How can businesses tackle digital disruption and make sure they stay relevant?

As businesses are heading into digital transformation they find themselves in desperate need of digital innovation. The problem often is simple: what can a business do for it not to be swept by digital competition?

The story sometimes is dire. Small, agile and fast moving start ups can eat up larger business revenue, even, take them out of business altogether.

The answer from the side of big businesses looks to be innovation platforms. For instance Nestlé introduced Henri@Nestlé a digital innovation platform with bold goals to enhance lives and contribute to a better future for all. Henri will provide an interface to individual inventors, startups and digital companies. Through the platform Nestlé will be posting a series of projects complete with budget signed off ($50,000 each). Henri will accept applications for projects listed and facilitate development and collaboration.

Unilever, launched the Foundry, a platform where business challenges are posted. Through the platform a startup or individual can create a profile, explore and apply to pitch for challenges, view participating mentors and apply for mentorship. Unilever aims to work with innovators, creatives, designers and inventors to transform their growth model.

These are huge investments both in terms of money and organisational structure but the question still remain. How can smaller businesses tackle digital disruption (or innovation) and make sure they stay relevant?

The following points are an attempt to provide some clarity and direction to those looking at similar issues:

  1. Inspect and adapt internal process with industry best standards. Take a step back and look how you’ve been doing things. This is the time to realise if there is anything that can be speed up or be provided at a lower cost by technology. Are you able to react to changing requirements or do you need to get more agile? Getting answers to those questions can help businesses understand what needs to be re-aligned.
  2. Understand the power of social media on building connections with your clients or consumers. Most consumers are expecting to be offered some degree of communication through social media. Be it twitter for getting special discount codes or Facebook updates to showcase the latest stock, people expect to communicate through social media. Social media are starting to transform B2B business to, albeit at a lower rate. Getting an understanding on how they can impact your business is important.
  3. Create communities around the products/services offered. With the increase of social media, digital services and products people have an abundance of choice making it increasingly difficult for business to stand out through the crowd. Traditionally the strongest driver for product adoption has been word-of-mouth. By fostering communities around the products or services you offer you get the opportunity to create digital evangelists, people who will advocate your product.
  4. Plan ahead and look where the most innovative players on the sector go. It does not hurt to do some competitive analysis on your sectors. What is the driving force behind it, is it big data, privacy, sharing information? Getting to know where others are looking will provide insight.
  5. Identify points where digital disruption can have an impact in your sector. For instance if you were a map manufacturing company you should have identified the internet as an alternative distribution medium posing a threat. If you were a map distribution company through cd-roms you should have identified mobile as an alternative distribution medium.

Digital disruption and innovation is here to stay. Even smaller businesses need to start preparing for digital transformation and understand how to remain relevant in a changing landscape.

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