Why do managers so often lose sight of the basics with respect to digital business?
One reason: It’s easy to forget the essentials in an area that changes so quickly and that is so focused on the latest and greatest. Computing power, storage capacity, and networking speeds double every 9 to 18 months, creating new tools and platforms for doing business. The ride-sharing platform, Uber, and the enterprise social media platform, Slack, are both only eight years old, yet they both have had a significant impact on how work gets done. As recently as 2012, companies were asking whether Facebook could successfully transition to mobile environments. Today, nearly 80% of overall platform use — and more to the point, 70% of Facebook revenues — comes from mobile platforms, and many companies are now adopting the mantra “mobile first” when it comes to digital business.
Second, managers forget the fundamentals because the responsibility for digital business is often moving elsewhere in the organization. Responsibilities that were once the purview of the chief information officer or the chief digital officer are increasingly coming under the auspices of the chief marketing officer or the chief human relations officer. These executives are often new to the world of digital business, having little experience managing in a digital environment. So while some with years of experience may take these things for granted, many of the new executives currently leading digital initiatives may not.
What fundamentals are digital leaders most at risk of missing? Although by no means an extensive list, there are three particular business basics that I often see managers forget:
- When it comes to digital transformation, don’t forget the business case. Often, managers become so focused on the technological aspects of digital business that they forget about why they are engaged in these efforts to begin with — to improve the way their company does business. Digital transformation is only about technology in part; it is also, and more importantly, about using new technology to enable novel or more effective business strategies. Managers often believe that they need to be in mobile, analytics, AI, or other emerging technologies without being able to clearly articulate why they need to invest in these technologies — or what business purpose they could serve.