Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Organisational eBusiness Maturity

Thankfully, a growing number of organisations are looking to improve their digital channels. Consequently they are looking around for others who have already made a step forward and to learn from their innovations (without hopefully copying their mistakes).  Consequently I have seen certain trends appear over the years that may act as a model of not only where companies have come from, but also where they can grow and develop in the future.
Note: Like most of my work on this blog, this model is a ‘work in progress’ where I post my thoughts before they are completely refined and documented. It is therefore submitted with the aim that it will not only be refined by my own further understanding and application, but by wider feedback (either via comments on this blog or by other means).
Here’s how I see the organisational maturity of a company progressing (typically in the retail, financial services and travel markets, but potentially in others where this model can be applied):
Online initiatives originally sprung up thanks to the innovation and inspiration of specific people. Historically this may well have been a young-ish or passionate person who saw the opportunity to utilise some form of digital technology to improve something or interest to them.  Based in the IT, Marketing or other part of the company, they would initially have had very little influence, but potentially the opportunity to create and learn by themselves.
As the individual has grown in their knowledge, they may well have caught the eye of senior individuals. Aligned with a growing understanding of the possible benefits of digital channels for communication, acquisition, commerce and engagement…  this one-man initiative may have grown into a team of people who have specialist knowledge of digital (marketing, eCommerce, User Experience, Analytics, etc.). From experience this has usually been the ‘land grab’ stage, with different high-powered players staking their claim to know all about modern technologies and taking this department under their wing.
Eventually the rest of the company wakes up and realises it is not just the digital team that either needs to understand and use digital tech, but that the whole organisation has become an e-ebusiness, with a digital eco-system around it… enabling everything from new customer influence and marketing through to existing customer self-service and HR connectivity (e.g. automatic postings to job sites, etc.)
For a company to truly ‘live’ digital however, it needs to move beyond the connected state (e.g. creating a bunch of fixed  digital connections with its customers and suppliers) it needs to extend some of its functions outside the organisation and embrace co-creation as a way to generate a flow of sustainable new ideas and talent.  API’s and XML interfaces enable these companies to allow 3rd parties (individual developers, agencies and sometimes even entire industries) to build upon their data and functionality, to reach a new audience or to connect to other web services in ‘mash-ups’. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t easy stuff and very few companies have the will, ability and braveness to venture into this territory. But for those who do (e.g. Amazon, Google, etc.) the rewards are obvious.
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