According to Forrester’s Technographics® survey, 76% of US adults have access to the Internet and the number of US households with Broadband access has grown from 21 million in 2003 to 72 million in 2008.
Over the last 10 years, there’s been enormous advances in information technology (IT). Yet, most organizations are not taking full advantage of their IT opportunities. Why not? Because it’s difficult to change old processes, break through outdated thinking, and overcome parochialism.
But it’s time for executives to commit to digitizing their businesses. The advancements in IT, both in improved capabilities and lowered costs, makes a compelling argument for significant investment. What other investments do firms have that can offload customer service to self-service, automate people-intensive processes, enable faster shifts to market changes, and allow the creation of more valuable offerings for customers?
Here are some things for executives to keep in mind as they extend their firms’ digital fabric:
- Understand digital economics. The only way to justify the right level of investment in IT is to understand its ROI. So execs should get their finance teams to create models that quantify the value to the firm for lowered costs, increased flexibility, and enhanced customer satisfaction from IT investments. This insight will help justify potentially dramatic increases in firms’ digital capabilities.
- Assume increasing adoption. Whatever level of comfort with technology you see in your customers and employees today, expect it to increase radically in the future. Why? Digital technologies are becoming a more integral component in everyone’s lives AND the newer entrants into the customer and employee pool tend to be Gen Yers, who are adept at using (and expect to use) all sorts of technology.
- Improve usability, a lot. The increase in technology, particularly the Internet, will lead to many more digital interfaces. But companies will not get the benefit from these online activities if customers and employees can’t use the technology. When I examined results from Forrester’s usability testing of more than 1,000 Web sites, only 3% passed. So usability is a problem. As a result, executives should plan to increase their focus on, and investment in, usability.
- Connect online with offline. The economics of online activities are compelling, but not everything can be (or should be) done online. That’s why companies will need to design experiences that tie together online and offline activities. This might mean collaborative browsing with call center agents for service or creating products that integrate online features like Webkinz, Kindle, and T-Mobile’s Family Allowances.
The bottom line: IT is not a function, it’s an enabler for the entire business.
P.S. Here’s a link to all 6 New Management Imperatives