Some Thoughts On Digital Strategy And The Four Technologies Driving It

I've been hearing a lot about digital strategy and digital transformation lately. (Is that what they call a tech meme?) To my ears, it sounds like a good way to get technology people and business people together to answer four important technology questions: 

1. How do I serve customers and employees on the mobile device of their choice? This one becomes even more important as smartphone and tablet adoption soars. In the US, we at Forrester expect based on our surveys that over a third of smartphones are and will be used for work and over half of tablets will be, too. Consumerization rules this roost.

What it means: Mobile devices are yet another digital touchpoint for marketing, sales, service, and product teams to master. But of course multi-touchpoint means that things must work well on all digital devices and channels: mobile, Web, social, and video.

2. How do I harness social technology for the good of customers and business productivity? IBM and Salesforce.com are betting big that social business will drive technology investment. And of course it will, though not without a fair amount of soul searching into the real sources of value on the part of business and technology people.

What it means: Social business is yet another digital touchpoint for marketing, sales, service, and product teams to master. (Sound familiar?) And it also means giving employees the skills, tools, and permission to talk to their customers, partners, and colleagues without interference. This is the subject of books like Charlene Li's Open Leadership and our own Empowered and a new one from IBMer Sandy Carter called Get Bold. Social business will be a big part of your digital strategy.

3. How do I take advantage of cloud delivery and SaaS providers? There is massive innovation coming from cloud providers for every part of the stack, everything from application development and testing to technology solutions such as listening platforms. My favorite new example is TripIt, a great tool for business travelers. In addition to its touchscreen flight-tracking power app, TripIt monitors fares. I recently saved $137 on a West Coast flight after paying the $150 change fee. That more than covered my annual cost of using TripIt.

What it means: If you aren't already using a cloud-first strategy to drive your digital strategy, you should be. After all, cloud solutions serve mobile devices much better than on-premises solutions. The physics of networks and devices makes that inevitable. Even in highly regulated industries, cloud solutions can make huge sense in parts of the business and technology strategy. 

4. How do I turn big data into big advantage? As a former database designer and current statistical wonk, I find this one intriguing but also a bit mysterious. How, exactly, is big data any different from any other data source? (Except of course that it's more data about what people do and think than we've ever had before.) Still, I think having access to behavioral and attitudinal data can lead to better decisions around things that will get people doing things (like buying your products due to a better offer) or knowing things (like whether the latest economic indicator will affect your sales cycle).

What it means: If you don't have statisticians in your organization, and you're not hiring economists to build munge data or build analytic models, then you're not even seeing the potential of these big data sources to drive your digital strategy.

How's your digital strategy?