10 ways to navigate digital economy


​Digital economy is an economy that is underpinned or based on digital computing technologies (Cloud, Mobile, Social Media, Big data and analytics, AI, IoT). It is ubiquitous, distributed, bespoke, convenient and connected. It is often referred to as the creative destruction that is happening globally as most industries and governments embark on the digital transformation journey. Digital transformation is a concept that has been in the market since the third industrial revolution, for example, floppy disk technology was superseded with USB flash drive. The difference though is that the current technology change is happening at a rapid pace. Digital disruption accelerates, businesses need to adopt agile and DevOps principles in order to respond rapidly to technology changes. The diagram below depicts 10 ways to navigate the digital economy.

1. Disrupt yourself

The fact is, technology change has a huge impact on the way we live, work and run our businesses. It is inevitable that some of the traditional jobs or skills will be obsolete in the new digital economy. Learning new skills is essential to stay relevant and take advantage of new jobs created by digital economy. If your job involves repetitive tasks, there is a good chance it might not exist in the new world. Re-skilling is a must. Based on latest technology trends, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will continue to take jobs away, however new jobs will be created in the process, for example data scientist and IoT evangelist didn't exist in the last 5 years. New jobs like AI specialist, Quantum machine learning analyst, master of edge computing, augmented reality journey builder, virtual reality expert, to name a few, will emerge. According to IT Web Training Guide 2018, digital transformation is driving a need for developer skills. The 'software-defined' world is also creating new job opportunities for IT professionals, as the transition from a hardware to a software enabled world accelerates.

Businesses need to keep up to remain competitive.

2. Embrace change

It's human nature to resist change, change is scary. However it will happen with or without you. To survive in the digital economy we need to embrace change and develop adaptive culture. We have witness a dramatic revolution in telecommunications from the original invention of the telephone to smartphones. In fact, according to statista (2017), the number of smartphone users in South Africa is estimated to reach 25 million by 2022. According to Harvard Business Review, Kodak failed because of its inability to truly embrace the new business models, the disruptive change.

"Be the change that you wish to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi

The nature and scope of change will vary for different industries.

3. Stay abreast with latest technology trends

Competition for talent is fierce in the digital economy. Keep up to date with latest trends in your profession and business to be competitive. Digital technologies connects people at a social, commercial and business level. Make sure you understand the features and benefits of theses technologies.

2018 Technology trends to keep an eye on:

  • Big data and analytics.

  • AI.

  • Internet of Things (IoT).

  • robotics.

  • cybersecurity.

  • digital workplace.

  • augmented and virtual reality.

  • hybrid cloud.

  • mobility and mobile apps.

How to keep up with technology trends:

  • Identify your needs.

  • Read books, articles, news and whitepapers.

  • Subscribe to technology and business sites.

  • Networking - attend conferences and keep in touch with like-minded individuals.

  • Google - enhance your research skills.

4. Innovate

Innovation is crucial in the digital economy. Find new ways to do things better. Automate manual and repetitive tasks to enhance your work or business. SweepSouth is a good example in South Africa. They developed a technology platform that allow you to book a home cleaning service on-demand from your phone, tablet or computer. They connect you with a cleaner in minutes. Their platform is more like Uber for domestic services. Uber disrupted conventional model of urban transport by leveraging innovative technologies, providing convenience and quality service. Airbnb enlist lots of people with spare rooms to rent at a much better price using digital technologies. 3D printing technology is re-inventing manufacturing.

These new business models and technologies are disrupting the status quo.

5. Collaborate

"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success." - Henry Ford

Collaboration is key in the digital economy. It foster innovative ideas. Enable a range of industry players to innovate within the digital economy ecosystem. This has great benefits for all players involved, for example they can disrupt their own markets and create new ones in the process. A good example of a collaborative culture and strategic partnership is open innovation. Open innovation links organization's internal capabilities with external competitive environment, fostering entrepreneurship spirit. It allow start-ups and entrepreneurs to innovate with big corporate and government institutions. Another example is Blockchain technology, it's revolutionizing the value of money, for example, disrupting the banking and payments systems and is likely to disrupt many other industries in the future. It's a distributed ledger technology that underlies crypto currencies like Bitcoin and provides a way to record and transfer data that is transparent, safe, auditable and resistant to outages. Blockchain technology has the ability to make businesses that use it transparent, democratic, decentralized, efficient and secure.

6. Challenge status quo

In a digital economy context, challenging status quo simply mean being a good force for change and transformation. The pace of technology change forces business leaders to change their mindset. So do things better, add value, take risks, be brave and think outside the box. Find new ways to deliver value in your business, area of work and in the digital ecosystem. Steve Jobs used innovation to challenge the status quo and exceeded customer expectations.

7. Ignite your strategy

The digital economy provides huge opportunities and challenges as well. Business leaders must take advantage of these opportunities before the competitors seize them. While deciding to embark on the digital transformation or revolution journey, it is important to understand the internal and external business environment better.

At b/c we can help your business to diagnose the problem or opportunity, for example, improve customer experience, digital operations, culture etc. We believe the strategic context is unique for every business hence our strategy design requires a thorough market research, internal research to map out the SWOT, VRIO and Macroeconomic analysis.

Once the problem or opportunity is known, our approach is to find the BEST digital solution and architecture. We generate relevant strategic insights in the process. This form the basis of a sustainable business strategy and our 4 step strategy approach has proven to be effective.

Some businesses fail to ignite their strategy because the problem was misdiagnosed in the first place or the change was initiated for the wrong reasons. The 'What' and 'Why' of change was not clear. So choosing the right direction, pursuing value creation and getting the priorities right is crucial.

8. Promote your brand

"Your personal brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room." Jeff Bezos

In short the brand is what you and your business stand for or represent. Be authentic and strive to be the best version of yourself. The brand is connected to your values and qualities. Leverage digital technologies to promote your brand, for example social media platforms (Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat etc.) and mobile technology.

These digital platforms are disrupting the traditional marketing business model.

9. Reflect

Leading any form of change or transformation is hard. Whether its evolution or revolution. This is mainly because most transformation programmes fail. The challenge is that digital transformation is revolutionary. It requires a radical departure from old ways of doing things which greatly impact the core (culture) of the organization. It must be aligned with the business or corporate strategy. Whoever leads this transformation, Chief Information Office (CIO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or Chief Digital Officer (CDO) must have technical skills, business acumen, transformation skills and emotional intelligence.

Identify performance metrics to measure success and review strategy progress at least quarterly.

The metrics must measure the use of digital technologies, structure changes, value creation and the financial aspects of the business. Is the digital transformation strategy achieving the anticipated Return on Investment (ROI)?

10. Mastery

Mastery is the ultimate intelligence. Focus on your passion, what you are good at and take consistent actions to perfect your skills or talent. Read, learn, prepare, practice, execute and repeat. Develop a good habit. Bring your 'A' game in everything you do. This applies to businesses as well.

"Be the best of whatever you are." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Take advantage of technology innovation to address challenges in your business or area of expertise.

About the author: Blessing Mdladla (Executive MBA)

Founder at Buhlebenkosi Consulting

Thought leader | Writer | Change Agent | Business Strategist | Digital Evangelist | Entreprenueur

My career journey is coupled with 15 years of Technology and Leadership experience.

I'm passionate about business administration and technology trends.

I live to inspire through business and technology innovation.

#Digitaleconomy #Agileprinciples #DevOps #Innovativetechnologies #Businessstrategy #Brand #Innovation #Collaboration #Reflection #Mastery #Technologytrends #Disrupt #Blockchain

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