A great many businesses still don’t understand the importance of digital. They’re looking through a keyhole when they should be opening the door. Silo thinking is still holding sway when digital gets folded into marketing and is ignored across other functions.
Marketing is a tiny speck on the digital landscape. It’s understandable that people have come to see digital as mainly a marketing thing. That’s because there is an historical relationship built up over the past 30 years or so between digital media, content and marketing.
We associate digital with communications and media because that is where digital made its first major impact, especially in the minds of consumers. The potential of digital found its first real test case successes in areas like music, video, photography and text. Think of products like DVD, digital cameras, compact discs, and websites.
These are all manifestations of digital media and have greatly influenced how we define digital. However, the power of digital has gone well beyond just media and content applications. Digital is a toolkit; it is a mindset. It is now being applied to almost every major industry you can think of: healthcare, transport and logistics, HR, mining, manufacturing, retail, finance, governance, property and so on.
The toolkit and mindset of digital is at the core of advances like AI, automation, robotics, blockchain, 3D manufacturing, and VR.
Much of this was foreseen by venture capitalist Marc Andreessen in 2011 in his influential essay “Why software is eating the world”. An internet pioneer, early investor in companies such as Facebook, Groupon, Skype, Twitter, Zynga, and Foursquare, and the co-founder of VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, he lays out the evolution of the digital revolution succinctly:
“Six decades into the computer revolution, four decades since the invention of the microprocessor, and two decades into the rise of the modern internet, all of the technology required to transform industries through software finally works and can be widely delivered at global scale.” If your organisation is still treating digital as a purely marketing matter, it’s a really dangerous position to be in.
You will find your direct competitors applying digital tools and thinking to functions such as HR to hire and retain better employees. They will be applying digital tools and thinking to functions such as supply chain to get products to consumers at a cheaper cost than you. They will use digital to find better ways to raise capital and maintain cash flow than you.
And you will have competitors you don’t even know about applying digital in ways that change the very nature of your industry. They will disrupt and destroy your business model. And all the while, you hold onto the idea that digital is just something the marketing department does.
This is why your digital strategy has to be hybrid and cross-function. Once you understand digital as a toolkit and mindset, you can start to join the dots and colour in the picture. You go from the myopic keyhole view to opening the door to opportunity.
That’s where your organisation needs to be right now.