What does a successful business look like today? If it isn't digitally engaged throughout the organization, it's probably struggling.
That's the implication of the latest research from global consultancy Accenture, whose new Technology Vision 2013 report says digital businesses -- organizations that "build deeper and richer digital relationships with their customers in order to deliver more personalised experiences and interactions" -- are winning the global race to thrive.
Specifically, the report says the convergence of social media, mobile computing, analytics and the cloud is transforming the way businesses operate -- and companies that adopt technologies to "go digital" will be better positioned to take advantage of rapidly shifting business opportunities and leap ahead of the competition.
"Every business has to be a digital one now," Accenture's chief technology officer Paul Daugherty told InformationWeek U.K. For example, he said, while technology gives organizations the ability to understand their customers better than ever, most enterprises are not taking full advantage of it to build deeper, richer relationships that can improve customer loyalty significantly. While mobile computing, social networks and context-based services have increased connections with consumers, many companies have lost customer intimacy in the process.
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The reason: These connections have been viewed as another communication or transactional channel rather than opportunities to improve relationships. "Effectively developing meaningful relationships at scale requires a real change in how companies approach these strategies and implement a new unified approach across IT and the business," Daugherty said.
According to Accenture, CIOs need to look at technologies that encourage and support business-customer digital relationships, as they are likely to become "the primary drivers of market differentiation, strategic growth, and bottom-line profitability" for their organizations.
This strategy needs to go beyond IT. "For the first time in this series of reports, we wrote this with both the CIO and the CEO as our audience," Daugherty said. "Adopting a new digital mindset is required to harness the potential. The power and reach of converging IT trends such as mobility and cloud means that business leaders need to understand the implications of a software-driven, connected-everything world. It's really time business and IT sat down together and started the dialog to create ways for technology's potential to be harnessed."
According to Daugherty, the study looked at the current tech landscape, assessed current and past technology projects with its clients and tapped the expertise of its R&D team to identify seven major trends:
-- Relationships. Moving beyond transactions and into digital relationships requires a change in how companies approach customer engagement and a unified approach across IT and business.
-- Analytics. Enterprises need a strategy that sees data more as a supply chain than a warehouse.
-- Data. As companies see increasing competitive advantage from "time to insight," data and analytical skills become more critical to converting insights to action before opportunities are lost.
-- Collaboration. Enterprises have an opportunity in understanding the growing expectation that every app will be social and developing tools that change business processes.
-- Software-defined networking. SDN represents the "last mile" of virtualization. It enables IT to unleash the full power of virtualization and makes it easier to move to the cloud.
-- Security. The security emphasis is shifting from monitoring to understanding and acting. This has led to the development of new data platforms and systems that shift the security emphasis accordingly.
-- Cloud. Cloud is enterprise-ready. Conversations should now turn to how cloud services can differentiate a company's business, help get products and services to market faster, operate the business more efficiently and respond more flexibly to new opportunities and challenges.
For each category, the report lays out specific to-do lists and suggestions -- a 100- and 365-day plan for each, in fact. Even in a recession, Daugherty said, businesses want practical suggestions on how they can become more digital today.
"Technology is part of every business now," he said. "It's part of all that we do. But we need to start working to take advantage of these trends to really make the most of them."
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