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It's time to leave the planning stage and become a digital business

03 Sep 2015

Digital business leaders are ‘pulling ahead of the pack’ as the gap between organisations undertaking digital initiatives and those only in the planning stage widens, according to a recent Gartner survey.

Respondents of the survey were asked to rank the importance of five success factors. Gartner then broke down the results according to whether companies were using digital marketing techniques (a precursor to digital business), were planning digital business or had already implemented digital business.

"The survey results underlined how digital business leaders are more likely than others to focus on design and the creation of new digital business moments,” says Jorge Lopez, Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst.

Digital business moments are catalysts that set in motion a series of events and actions involving a network of people, businesses and things that spans or crosses multiple industries and multiple ecosystems, Gartner says.

"Digital business moments of untapped opportunity and competition can rapidly change the dynamics across industries," says Patrick Meehan, Gartner research vice president.

"As such, the successful design and development of business moments, which the company can replicate, are the most significant undertaking an organisation working to become a digital business can take.

“Innovative companies are tailoring digital business moments to complement their existing products and services," he says. 

The survey also revealed that most companies undertaking digital business initiatives don't make a distinction between digital business strategy and business strategy.

To this group, they are the same or integrated with the main business strategy. In comparison, those in the planning phase see the two as separate.

In practical terms, a company that’s moving from strategy to execution will have fewer steps to reach its goals compared with one that has to insert a separate planning process for digital business. Over time, even if the faster team stumbles, it can recover more rapidly than one that has more process for strategy, the survey shows.

Other survey results show that executives already in digital business are investing in piloting and deploying, while those at companies in the planning phase are focusing on investigation and experimentation.

The top priority for digital business front-runners is adopting new technology (70%). The next highest priorities are creating a highly collaborative environment (56%) and supporting customer-driven technology change (53%), which are both characteristic of a healthy digital business, says Gartner. 

When asked to identify what would be the impact of digital business over the next five years, organisational leaders overwhelmingly noted positives, anticipating improvements in customer experience and engagement (86%), IT organisation (86%), workforce productivity (84%) and sales organisation (83%).

Organisations appear to anticipate little downside to digital business with just 7% projecting a negative or significant negative impact in staff, and 6% in mergers and acquisitions, Gartner says.

"The disruptive effects of digital business cannot be underestimated," says Lopez.

"To date, a limited number of product categories - music, books, photographs and newspapers - have seen their business models upended.

"Going forward, organisational leaders in other product and service categories will also need to adapt by restructuring the workforce, eliminating obsolete roles, and finding talent that can help design systems and workflows that optimise the use of things integrated with people and business to drive new value for customers," he says.

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