What Does It Mean to Be a ‘Digital’ Business?
Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft. These are the names that most come to mind when people think about “digital businesses”. They are companies that produce digital tools, but they do not have a monopoly on the concept of being digital businesses.
Every company can be a digital business. And in fact, if COVID-19 has taught us anything, in the 21st century every company must become a digital business to survive and thrive.
Digital businesses are those that leverage technology and information systems to drive effectiveness, resiliency, and security.
Effectiveness. Technology can help businesses reach new heights in the value that they are able to offer their customers. But this does not mean that every business must suddenly become a technology company. Rather, the strategic implementation of digital tools can have a multiplier effect on a company’s core competencies. “Disney+” is an excellent example of this. They took advantage of their existing core competency (film and media) and combined it with digital tools (streaming), to create a new powerhouse in the market.
Resiliency. Technology can help overcome adversity. Companies can leverage digital tools to transform old analogue methods into more flexible and resilient digital processes that can stand up in the face of unexpected events. During COVID-19, use of online tools ensures not only that the business keeps operating when employees work from home, but that open lines of communication are maintained for collaboration, insight, and employee wellbeing. Reports have shown that organizations that digitized their businesses prior to the pandemic were better able to cope when it struck.
Security. Technology can be a double-edged sword, however. It generates value by allowing companies to deliver their services to customers effectively and resiliently. But it also introduces a wider attack surface that makes systems more vulnerable. This is evident with the ransomware attacks on the Colonial Pipeline in the US that compromised the distribution of oil and similar attacks on the Health Service Executive in Ireland that endangered their COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Companies that prioritize security ensure that they continue to deliver value to their customers.
Any business can be a digital business. They can leverage their technology to provide better value to their customers; they increase their effectiveness. They can use technology to endure adversity; they become more resilient. And above all, they make sure that their systems, data, and customers remain safe from threats; they remain secure. This is what it means to be a digital business, a business in the 21st century.