The Dawn of Digital Disruption

Posted 6 January 2016 12:00 AM by Katya Linossi, Managing Director @ ClearPeople

With the advent of companies like Uber changing the landscape in the taxi industry, the exponential growth of mobile and the rise of Cloud computing, we’re all very aware of the potential these “Digital Disruptors” have in revolutionising the way we think about business models. 

What is Digital Disruption?

“Digital disruption refers to changes enabled by digital technologies that occur at a pace and magnitude that interrupt established ways of value creation, social interactions, doing business and, more generally, our thinking.”  (1)

The Internet user base in South Africa increased from 2.4 million in 2000, to 5 million in 2008 (2)  and to 12.3 million in 2012. As broadband penetration continues to rise and the country becomes more and more digitalised, consumer expectations have evolved and so to meet and exceed their customer’s needs, businesses need to look to technology to enable positive change.

Threat or Opportunity?

Established companies who have not embraced the digital era have found it a struggle to compete with newer organisations with digital at their heart of marketing, selling, and delivering their products and services. The term “death by digital disruption” can be used here to illustrate how companies like Kodak who failed to evolve their business models have found it increasingly difficult to grow in a space they once dominated as they’re being overtaken by competitors who embraced digital transformation much more readily. The rise of digital-first organisations like Netflix across America and Europe, and soon to be established in South Africa, as well as Airbnb are case in points here.

Our clients realise that their customers expect better service, faster and cheaper - and we help them to leverage the opportunities that digital provides, now and in the future.

Business Transformation

The change in expectation isn’t just evident externally through a better online experience for the end-customer (through an enhanced website, for example) – it’s an internal transformation too. In a 24/7, information-heavy world, the nature of the workforce has changed. Employees are spending less time in the office, working from different devices at different times. Their online experience in their personal lives has influenced their expectations for their online experience at work, and this has given rise to a new digital workspace which enables better collaboration and improved efficiencies. 

We strongly believe in making internal systems just as compelling as external ones. Forging a relationship between the two through intelligent use of technology, data and analytics helps clients better connect with their audiences. Naturally, driving such change internally is no mean feat and requires buy-in from stakeholders and a change management programme where improved processes and technology are put in place. 

It’s not all about technology

There’s no denying that advancing technology is driving business change. But we encourage our clients to think about technology last. It is simply the enabler and not the solution - people should always come first, whether it’s the external customer or the internal employee.

Understanding their needs along with their challenges and pain points means you can look to new ways of meeting their end goals with a more productive and efficient approach. And be mindful of what is happening outside of your own organisation – what are your competitors doing? Because it’s more than likely they are witnessing change around them and evolving to fit, recognising customer’s problems and coming up with products and services to solve them.

Putting people first

Ignoring your end-users is a certain route to failure. Digital disruption by its very nature doesn’t happen suddenly, so you won’t lose customers or employees overnight. But it’s important to remember that the key to success is keeping your customers and employees happy. This happiness stems from positive experiences with your organisation through whichever channel they wish to communicate with you. And their preferred methods of communication will usually be those that make their lives easier – technology helps to streamline processes and improve experiences. The dawn of digital disruption therefore, is driven by people - and businesses must shift the focus here in order to achieve optimum success.

(1) What is digital disruption? The Big Opportunity, June, 2013

(2) "Internet in South Africa". South Africa Web. June 2011.

As first published in Entrepreneur Magazine SA


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