When a couple of years ago our company started working for a big EHQ, I felt the need to quickly scale up my knowledge on digital business and implications it has for companies and brands. Digital disruption, digital transformation, digital brands, digital this, digital that. Digital was the 'new black' while at the same time nobody really knew what it really meant, why and how it was important, on a business level but everybody felt the pressure of being somehow on the 'Train Digital'.
Most part of 2014, 2015 and 2016 I've spent hopping the world and attending conferences across the world. From Vegas, Hong Kong, Paris, Dublin, San Francisco, Berlin, Barcelona and many other. Tech, Startup, Retail, Brand, eRetail, Mobile, Data conferences. During that period I had the luck and honor of listening, talking to and discussing digital business and implications with some of the digital heads and leaders. Having a special interest in organisational design of corporate HQs I was trying to discern if there was something all of them had in common. And there was - a feeling of what I would best describe as Digital Anxiety. For those who are fortunate not to feel anxious in their personal and business life, displeasing and discomforting feeling of anxiety can be caused by many things. It happens on a structural level when a person is consumed with and has projected itself mentally into the future moment and state while still being in the present one physically. Fact of mind projecting into the future, while being caught up in the present moment, creates uncertainty and anxiety. You want to be in the future moment, but you're stuck in the present one. Same goes for companies and corporations. They want to be digital but they're not. They want to be in control but they aren't any more. Consumers are.
Digital transformation = customer-centricity
But, what does digital transformation really mean in practice and why would it be discomforting for corporations and businesses? The answer is two-fold.
1) Meaning is different for every company and a brand.
2) It entails customer-centricity and personalisation of services and product. That doesn't sound that bad, does it? Weren't all the brands and companies made for the consumers?
Well, it seems that organisational design-wise not really. Organisational design of corporations was created with itself, the business, in mind, not the consumers. Premises of the organisational design of corporations are rooted in economics with profitability, efficiency, global reach and scale which ensures market share and dominance in certain product(s) category. So business or product-centric not customer-centric.
"Grow big, fast" vs "The bigger they are, the harder they fall"
That worked well as most of them followed a classic approach to strategy where you find a niche, grow big and leverage against competition on economies of scale maintaining your dominant position just due to the fact you're big. I'm big and omnipresent so I will say how and when you can buy products and consume services. I will say how you can interact with me and just because my stores are on every corner of your city you will have little choice but me. However, technology started changing the scale of power and all of a sudden being big stopped being that important as both consumers and much smaller companies started leveraging technology for global scale and reach.
All of a sudden, Ms. Corporation figured out that customer care phone line team should be integrated and talking to your website team (duh) as the consumer really doesn't care how you're organised, all of a sudden your consumers were expecting you to know what they need and what they don't need (duh), all of a sudden your consumers were more loud and voice prone (duh). So basically - all of the things they should have been all along.
But can't corporation restructure themselves and their organisational designs fast? After all, they have huge resources and are (somewhat) aware of changes that are happening? They can throw money at new technologies and tools that will facilitate the transition to customer centricity?
They can and they are, but there is one thing that they won't be able to quick-fix and this is why I think Corporate Anxiety will last long and hurt more.
Workforce and labor supply
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