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Business leaders increasingly embracing 'digital strategy' but what is it?

According to a recent Gartner survey of more than 390 senior business leaders in organisations worldwide, 52% of CEOs now have a digital strategy in place. The survey showed that while significant political and economic uncertainties resulted in less business investment last year, the mist is beginning to lift and it is anticipated that digital will now play a bigger role in CEOs' growth plans for 2013/14.


To quote Mark Raskino, vice president and Gartner fellow: "This is the year when business leadership teams must commit to investing bravely and deeply to redevelop the technology and information capability of their firms."


However Jorge Lopez, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, has also commented on the study, explaining that CEOs and leadership teams "must crystalise" what they mean by digital strategy in order to better understand its overall fit in the broader business strategy.


According to Ronson, who oversaw the survey, it seems that there are indeed notable variances between different businesses as to what exactly is meant by the term 'digital strategy' – "Digital is being used in reference to three time horizons", he says.


Ronson proposes that the first is historical where businesses are to an extent still playing catch-up in the area of e-commerce, e-business that was at the top of everybody's to-do list in the late 1990s. Businesses addressing this area as a digital priority are largely doing so through a fear of failure, mindful of the recent troubles of the likes of Kodak, HMV etc.


Secondly, the term digital is being used with specific reference to current technology trends such as social media, mobile applications and cloud computing. In order to keep up with the pace at which consumers are integrating digital into their daily lives, one specific area in which companies are investing is that of inbound marketing channels such as social networks, customer forums and web-based blogs. As marketing automation technologies grow in sophistication, marketeers are expected to deliver content that speaks to each element of the company’s target audience in just the right place at just the right time.


Finally, the third usage harks to the near future in which products and services become digital. With the increasing number of digital systems being embedded into cars, Mr Raskino cites the automotive industry as one obvious example here. Although clearly the march of digitilisation is today evident across all sectors, as organisations wake up to the new market opportunities coming from digital and data services.


Raskino reckons in contrast to the last decade and a half where businesses have largely purchased 'packaged innovation' solutions from their preferred IT suppliers, it is now increasingly the case that "businesses have to invent their own future".

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