All too often, we focus on technological breakthroughs or performance metrics, like blockchain and beamforming or latency and bandwidth. However, C-levels want to know how these technologies will impact key business metrics (i.e., revenue growth and profitability, labor productivity, return on invested capital, churn and the like). More importantly, they need to know how they can utilize these technologies to invigorate their business strategy to positively impact these metrics.
FOUR GENERIC DIGITAL STRATEGIES FOR BUSINESSES
Enterprises use business strategies to organize their resources, achieve competitive advantage, and deliver differentiated value to customers and other stakeholders. There are multiple strategy frameworks, such as Porter’s Five Forces, Christensen’s Disruptive Innovation, and Kim and Mauborgne’s “Blue Ocean Strategy” and its ideas around value innovation. In my book ‘Digital Disciplines’ I updated Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema’s ideas around value disciplines—Operational Excellence, Product Leadership, and Customer Intimacy—to create four new digital disciplines: Information Excellence, Solution Leadership, Collective Intimacy, and Accelerated Innovation.
1 Information Excellence is the use of digital technologies to improve and differentiate processes, resource utilization, and organizational structure. Consider Uber compared to taxis. Uber radically rethought how to use mobile devices to change the process for acquiring a ride, shifted to an asset-light resource model with no fleet of vehicles on the books and moved to a Hollywood-organization structure, where its drivers may work literally only minutes /month. Information excellence can fuse digital and physical processes, manage and improve those processes, as well as monetize their exhaust data.
2 Solution Leadership takes standalone products and services and makes them smart, digital and connected solutions, thus forming extensible and updateable offerings that form both platforms and ecosystems. Take, for example, an Apple Watch compared to a traditional wristwatch or a Tesla compared to a traditional automobile. Any manufactured product (soccer balls, pacemakers, jet engines) can undergo this transformation. Services—specifically the physical components involved in service delivery—can become smart, digital and connected, too. Look for instance at Disney MagicBands and the recent policy changes surrounding them. The bands were not a product as much as a mechanism for enhancing the guest experience, such as enabling food to be brought to your table at any of the theme park’s restaurants without any action on your part. Solution leadership creates many opportunities but also threats. It fosters direct B2B or B2C relationships, while disintermediating retailers and channels, by creating a continuous, direct relationship that exploits the digital connectivity between the manufacturer or service provider and its customers. The connecting of products and services creates new opportunities and business models, like linking scales / exercise equipment to coaching and nutrition services or as pay-as-you-drive car insurance.
3 Collective Intimacy involves taking massive amounts of data from all customers to deliver personalized, custom products and services to each individual customer. Customers interact with enterprises across a spectrum of intimacy that includes anonymous transactions, longer-term customer relationships or customer intimacy.
Customer intimacy entails not only understanding customer needs in depth, but also flexibly accommodating those needs, say, through custom solutions and even through recommending competitors’ products. Collective intimacy evolves customer intimacy, delivering customized solutions such as the Netflix recommendation engine for personalized entertainment, Amazon.com’s upsell and cross-sell, robo-advisor wealth management and patient-specific therapies based on genetic and microbiomic data.