People Are the Power in the Digital Economy

Since we introduced Digitalist Magazine earlier this year, I’ve been getting to know more of the leaders in the digital economy. They tell me that one of their biggest challenges is sorting signal from noise as they chart their enterprises’ digital transformations. How do you know the difference between a world-changing technology like Skype and an also-ran like Airtime (a widely […]

2280c51Since we introduced Digitalist Magazine earlier this year, I’ve been getting to know more of the leaders in the digital economy. They tell me that one of their biggest challenges is sorting signal from noise as they chart their enterprises’ digital transformations. How do you know the difference between a world-changing technology like Skype and an also-ran like Airtime (a widely hyped but unused video chat service)?

Often, the promise of a technology or innovation depends on whether it lines up with the right use cases at the right time. For example, we’ve been working with a New York company, nTopology, to prototype some 3D-printed items. The company is doing breakthrough work to reduce the amount of material required to produce goods while enhancing structural performance. It’s interesting to see how its design and modeling technology aligns with advances in 3D printers to address the real-world challenges that product designers face.

Yet the answer to the fundamental question of which technologies will succeed is that it’s difficult to tell. You aren’t going to get a crystal ball. In the digital economy, all products are becoming software products to some degree. You have to be both a venture capitalist, who places bets on a trend, and a chief technology officer, who ensures a diverse portfolio of technology investments, if you want to be sure that the winners overshadow the dogs.

01_Proofread_Digitalist_CoverYou probably can’t wait until today’s emerging technologies are well established before you begin betting on them. Instead, you have to hedge your bets by incorporating new technologies and platforms into your business while remaining agile enough to make changes as their fate becomes evident. This is why agility enabled by lean startup approaches and third-generation IT strategies are vital components of digital economy success.

However, in discussions with digital economy leaders, I’ve learned that agility ultimately depends on relationships with people. Our three features in this issue of Digitalist Magazine focus on the most critical relationships: those with your employees, your talent ecosystem, and your customers.

Our cover story, about connected workplaces, offers strategies to enable your people to perform their best. The remaining features focus on two important aspects of your relationship with customers: ensuring that the network of people working with your customers is reinforcing your brand and creating emotional connections between you and your customers through digital channels. Finally, we leave you with words from SAP CEO Bill McDermott on the importance of these relationships in the digital economy.

Think of these stories as the beginning of a conversation about how to put people at the center of your digital business decisions. I look forward to the discussion.

Jeff Woods
Editorial Director

Tags:

Executive Quarterly, Q4 2015, Editor Letter