Recent research conducted at MIT and Harvard University found that organisations with successful digital strategies were 26% more profitable than their industry competitors and generated 9% higher revenue from their employees and physical assets’ (Westermann et al, 2014). In an age of disruptive technologies, constant global and organizational change, and the fast-paced erosion of competitive advantage, the implementation of a successful digital strategy promises enormous returns on investment for management. McKinsey estimates that digital technologies have the potential to unlock between $900 billion-$1.3 trillion in value for work organizations (Bughin et al, 2012).
Digital strategies refer to the deployment of information technology (IT) systems, which combine social media tools, e.g. Facebook and Yammar, mobile computer applications, e.g. smartphones and tablets, and virtual data analytics, e.g. cloud computing, to leverage organizational value. Successful digital strategies are allowing organisations to transform their entire customer experience, exploit greater value from organizational operations, and create new business models that reorder value chains and offer sustained competitive advantage.
Yet, despite such promises we know very little about successful digital strategy implementation, the key challenges organizations are confronted with in introducing digital technologies or the choices management must make to align customer and organizational needs with digital capabilities in order to maximize return on investment. Considering the potential yields for ROI cited above, it is important that organizational leaders can embrace the opportunities inherent in a digital era whilst avoiding the pitfalls that can be disguised in such opportunities.
In order to answer some of these questions and further explore digital opportunities for Irish companies, last November the DCU Executive MBA programme, as part of the Enterprise Engagement module, visited digital companies in the San Francisco bay area. Throughout the week our MBAs met with digital leaders from innovative companies such as RocketSpace, OnlyCoin, Cloudflare, and WePay and from more established technology-based companies such as Oracle, Salesforce, and Google.
A key learning across all visits was the importance for organizations to rethink how their strategies can be leveraged to yield digital advantage. Digital leaders need to move beyond the pursuit of a sustainable competitive advantage and recognize the transformative and ubiquitous nature of digital in restructuring organizational boundaries and hierarchies, recreating entirely new business processes, and creating a porous synergy between all organizational and societal stakeholders in order to support new value propositions and the development of a more transient approach to strategic advantage.
John Loonam is a Lecturer in Management on the Executive MBA Programme at DCU Business School. He is currently a Special Issue Senior Editor on “Enterprise Social Systems & Organizational Change” with the Journal of Information Technology.
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