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The Top 5 Traits of Successful Digital Enterprises

Engaging customers is the key to success for a digital enterprise.

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Ecommerce is expanding significantly, with U.S. online sales expected to grow from $263 billion in 2013 to $414 billion in 2018, a compound annual growth rate of 9.5 percent, according to Forrester research. This is pushing the need for businesses to continue to transform their business processes, technologies and even organizational structures, and to become “digital enterprises.”

Digital enterprises are those organizations who integrate new technology and business models that engage digital customers at every point in the customer experience lifecycle. Now, it’s becoming essential that organizations embrace digital changes to stay competitive.

“For businesses to be competitive during this time of transformation, they must increase the speed with which they innovate around new digital initiatives,” says the Harvard Business Review. Companies are either adapting or falling behind in this time of digital upheaval. Those that are adapting to the digital evolution often share in common five traits.

Be Transformative
As fast as technology and ecommerce changes, a business should embrace these changes by frequently and consistently updating technology and business processes. The Altimeter group frames this as being “unreasonably aspirational,” which is simply another way of saying organizations should upend the status quo in order to make room for digitally disruptive and transformative technology.

There’s a reason why the most important attributes for IT leaders today are innovative thinking and knowledge of emerging technology, according to the Harvard Business Review. It’s because 99 percent of respondents in the 2014 State of Digital Transformation report believed the most important part of their digital efforts were “improving processes that expedite changes to digital properties (website updates new mobile or social platforms, etc.).” Plus, 96 percent said what was equally important was “integrating all social, mobile, web, ecommerce, service efforts and investments to deliver an integrated and frictionless customer experience.”

Leverage New Technologies
The successful digital enterprise should implement new technologies that will help it be more competitive and agile. Cloud technology is one of the more important of these technologies, helping organizations to overhaul how they operate, from work processes to business models, according to a survey by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. The same survey found 75 percent of respondents admitting their company’s survival depends on their ability to successfully leverage information technology.

Cultivate a Digital Team
While it’s important to embrace change across an organization, it’s also important to build a digital team that focuses on a digital makeover. A digital team can develop, test and implement a digital strategy focused on engaging audiences through digital channels including the web, mobile and social.

“While other groups may draft the messaging, a digital team works hand-in-hand with marketing and product leaders to curate and create digital-first content strategy,” said Perry Hewitt, Chief Digital Officer at Harvard University.

Make Data-Driven Decisions
Today’s business need to be fast to keep up. They need to make rapid, informed decisions and create a cycle of continuous delivery and improvement based on data and analytics. One way to do this is to integrate data sources into a single system accessible to everyone in the organization to improve the speed of innovation, says the Altimeter Group.

For example, the manufacturing company P&G created Decision Cockpit, an analytics portal that provides real-time sales data across brands, products and regions to more than 50,000 employees around the world. Employees can use the portal to quickly identify issues like declining market shares and take steps to address the problems.

Be Customer-centric
Customers now expect a higher level of engagement through digital channels than ever before and they are less tolerant when their expectations aren’t met. A successful digital experience is engaging, intuitive, and simple to the customer.

“A healthy obsession with improving the customer experience is the foundation of any digital transformation,” says the Altimeter group.

However, one of the biggest challenges to digital evolution is to change company culture, according to the Altimeter Group’s 2014 State of Digital Transformation. Additional challenges include thinking beyond a campaign mentality, cross-functional collaboration, resources, and understanding digital customer behavior.

Overall, a digital transformation needs to be consistently refined and revised through a trial and error process. Organizations should foster greater collaboration and communication between all departments as transitions occur. Creating a digital enterprise means changing and refining processes, business models, ways of using technology and even teams. If successful, a business will find itself more relevant to the markets of today and the future.

This article was previously published on the Sungard AS blog.

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