It's everywhere ...
It's everywhere ...

You’re a Digital Business Already – Start Acting Like It

Summary: Many businesses are digital already; it's sometimes called "shadow IT", but if you really open your eyes, it's out in the open, for all to see. Can you pivot to take advantage of it? It's a leadership challenge, and a great opportunity.

I’m not sure if the term Digital Business is just a buzzword, or truly an insightful take on reality.

But I am sure that many businesses are digital already; it’s sometimes called “shadow IT”, but if you really open your eyes, it’s out in the open, for all to see:

Finance: With their complex spreadsheets and financial models, Finance professionals are often the most prolific systems developers in the business. And for the really complicated processes like consolidation, forecasting, and budgeting, most larger shops use tools like Hyperion to manage the process and the data – systems typically developed and maintained by folks in Finance.

Sales & Marketing: Most web site projects – from brochureware to e-commerce – are conceived, budgeted, and run by the folks from Marketing (typically with external tech help). It’s the same with Sales organizations and their CRM systems – on-premise or Software-as-a-Service, with systems typically selected, justified, developed and administered (at least, for the effective teams) within the department.

Operations: Plenty of shop floor folks are looking to warehouse management implementations to optimize their material handling and inventory – and bringing in handhelds and other devices to simplify the tasks on the floor without sacrificing transactional discipline and data accuracy. IT may get called in to help implement – but the folks on the floor are often the most knowledgeable about their options.

Product Development: Engineering has often been the group that wants full control over their corner of the network, demanding the highest horsepower machines to drive their complex 3D models. And in most businesses that I work with, Engineers are the ones buying the 3D printers and learning new design skills.

Human Resources: Another functional area that benefits from advancements in SaaS offerings, for recruiting, talent management, and training & development. In addition, HR is often the team responsible for the payroll – possibly the most critical system in the business.

All of these are critical systems – and for many businesses, it’s not uncommon to see the budget for these systems in the respective budgets of the functional areas.The traditional metric of “IT as a Percent of Revenue” is as outdated as it is difficult to measure.

A Witty Title

The last word of this article’s title is not an abbreviation – but maybe it should be. If your IT team has embraced a style where ERP, financial systems, and the fundamental security infrastructure is tightly structured & controlled, while web, collaboration, and reporting systems are a bit more fluid – then yes, that’s a great model to emulate. But a truly digital business needs to realize the challenges of data management – can the right people access, understand, and utilize the available information? And don’t forget the critical requirement for ongoing skills development – our teams must continuously invest in hard and soft skills, through recruitment, training, and retention.

Just as important, the need to collaborate and coordinate the interactions of the various functional areas, as information continues to be an important part of our relationship with our customers & channels, our employees & owners. The time is coming when information and connectivity become part of the product – if we don’t know how to connect with each other on the internal / operational stuff, what happens to our competitive position when our products can’t connect with each other in the real world?

Your “digital business” world is here already – can you pivot to take advantage of it? It’s a leadership challenge, and a great opportunity.

# 5 October, 2015

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James MacLennan

... is the Managing Partner at Maker Turtle LLC, a digital consultancy focused on creating value in ways that align with your strategy and drive engagement with employees, customers, and stakeholders. He is an active creator, providing thought leadership through on-line & print publications, and public speaking / keynotes.