THE DIGITAL BUSINESS INFLECTION POINT
1.2 - Creating
When you hear the word ‘create’ in a business meeting what do you think? Create a new product, a new widget or a new sales process? Maybe create is a metaphor for value, a new venture to ensure your customers never get stuck on the side of the road with a flat tyre. A digital business creates value by augmenting people and technology.
A digital business has a way of doing things that is very different to the past. As a traditional business is constantly changing and adapting so is a digital business. This constant state of flux in a digital business forms the backbone of the company, all things and actions revolve around a cycle of imagine, create, launch, review and refine. Like a flowing river, a digital business speeds up, slows down, rises and falls - all in relation to its environment. The flow of data from all corners of the digital business feed the decisions made by the thinkers. These thinkers create using a mindset of prototyping over analysis, agility over planning and all with a goal to ship. You must get the product in the hands of your customers as quickly as possible, because then and only then will you begin to understand or achieve market fit.
There is no need to sit back and watch the natural ending of a product when that product is constantly adapting to the environment and actively participates in an ecosystem. Product evolution ensures sustainability. But to evolve or adapt there are many questions to be answered.
Build it and they will come. I bet you have heard that before. Maybe in your current company. But what is - it?
A quick guess would be a new widget, a new service or if you are a sales led company a new marketing campaign. A digital business builds it too. It builds a platform to create a community. Just like we did hundreds of years ago. Communities where we have common and shared interest, transcend trust and solve problems because we care about them. But digital communities are different. They are different because people are dispersed and diverse. Understanding that communities are yet another differentiator in a digital business is critical. There is no way to effectively iterate and refine products without a community. A community may look like your traditional A and B clients but are far from that. A community is your fans both super and casual.
If you don't create a community you only have marketing. No feedback. No trust. No permission. Marketing in the digital world can feel like standing in an airport and whispering your mission statement - no one will hear you and if they did, probably won't care. When you have a community you have permission to lead - people will hear you and people will care.
Create a community. Create a platform. Use the greatest leverage tool in history - software.
Traditionally in business, to launch a new product or service, you would require enormous amounts of capital upfront. Months or years of research and development. Hours upon hours of training and new staff, offices, desks, phones budgets and samples. Commit every waking moment of your life in a calculated gamble that at best will return a single digit margin. Don't get me wrong, this has and still works well today but a digital business is different, because a digital business leaves behind this legacy.
A digital business requires less capital upfront and leverages cloud services to create a platform using software. A digital business launches with a minimum viable product and performs research and development in real-time with real customers, constantly iterating the product to customer expectations. A digital business uses data to understand the needs of both staff and customers to create efficiency and drive experiences. A digital business runs globally twenty four hours a day, seven days a week - whether you are logged in or not. A digital business can scale zero marginal cost products with zero incremental cost to redeploy.
Unlike the business of the past, the product is no longer a physical widget, a service or goods, the modern product is an experience. Your product is everything your company stands for. Your product is how your company interacts, and your product is the entire experience from education, to shopping, to purchasing and to support. No longer is a yellow taxi good enough, you wrap your product in an experience from end to end. Remember that time you purchased a new mobile phone case, the process went smooth and within a couple of minutes your credit card was charged and the case was on its way. Until it arrived. You realise that instead of a blue case you got a yellow case. What to do? jump onto the website and chat with an AI chatbot about an exchange - sure? but there is no chatbot, no phone number and no postal address to send the item back! there is an email address that you try, and several days later after some too and fro you are dropping the case back at the local courier depot for its return trip to the exchange. After another couple of weeks the blue case finally arrives. This scenario sounds like a traditional business playing an ecommerce game but wearing digital uniforms. Have a think about this scenario for a moment. Where did it go wrong?
What sits between a traditional business and a digital business is a bridging technology model. E-commerce has been around for some time now and likes to masquerade in digital clothes. This looks good from the outside but once you get skin deep you realise the facade is just that, a user interface for selling products and services online. A digital business leverages a user interface in the same way an e-commerce business does but a digital business looks at the user interface not in isolation but holistically with the user experience. This end to end strategy is what differentiates an e-commerce business from a digital business. There is nothing wrong with e-commerce but you do need to acknowledge the difference from digital. Your customers will notice.
With e-commerce some, tend to think analog to digital when in reality it should be just digital. Digitisation is the concept of shoehorning analog into digital. Have you recently filled out a form online and thought this just an old paper form that someone has put online! You are more than likely right. The issue with this approach is slapstick at best. Previously an employee of the company would have done this for you and now they expect you, the valued customer, to do it - and understand what's required! The process has been put online under the e-commerce paradigm, but in doing so the customer endures a horrific experience, satisfaction surveys go down, revenue declines and the developer is put on notice. What was actually in need was digital transformation. The theory of transforming analog into digital.
If we look at the prior phone case example in a digital business, the case widget and interface are the same but the experience is vastly superior. Within several minutes of your purchase you would have received a communication thanking you for your patronage. In this communication would have been information explaining that sometimes we humans get it wrong and the widget company knows this, as such this is how you go about an exchange or return. You did note this and when the yellow case turned up, you followed the instructions which directed you to the AI chatbot. The helpful chatbot asked several questions and moments later the new blue case was on its way with a return ticket for the yellow phone case. Another day later all is fine and the yellow case has been replaced and returned. And incidentally, the week following some thinkers realised after seeing the data from several other phone case sales returned that the color option was poorly placed on the screen. The experience has now been iteratively changed, the community has been advised, and the feedback combined with the data confirm the change has been a success. This is a digital business augmenting people with technology. This is a digital business leveraging user interface with user experience. This is a digital business creating value for their community.
By leveraging people and technology you create a moat around your business and create a competitive, unique edge. A digital business is incredibly hard to replicate because what goes on behind the scenes, like an iceberg is deep and wide. The hidden work, the hard work, the true intellectual property is what adds a heart to a digital business. A digital business has arteries of data very specific to the product, the body and it leverages this to scale unlike a traditional brick and mortar store can. To put a heart rate monitor on is an analogy to measuring the pulse of your business, a digital business monitors key metrics in real-time all the time to provide instant feedback on the state of play.
No longer do you uncover issues when a customer complains, you now advise your community how you will deliver a solution.
Create a community. Create a platform. Create an experience. Create using software.
Setting budgets, forecasting, targets all used to be done monthly, quarterly and annually - these are now done digitally, daily and monitored by everyone as results. You do these daily or hourly because it now makes sense. When your customers are your community you want to stay close. Because you can adapt to your environment you want to stay close. And because you can make changes quickly using software and monitor those changes with data and people you want to stay close.
Next time you hear the word create in a business meeting, have a think, do you have a community, do you have a platform, do you have an experience and most of all, does create, leverage software to augment your people with technology.