John Sheridan

John is CEO of Digital Business insights!

Are you signed up for the digital revolution?

Are you an enthusiastic digital revolutionary? A digital Che Guevara? William Wallace? Garibaldi? Or Gorbachev? Somebody willing to change the way they think and operate completely. Are you an actor or observer in this digital brave new world?

The revolution is under way. And there is no room on the bank watching the digital river flow. We are all impacted in some way by the remorseless currents of change...some much more than others.

There is no dramatic tsunami to run from, there is just a steady, ever increasing rising flood of more connection, more collaboration and more integration flowing into all our daily activities changing and modifying our thinking and the way we operate.

Tsunami or flood...it doesn't matter. If you don't react thoughtfully, you drown either way.

Letters and faxes replaced by emails and SMS. Flights replaced by videoconferencing. Broadcasting replaced by conversations. Pundits replaced by Google. Cameras on phones. Sensors on everything.

In the midst of an unprecedented digital revolution, it is evident that 95% of us aren't very revolutionary.

We see in the work we do that 3-5% of businesses and organisations are really embracing this digital new world, trying new things, changing business models and stealing a march on anybody and everybody. Another 15% follow carefully behind, but no risk please. And another 30% bring up the rear, not convinced but not willing to be left behind.

And 60 years of post WW2 "concentrate on your core business" thinking seems to have frozen everybody else in their tracks.

Because, when everybody and everything is being connected to everybody else..."what's my core business?" is a question that needs revisiting with an open mind.

Your core business could have changed radically, or worse still...your core business just became somebody else's core business...because you weren't looking far enough and wide enough.

What is anybody's core business today?

That is less easy to define than it used to be. Because the digital revolution has brought with it many new options and choices that were not possible just a few short years ago.

And the basic set of business relationships, though fundamentally the same– internal, customer, supplier, competitor and collaborator has morphed and changed shape dramatically.

The digital revolution has disrupted sector after sector. It has hit "middlemen" especially hard, connecting customers directly with information, products and services, eliminating traditional brokers of all kinds – politicians, associations, retailers, teachers, newspapers, publishers, spooks, doctors, advertisers, employment agencies, lawyers, government and banks.

"Middleman" disruption won't stop any time soon. And we hear "King Canutes" everywhere telling the tide to stop and turn, as it rolls remorselessly in.

The digital revolution is not something to be ignored or taken lightly.

And yet many of us still look to the traditional media publishers for guidance – to the very people who so badly misread the signs, that they lost the placement advertising "rivers of gold" to Google. Or to high profile industry spokespeople also following the wrong advice.

"Google Schmoogle" said Mister Trujillo in 2005, as a multi-billion dollar directory business "river of gold" poured into somebody else's coffers.

The big guys get it wrong and the small guys get it wrong.

They both thought their core business was "their" core business and it wasn't. Of course, all their advisors told them it was, but they were wrong as well. CEOs have to take control of their own destiny. And that requires "getting" digital. Up close. And personal.

In the thousands of surveys we have conducted about half of all organisations say they want to continue business as usual and the other half want to expand and grow.

But is business as usual even an option any more?

With the steady, remorseless digital flood, slowly creeping every upwards, eroding margins, changing customer attitudes and creating new currents that carry customers elsewhere, the answer is no.

And if you want to expand and grow, do you become a bigger chemist, law firm, consultancy, manufacturer, courier service or telco? Or do you morph into something totally different, because the limits that once were have disappeared?

Technology is no longer the limiting factor that it used to be. In many ways, we can almost assume that technology gaps will be filled, that devices will be improved, become more reliable, more connected, more powerful, faster, cheaper and accessible.

The real limits are now in us, in our imaginations, in our fears, in our traditions, our identities. Yet we were not born with these limitations...quite the opposite.

We were born cleanskin. Open eyes. Curiosity. Full of wonder and persistence.
Somewhere along the road of experience many of us retreated into the familiar, tried and trusted, business as usual...core business.

But what is core business in a digital revolution?

It's back to where we began. New opportunity. Cleanskin. Open eyes. Curiosity. Persistence.

It's time to take a fresh look at possibility.

Short term. Medium term. Long term. Local. Regional. Glocal. Where could you fit in?

I know you don't have any time. I know there are a million far more important things to worry about. I know that you have the attention span of a goldfish. I know you want everything push button, one side of A4, 100 word elevator pitch, 3 power point slides...or you lose the plot.

But.

In an ever connected joined up world, that isn't going to help. That is a plan to "do nothing". Tick the box. Stay where I am. Do what I have always done. Pay lip service. Focus just on a new web site and social media = recipe for disaster.

This is a world ranging, enormous, interconnected revolution. Not the subject matter for notes on the back or front of your hand.

The Google Schmoogle approach to revolutions doesn't work. Sol didn't take the time to think. He didn't make the time to really understand what was happening and he got back exactly the return on his minimal investment of thinking time – a hugely profitable business down the drain.

Curiosity needs room to move, time to consider, and that is exactly as long as it takes and that's it.

Some people are revolutionary in the digital revolution = 5%. And they are having a whale of a time, running around building new digital teams, collaborations and empires. And when we interview them to create case studies, they are gob-smacked that their competitors haven't got it yet, and are giving them so much free time to play.

It is about attitude. Curiosity. Being experimental. Persistent.
And 95% of folks don't have that attitude yet.

Isn't it funny that in a technologically driven digital revolution, the biggest barriers and issues are human not technical?

Risk. Fear. Trust. Integrity. Authenticity. Honesty.
And they are all important.

The shift of power from vendor to customer is permanent. Thank Google. And the shift of power has changed attitudes forever.

This simple fact is not yet fully understood by most traditional vendors - politicians, associations, retailers, teachers, newspapers, publishers, spooks, doctors, advertisers, employment agencies, lawyers, government and banks.

Many new digital customers won't directly engage with vendors any more, they just make their feelings felt by not moving, not responding, not buying, and not being sold. Not unless it feels right = authentic and is right = honest, transparent, relevant, checkable and sharable.

This is what is so amusing watching the rarefied incestuous conversations between political commentators and politicians. Nobody outside that circle is listening any more. An ever increasing percentage of Australia's population are just getting on with business regardless of traditional brokers of all kinds.

Pulling a fast one or a nasty one is a lot harder in a digitally connected world. We have never had so many royal commissions.

And privacy is a two way street. Having to treat all actions and communications as "public" and "postcard" subtly changes the way we think and operate.
That is the world we now live in.

Government can now spy on anybody and does. But Edward Snowden and Julian Assange were children of the information age and their successors and replacements will whistle blow till the "cows come home to roost". It is a strange new world.

In an "open book" world, integrity, consistency, authenticity and honesty become the new currency. This new fact is taking time for many old world operators to come to terms with.

But that's not about technology. That's not what digital is about...but it is.

Instant access to information and collaboration transforms. The technology enables. But the confidence shifts the power. And the grass roots create a new interconnected playing field for actions of all kinds.

Authority and respect are no longer aligned to titles, roles and positions but solely to actions. And collaboration will continue to grow among those who are open to sharing value. And that's not everybody of course. So even more shuffles and shifts in a society we thought we understood.

That's why it is so important for CEOs to take time to understand what is going on. There is a lot more to this digital revolution than how many (insert product here) am I going to sell this month? Or look at my new Apple watch.

And it's about more than yearning for your core business that was.

It is about revisiting what a core business might be now that you have made time to understand the opportunities and threats of the digital revolution.

And making the change.

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Thursday, 23 November 2017