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Digital Digest: Unleash Your Digital Business - The Future of Business is Digital (Forrester)

Apr 15, 2014

Digital Digest: Must-Reads from the Apigee Institute

"Unleash Your Digital Business: The Future of Business is Digital"

By Forrester

It’s not often we get to use the phrase “crie de couer”—but in the case of the Forrester report "Unleash Your Digital Business: The Future of Business is Digital," it’s quite appropriate.

The report, authored by Forrester’s Nigel Fenwick and Martin Gill, is an urgent appeal to CIOs and CMOs to jointly embrace digitally transforming the ways their companies win market share, delight customers and partners, and generate revenue.

This recommended reading is the second installment in our “Digital Digest: Must Reads from the Apigee Institute” series. Our suggestion: if you’re a CMO, reach out to the CIO (or vice versa) and set a date certain by which you will have both read it.

Schedule a long lunch outside of the office to compare your confidence in tackling the challenges and opportunities it presents. Start working together to change whatever stands in the way of mutual confidence before you leave the table. If you work for the CMO or CIO, reach out to your counterparts in IT or Marketing and do the same, with a shared agenda of getting your bosses to do this.

Digital transformation: still a goal for many

There is a lot in this report—it will take you more than one close read to fully digest it—so rather than try to summarize details, we’ll lay out three reasons why we call this a must-read.

First, the authors understand the reality that exists at many companies that have not yet mastered digital transformation.  

“Business leaders don’t think of digital as central to their business because in the past, it hasn’t been,” the authors say, in opening their argument for why CMOs should read the report.  

They capture the irony that for many CIOs, the increasing perceived importance of digital capabilities is just making their job more painful, rather than more exciting:

“...eventually, treating every new digital channel as another project generates organizational and technical chaos. This chaos intensifies the operational challenge: that your organization’s structures, technology, and metrics are siloed into functional building blocks, each striving for internal efficiency and fighting for scarce resources…Your technology management teams, spread thin chasing projects to maximize the prospects of one department or another, are in a downward spiral.”

From physical value chains to digital ecosystems

Second, the authors nail the stakes, as well as the destination. What they call “digital masters” (today’s most capable companies) will make the transition from creating value through a predominantly linear and physical value chain to a digital ecosystem. Digitally enhanced customer experiences, multi-party services, and the exchange and application of data and analytics will change the game in every industry.

The authors offer several examples of this, but one that came to my mind while reading the document is McCormick’s FlavorPrint. This is a catalyzing example of how a 100-plus year-old physical business can create a new, direct-to-consumer relationship that opens up any number of digital partnership and ecosystem opportunities that can drive share, customer satisfaction, brand relevance, revenue, and margin.

This is how tomorrow’s leaders strategize with vision and implement at pace. The authors determine which companies qualify as digital masters based on a useful short series of self-assessment questions. Similarly, the Apigee Institute identifies digital leaders based on companies’ current strength deploying apps, operating APIs, and using data analytics. We suspect there is significant overlap between Forrester’s “masters” and our “leaders.”

The importance of IT and marketing alignment

The third reason that CIOs and CMOs should digest, debate, and act on this document together: you matter, together.

Apigee Institute surveys of over 1,300 IT and business leaders at large companies over the past year found that three factors predicted a substantial majority of the variation in the three digital capabilities mentioned above:

  • Connecting digital to enterprise key performance indicators (KPIs)—Your shared conviction that they can and must means your company will figure out how to do so that much faster and take them that much further.

  • Using better decision criteria for digital—Specifically, using a real options approach to financial valuation, customer satisfaction and brand reinforcement, and IT efficiency and capability building together.

  • IT and marketing alignment—Because if the first two factors lead you to better decisions, faster, you can only operationalize technology-enabled experiences together.

It’s a big shared responsibility, but jointly wrestling with the pointed questions and many examples in "Unleash Your Digital Business" can help.

Apigee Institute research found that digital strategy alignment predicts digital capability


“Digital Digest” is an ongoing series that will feed into a Digital Leadership Review to be published by the Apigee Institute. Get the Forrester report: Unleash Your Digital Business: The Future of Business is Digital.

By joining the Institute community of practice, you will have opportunities to recommend and discuss publications. If you are a business or technology practitioner or researcher, we welcome and encourage you to join us.

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