For over two decades enterprises have been undergoing an unprecedented digital transformation. One of the key enablers of this transformation has been the rise and the evolution of digital technologies, from high speed networks like 4G and LTE to enterprise applications like ERP and CRM. These technologies are still advancing in a rapid pace. For example, enterprises are nowadays preparing for the fifth generation (5G) of networking and communications, which will deliver speeds that are orders of magnitude better than 4G speeds, while at the same time offering high speed connectivity even in densely populated environments. As another example, an increasing number of enterprises is using cloud-based pay-as-you-go services, rather than relying on conventional on-premise installations. As a result, sooner or later enterprises are bound to reach a significant level of digitization, which will ultimately help them automate and optimize most of their business processes. In this context, companies are already seeking for competitive advantages that will set them apart from their competitors in the post digital era, when most enterprises will have reached digital maturity.
Customer centricity is one of the most prominent ways for improving business results. For many years, enterprises have been profiling customers in order to provide them with personalized services. Nevertheless, it was always challenging to collect customer data. In the post digital era, enterprises will get this challenging data collection for granted, as technology facilitates both the explicit and the implicit collection of customer data. Modern digital infrastructures facilitate the collection of such data from multiple channels (e.g., social media, smartphones and web sites). At the same time the storage of large amounts of data is cheap and their processing can be very efficient thanks to the Big Data analytics infrastructure. Therefore, the post digital era will be the era of hyper-personalized experiences, where products and services will be dynamically tailored to the needs of the customer. Companies must create strategies and infrastructures that will enable the delivery of such experiences, while at the same time providing a trustful environment that will make it easier for customers to consent to the data collection and personalization process.
While customer centricity is a key for increasing sales and for generating new revenue streams, employee centricity is synonymous to productivity and efficiency. In the post digital era, enterprises must ensure the maximum engagement of their employees in their digitally-enabled business processes. This requires that employees are properly trained and motivated in order to participate in the delivery of the digital services of their enterprise. Companies must therefore strive to bridge the digital divide among younger and older employees, while making sure that all their employees are equipped with a proper set of digital skills. The latter is a key to maximizing employee performance and corporate productivity in the post digital era.
Training and life-long learning is a key to employees’ engagement. As digital technologies evolve in a rapid pace, employees need to continually engage in upskilling and reskilling processes. Moreover, they will have to embrace change in their roles and in their engagement in organizational structures and business processes. Hence, employees can no longer afford to stay in their comfort zone and to avoid change. Companies must therefore encourage their workers to change frequently. Likewise, they will have to make lifelong learning an obligation, which may also be supported by government funded upskilling and/or reskilling programs. Overall, a new social contract between employees and businesses will be required. Enterprises of the post digital era should play a pioneering role in defining and implementing such a social contract.
The competitive advantages of the post digital era will not be necessarily digital. There are however exceptions to this rule. One of these relates to Artificial Intelligence (AI), which is the next big thing in processes automation and intelligence. AI leverages digital advances in areas like Big Data, Cloud computing, 5G networking and the Internet of Things, in order to transform not only laborious processes, but also processes that require human cognition as well. In the post digital era, pioneers in AI will gain a significant advantage over the average digitally mature enterprise.
At the end of the day, achieving business results is all about having the right business processes in place. IT infrastructure has already become a commodity and this trend will be reinforced as a result of the abundance of computing and network resources. In this landscape, the way IT is blended into business processes is what makes the real difference. There are companies that invest similar amounts of money in IT infrastructures and solutions, yet they get totally different returns on their investments. This is due to that they have different business processes. Hence, enterprises should opt for reengineering and optimizing their business processes in the post digital era, as a means of getting the most out of IT advances. The reengineering of business processes should be a continuous effort rather than a one-off activity, as technology provides constantly opportunities for optimizations.
Once upon a time, being a leader in digital technologies was enough to gain an advantage against competitors. This is no longer the case. We are heading towards a post digital era, where enterprises shall leverage other differentiators than digital technologies. In earlier paragraphs we have outlined a set of differentiators that companies can take into account in shaping their corporate strategies for the post digital era.
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