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.