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Does being “digital” really matter?

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Global Marketing Leader, IBM

If the world is dark, then it is dark with data, the mysteries of life rendered as programmatic code. But amid the push toward an ever more digital future, what does digitalization portend for businesses?

Certainly we are seeing a sort of digital amalgamation subsuming a wide range of processes and means of engagement, but merely being “digital” isn’t enough. Rather, how can your customers differentiate your digital approach from others’? Don’t fall prey to a homogenous spirit that would see us all singing from the same digital hymnal. In a free-market economy, you can’t be just another face in the crowd.

Differentiate yourself digitally

The question is not who is more digital but rather how each of us is digital. How can we continually differentiate ourselves in our digital life?

As humans, we think, reason, adapt, feel and learn, and in doing so, we express our individuality. Indeed, we distinguish ourselves by expressing our own combination of traits—the things that differentiate us from others. Yet, like a chameleon, we can adapt as well, expressing our personality in ways that change to suit our circumstances.

Organizations can embody this same flexibility in the digital era. Indeed, the heart of the cognitive business lies in shifting focus from process, rule and structure to reasoning, adapting and learning.

Become a cognitive business

Being a cognitive business means being empowered to continually develop new ways of differentiating yourself. Moreover, a cognitive business is well positioned to create additional forms of economic value that help it stay ahead of the competition.

Competing in the Insight Economy, a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review and IBM Analytics, investigates the ways that organizations can develop additional forms of economic value when they become driven by insight. According to participants in the study—700 line-of-business professionals hailing from around the world—value arises from insight. Indeed, insights are laden with value, not only driving revenue but also providing firms additional avenues for monetization, creating unexpected commercial value.


Figure 1. Leading companies derive economic value from data and the insights that data provides.

Peek inside insight-driven organizations

During the study, 32 percent of organizations reported having monetized insights. Such firms commit to strategic use of data—even previously unused operational data, or so-called dark data—by using a combination of algorithms, analytics and API functionality to uncover previously overlooked insights. Who would have thought that the onetime bane of back-room reporting would contribute to front-line revenue? And yet for many businesses, it does.

Even more interesting, more than half of the companies identified as “insight leaders” monetize their insights. Of the many firms evaluated in this study, few have achieved the status of true insight leaders—only about 15 percent. Yet another 40 percent are breathing down the necks of the leaders, waiting for the right moment to overtake them through careful management.

Amid such a competitive digital landscape, simply “being digital” isn’t enough. Companies must continually outthink their competitors, differentiating themselves in ever more compelling ways that help them provide economic value of the highest degree. Although few companies are true insight leaders, many are on the cusp of becoming so. How, then, can you take your place at the head of your industry? Start by identifying ways of creating value through insights and analytics. For those who spare no effort to constantly differentiate themselves, the future becomes its own reward.

Choose your strategic resources

Download your copy of Competing in the Insight Economy to discover how your business can build its strategy around two foundational strategic resources: data and insight. Are you ready?

It’s your move.