“The presence of digital technology does not make you a digital business no more than using electricity makes you an ‘electric’ business.
A different measure of digital business is not digital technology transactions, but the use of digital resources in creating value and generating revenue.
Value and revenue define what truly ‘being digital’ means. It also identifies different degrees of digitalization that provide organizations with a path to digitalize their business.”
“We feel digital without being digital due to digital mimicry strategies where digital technologies to replicate essentially analog business models. “
“This has transformed the way we transact, but it has not fundamentally changed the ways organizations create value and generate revenue.”
“Digital mimicry gives the false impression of ‘feeling digital’ without really being a digital business.”
A few thoughts:
Our definition of what it means to “be digital” is shifting from Nicholas Negroponte’s original idea, defined (at least in this article) as “the use of technology to replace physical atoms with digital bits”.
The way we do anything today - work, learn, entertain ourselves, hang out with each other, organize our lives, seek out and share information, etc - is becoming increasingly “digital” in the sense that we incorporate or rely on digital technologies more than ever before when we engage in various activities.
The result is a plethora of new habits, behaviors and consumption patterns (the near-compulsion of always having your smartphone close, the time we spend talking to each other through computers, the way we increasingly consume media for free, online, away from the TV and away from the printed word) .
These new ways to be and live make “being digital” much more than a notion of replacing analogue technologies with digital technologies. It’s at the very least an entirely new (in the mainstream) mindset that determines how we make sense of and take action in the world. It’s really just a new normal, because let’s be honest: normal people don’t think in terms of “digital” - they, we, think in terms of what feels good and makes sense.
Things that feel good and make sense are things that provide some inherent value, that solve a problem or scratch a need. And that’s businesses’ ultimate call to action.
Digital mimicry is the digitally inept’s attempt at “being digital”. It often works out fine, at least until someone with better thinking comes along and flips the consensus on what is good and makes sense (case in point: Netflix driving Blockbuster into bankruptcy, Amazon killing off Borders).
Understanding the difference between digital mimicry and what it truly means to be digital is what will ultimately decide which born analogue businesses will successfully make the shift into an inherently digital age. Blockbuster and Borders made erroneous bets on digital mimicry and are gone. Best Buy is dying. Businesses like Nike and AmEx on the other hand thrive because they fundamentally understand how to successfully adapt to a digital world and build sustainable business advantage in it.