Are you consuming Digital or is Digital consuming you?

In 2016, it’s almost impossible to talk about anything IT related without discussing ‘Digital’. A phenomenon that’s been gaining momentum for years, in large part due to monumental advances in technology, our willingness as a society to embrace these new technologies, and the way we now demand more from the businesses that we serve and those that serve us. All of this is encompassed within two of the most popular words of 2016, ‘Digital Transformation’.

Digital Transformation is the third stage in the Digital Cycle; first come Digital Competence and Digital Usage (or in layman’s terms, the ability to understand and use new technologies) — you can have one without the other, but when combined, they create ‘Digital Literacy’. As an example, my grandfather has a Sky+ Box — he knows how to turn it on and off, find his favourite programmes and how to switch between channels — that’s Digital Competency and a low level of Digital Usage; what he doesn’t understand is that he can record other programmes simultaneously so he doesn’t have to miss a show that he would have otherwise watched. This means that he is not realising the benefits of this box over a normal Sky box. His Digital Usage ability remains low.

Still, Global Digital Literacy is the highest it’s ever been — we have all seen a child on a train masterfully navigating an iPad, and I’m sure many of us are now Facebook friends with our parents and wider family (voluntarily or otherwise). If we compare this to just 15 years ago when I was a child (Wow that makes me sound old…), I was happy with my Nokia 3210 which brought with it the hours of fun that one could have playing ‘Snake’, and my idea of social networking was walking 50 metres up the road to my friend’s house.

Today, Digital is engrained into our ecosystem — that’s how you’ve arrived here to read this blog, rather than reading it in a local newspaper or IT Magazine. It’s the reason you order your food online rather than going to the store/restaurant to get it, order private transport with the tap of a button rather than unsuccessfully flagging taxis in the pouring rain on a Saturday night, and why you can now find out that your friend Jason who moved to America seven years ago just met Matt Damon in his local supermarket without him picking up the phone to tell you — picture evidence provided to confirm he’s telling the truth.

But, amongst all of this, Digital also has a darker side for businesses — the rapid changes in societal demands and trends, combined with advances in technology means that if you’re not aware of what you don’t know, or not willing to act on it, you’re likely to be consumed. Let’s pause to remember some of those we have lost as a direct or indirect consequence of being consumed by Digital… Blockbuster, Woolworths, Kodak, High Street Travel agencies… the list goes on.

How to consume Digital so it doesn’t consume you…

To start, a general awareness of what Digital is, how it affects your life and work, and the steps you can take to reap the great rewards that Digital can bring are key… The truth is that you’re already using a lot of digital technologies in your everyday life, and will have built up enough competency to get some usage out of them… but ask yourself, are you getting the most out of your Sky+ box? (Adapt metaphor as required).

The next step is to understand, as a business owner, what your strategy is to embrace this technology in a logical, pragmatic way that furthers the progress of your people and your business. Millions of businesses now cease to exist either because they didn’t see Digital coming, or when faced with it, didn’t know how to respond.

Third, Take Action.

Consume Digital, don’t let Digital consume you.