Just a few years ago, corporations were the place to go for access to the best technology. Firms had faster internet connections, more powerful computers and cutting-edge software. Employees knew that the tools provided by their firms were far more powerful than their desktop computers at home, or their cell phones.
Yet in only a few years, that notion has reversed as technology has become increasingly powerful, affordable, and accessible to the public. The rapid adoption of smart phones and tablets puts massive computing power into the pockets of consumers around the globe. Cloud computing provides access to software that once was out of reach.
And social media connects friends and colleagues, allowing them to share ideas, provide real-time product and service feedback, and even innovate on new solutions to common problems.
As a result, new technologies and tools are increasingly adopted first in our everyday lives and often are brought into the business world as a result of employee and customer demand. This is what today we refer to as the “consumerization” of IT.
This development has sweeping ramifications. Customers and employees expect to do business anytime, anywhere, and any way.
Leading firms understand that being behind the curve on the strategic use of technology not only puts their firms at a competitive disadvantage, but weakens their ability to interact and strengthen relationships with customers. PwC’s fourth annual Digital IQ survey of businesses around the world confirms that we are undergoing a fundamental transformation of how information and technology are used in the market place. Business managers therefore need to realize that the edge of their respective organizations has changed radically. Processes and relationships that used to end at the organization’s four walls are now out on mobile devices, in the cloud and exchanged on social media.
The four key trends of aggressive adoption of the cloud, increased mobility for employees and customers, vast and persistent use of social media by almost all strata of society, and unprecedented access to data mean that any company with an “old-style”, internally focused approach to IT is falling behind.
The question of a company’s digital IQ is therefore a core part of its business strategy. Digital IQ is a measure of how well a company is leveraging digital technology and channels to meet customer needs as well as the needs of employees and business partners.
Raising the company’s digital IQ helps management to take full advantage of many of the recent changes in the local, regional and global economies. Many of the top-performing organizations in our region have mastered these important tasks, and expect them to pull ahead of their competitors even more aggressively as our region grows more digital, networked, and mobile.
For example, some banks have entered into partnerships with telecom companies to allow subscribers to link their bank accounts with their mobile money accounts for ease of withdrawals and payments. It is also possible now to book and pay for your ticket using your mobile money account in some of the regional airlines.
Growing a company’s digital IQ entails more than merely adopting the latest tools or having a large IT budget. It is about integrating technology into the way a company plans, innovates, measures results, interacts with customers and employees, and ultimately creates value.
Why should business managers care? Because growing the company’s digital IQ can deepen the level of engagement it enjoys with customers, employees and business partners. It helps the company improve its return on technology investments by more closely tying those investments to growing its business and solving business problems.
Samuel Kariuki is a Manager with PwC Rwanda