high customer expectations.

Take Tesla, for example. By embracing this technological sophistication across its business, Tesla has been able to radically outperform its competitors in the automotive industry, despite the fact that the company only has a single car model. Tesla’s cars are built with wireless networking devices to deliver real-time customer data to the company, and Tesla itself attributes its best-in-class customer satisfaction to its slavish attention to the analysis of this data.

Digital technology is disruptive, and there are many examples where digital advancements have transformed traditional business models for the good of the customer. For example, Amazon to the retail industry. I recently appointed a Digital Marketer as the CMO at a new utility start-up launched specifically to disrupt the ‘old school’ energy industry and bring a better service to consumers, by using smart meter technologies.

Digital technology allows businesses to cut out the middle men and interact with their end user customers directly. The financial services world is waking up to the fact that they can and should engage directly with customers and build communities with them. This year, I placed the CMO and Digital Director for one of the leading insurance providers, with headquarters in London.The company recognized the opportunity to build a consumer channel and brand and needed to hire a team of exceptional consumer focused digital leaders to create this new direct business.

One of the single biggest company transformations I have witnessed is a domestic postal service provider whose business was in rapid decline. We hired a Digital Director to help them compete with new online competitive threats and better monetize their business using digital technologies. They ultimately turned their business strategy on its head to move away from traditional mail services and capitalize on their unrivalled customer data. Hiring this Digital Director was a first step towards quickly transforming their business model, without the growing pains and uncertainty of developing in-house talent.

Virtually all businesses now realize that the ability to embrace digital thinking – be it e-commerce, cloud, mobile or social, or revolutionizing existing business processes like product & service design, manufacturing or delivery – is essential to succeeding in the modern world. Since the speed of execution is vital to survive in a competitive landscape, the fastest way to acquire advanced digital skill sets is to hire experts in the area and create the roles of Non-executive Director (NED), Digital Director or CMO.

Finding the right person to lead the digital capabilities of an organization is an art. Where in the organizational hierarchy should these new talents be located? How junior or senior should the roles be? Is it just a directorship or will it be more effective to invite digital talent into the boardroom somehow? This is a potential minefield to navigate and I spend much of my time working with boards to help them to understand the best strategy to enable their business to embrace the future world, and the right person profile to bring this to life.


Victoria Stead Partner +971 4 376 4600

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