Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Feb 5 2015   12:34PM GMT

The Digital Enterprise

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

Digital business
Digital disruption
Digital initiatives
Digital transformation

Much has been written about Digital Enterprises of late and enough buzz has been generated on digitization, which seems to have taken the industry by storm. As happens with most new technologies and new practices, digitization too has gone through the hype cycle generating noise and creating visibility. People have been told this is the future and those who don’t follow this route may find themselves doomed.

I met a few CIOs and broached this subject with them. Though some were clear others displayed an air of understanding though would talk no further. They speak in generalities and say they are at the stage of planning. Some were adventurous enough to claim complete digitization in their organizations, simply meaning that they have automated a lot of stuff. I had the opportunity to teach this subject as an introduction to students of a management institution, however in the ensuing exams, half of the students described digital enterprises as ones who practice extensive automation.

It is perhaps not fair to blame them since the industry has not explained the subject rationally to people but created a buzz around the subject. Vendors would serve better  selling the concept rather than their wares and develop partnership with customers. Let me attempt to demystify this topic and explain this in simple terms.

What is a Digital Enterprise (DE) ?

Digital Enterprise is an IT driven business model created in response to the emerging market place and value chains which are going digital. Companies can either take a pro-active stance and create a competitive advantage or quickly react to moves by competitors. The Digital Enterprise is built upon the use of IT to automate the processes (both internal and external) to create a digital boundary enabling all stakeholder interactions. An immense amount of information is created which needs to be consumed and acted upon. In other words ‘DE’ is an organization that uses technology as a competitive advantage in its internal and external operations.

There is an enabling environment which makes this shift feasible. Customers and employees today, particularly those who are digital aware, expect a new style of commerce, content and collaboration. They look for anytime, anywhere access and any-device convenience. They interact with companies through multiple channels and therefore it becomes important for companies to access these channels to understand their behavior. Vast amount of market and customer data need to be analyzed for understanding opportunities and trends. This calls for companies to be agile and to have IT infrastructure that is flexible and scalable.

The way to go

In order to take care of these requirements in this emerging scenario, organizations have to go the ‘SMAC’ way ; SMAC stands for ‘social’, ‘mobility, ‘analytics’ and ‘cloud’. These are the four pillars of a Digital Enterprise. Let me explain these terms briefly :

Social : This covers all interactions on the digital social platforms with individual users and groups which Include tweeting, texting, instant messaging and posts in blogs and on the company’s website. These are important indicators for the company to address.

Mobility : There is a distinct shift towards mobility and therefore important to capture transactions from all portable devices including laptops, smart phones via wireless networks (WLAN, GSM,GPRS etc.). Policies and procedures have to be geared to meet this requirement.

Analytics : A huge amount of data is likely to be collected in the form of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data which would need analysis to draw meaning out of them. Several technologies such as Big Data, Business Intelligence (BI) can help analyze and summarize to draw conclusions and aid decision-making. This can provide huge amount of learning about customers and markets.

Cloud : For meeting all the above requirements we would need an Infrastructure that is flexible and scalable. Rather than building, it could be far more convenient and cost effective to work on infrastructure and applications as acquired services. This is where cloud computing comes in as an essential part.

It is the combination of these four themes that gives it meaning – its a catchword or an acronym but represents a comprehensive view of the solution. It is about viewing the customers through a multitude of channels and working out suitable responses. What we need is a holistic approach to digitization and a choosing an effective way to attain competitive advantage.

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