Firstly, I hope all my American colleagues and friends are enjoying Thanksgiving. Happy holidays everyone!
I especially hope that all the IT professionals who work in the consumer retail markets get some rest because this coming Monday is Cyber Monday, one of the biggest days for online shopping transactions in the business year. Cyber Monday is part of the holiday season, which Forrester defines as November through December, and as our recent retail forecast report for 2013 points out, we expect online sales to top $78 billion in the US alone. Cyber Monday is not just a US event though; even in the UK, spending is forecast by Sage Pay to be more than £500m for this one day alone.
These figures highlight how digital our world has become. There is no need to go out in the cold or the rain as purchases can be made via mobile devices at any time or anywhere. This move to the digital world means that for many consumer retail companies, their websites and increasingly their mobile apps are now key to their success as they are becoming a major revenue and brand image contributor.
We’re at the dawn of a new industrial revolution. And just as the steam engine and the spinning jenny transformed the world in the first industrial revolution, the new technology of this new industrial revolution will transform our world as we know it.
The seeds of revolution are all around us: More compute power now resides in each of our pockets than in the supercomputers of the eighties; we are rapidly approaching a point where each person on the planet is interconnected through a web of digital channels; billions of devices are capable of instantly uploading data about the device and its environment as an the internet of things; highly automated manufacturing plants will soon intelligently assemble custom products; and instant video communications now take place regularly around the world. All of these changes are already here.
Over the past nine months I've been interviewing chief digital officers and senior digital leaders across a variety of industries to gain insight into the emerging role of digital leadership. My colleague Martin Gill and I wanted to discover why firms hire chief digital officers and what they are responsible for — more importantly I was looking to discover what CEOs should be doing to set up their businesses for success in a digital world.
One aspect of the research I'd like to highlight here is the need to think of digital as more than simply a bolt-on to your business. To create a digital business able to compete in the age of the customer, we need to think of building out a digital business ecosystem. I know what you're thinking — "not another ecosystem" — and yes, it's a very overused term, especially by consultants and analysts. But I simply can't think of a better term to describe the interconnected and codependent relationships needed in a fully digitized business (see diagram).