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Embrace the new digital wave or get off the beach

August 13, 2014

Grab your board and get ready for the ride of your life. Waves of technology are coming faster. The digital revolution is transforming how we work and live. Centuries passed between the horse and the automobile. Decades between the Walkman and iPod. Today, the distance from market disruption to normalization happens in a year. In the US Uber is replacing taxi wait and hassle with digital mapping and one-click payment. In Europe, the company making Secret Chats mainstream, Telegram, has gone from 100,000 to 15 million daily users in just 9 months.

Those who have grown up in the digital age started to outnumber those who have had to adapt to it by the end of 2013.They are running their lives on smart devices, on the move, and connecting in real time. They expect the organizations they work for, buy from and interact with to do the same. This is why in this next wave of technology it will not be about what the technology can do, but what the people using it can do together.

Both the digital generation and those that have readily adapted are changing how they work. They don’t just communicate inside the organization to solve a problem, but across organizations. Yet they are still limited by what the technology can do. They are ready for digital disruption.

Technologies driving this new digital people-to-people wave need to meet three criteria:

  1. Universal access to interaction. We see how technologies accelerate when everyone is invited. Take the example of email, it was not useful to be the first one, however when everyone agreed on some standard mechanisms for it to work across providers, everyone used it. Now we are moving to IM.
  1. Natural and easy interaction. We used to search for information by asking people and looking in encyclopedias. Today we ask Google. It’s immediate and “everything” on the Internet is there. It has moved from being a tool to becoming a natural behavior.
  1. Quality and reliability. If the technology does not have good enough quality and isn’t sufficiently reliable, we will not use it. Consider the adoption of video communication. When the market moved from unreliable and low resolution to stable and high definition video, use exploded. The video market went from flat to more than 30% growth.

I come from the video conferencing industry where the new digital wave is crashing on the shore. The digital generation sees the technology limitations as arcane, “Why is it so hard to call my vendor on video?”, “Why do I need to schedule everything when I just need an answer now?”, “Why can’t people just reach me wherever I am, however they want?” — our industry has been focused on what a technology can do, not on how people want to interact.

As participants in this market, we need to continue to improve on the three criteria. Personally, I joined a company where “Everyone’s invited” is the mantra and our user experience team is designing the future. We’re looking through the eyes of the digital generation and making change.

The winners of the future will be those organizations that exploit the potential of digital to transform both what they do, and how they do it. They will constantly find new ways to engage with their customers, and encourage their employees to work in new ways; and they will owe their success to the speed of their decision-making, the empowerment of their employees, and the trust they earn.

The new wave is breaking. What are you going to do about it?