The future of digital business

Why all businesses need a digital technology strategy

Associate Professor Dr Stuart Dillon

Waikato Management School, University of Waikato

"Rapid digital disruption means the way in which we treat business technology as an element of strategy needs to change."

The latest wave of technologies are a double-edged sword for many businesses.

Without the willingness to invest and agility to rapidly adopt, businesses of all sizes face a very real threat of becoming increasingly irrelevant to a society that has an obsession with all things smart, mobile, and ubiquitous.

No part of society is immune to the disruptive effects of emerging technologies, least of all business.  Almost on a daily basis we see examples of contemporary digital technologies changing the rules of business operations and engagement.

And I’m not just talking about traditional retailers, who are slowly coming to terms with online selling and direct marketing; or manufacturers, who are generally aware of the benefits of digital technologies for enhanced supply chain integration and automated logistics.

I’m talking about the likes of Fintech (financial technology), which is transforming the way money is managed.  Nothing is free of this digital disruption: banking, currency trading, markets and accounting are all being re-imagined, often by recently established cloud-based start-up firms.

I’m talking about the likes of big data in healthcare to predict illness, establish personalised treatments for disease curation, enhance quality of life, and improve overall health outcomes.

Even the most traditional of industries, farming and agriculture, are now hotbeds of technological activity and digital advancement. Geospatial data can now link what we buy from the supermarket - not just to farms or growers - but to specific paddocks, trees or vines; even certain branches on trees; all contributing to the development of premium products for educated and discerning markets.

Rapid digital disruption means the way in which we treat business technology as an element of strategy needs to change. In the early days, business would adopt technology to improve efficiencies and seek to ensure alignment with business strategy.

The advent of the internet and the World Wide Web elevated the role of technology to an enabler of new ways of operating, and businesses began to develop business and technology strategies in parallel.

Now the time has come where technology has the potential to fundamentally change the nature of a business and the way it operates. It is for this reason I advocate that ALL businesses should establish a technology-led strategy. One which is never left untouched, but is instead dynamic and able to rapidly adapt to change as new technologies emerge.

Future business success is likely to be characterised by businesses who don’t just accept digital disruption, but embrace it. Successful enterprises will see technology as an opportunity for progress, not something to merely ‘deal with’.

Like it or not, business success will be inextricably linked to the manner in which contemporary digital technologies are used in all facets of the business. So, are you ready?