Are you ready for the world of digital business? Most companies today are not enabled to behave as true digital businesses, as few know all the rules, the questions or the possibilities in devising a strategy and a solution for the new economy. Those companies that are ready to operate in the digital business world find that they behave in a much more streamlined, effective and cost-efficient manner. They bring value to their customers in a way never before experienced. Those who aren't ready may soon find that they have fallen behind their competition and the mainstream of business. To be prepared for digital operations in the new economy, you must have the appropriate digital intelligence in place to feed your business with the critical information required to operate. And finally, the approach for building your digital intelligence must be a solid one in order to surpass your competition.

What is Digital Business?

In almost every corporation, there are typically two primary components. The first component is the selling chain, which includes all efforts related to selling a product or service. The second is the supply chain, which includes all activities that ensure the product or service is available and can be provided to the buyer.

Many companies have spent time and money building e-commerce systems that support the selling chain. Also, supply chain systems have been established to ensure products and services can be delivered within a timely manner. E-business is the integration of these e-commerce systems with the supply chain. However, companies do not exist in isolation. There are many entities around them including competitors, customers, regulators, suppliers, partners, etc. This combination of relationships is referred to as the ecosystem. In the networked economy, it is how a company operates within these boundaries that determines its success or failure. Therefore, a company must strive to understand and control the ecosystem in which it exists. A corporation's digital capabilities – including digital intelligence, digital channels, digital relationships and ecosystem integration – offer a way to optimize this ecosystem. Only at this point is a company truly a digital business.

Figure 1: The Components of a Digital Business

A true digital business is made up of four key components (capabilities) as illustrated in Figure 1. These include:

Digital Channels: Digital channels equal e-commerce with added benefit. Digital channels are the many and varied means to inform, interact, transact, relate and integrate digitally. They are connections to customers, vendors, partners and employees; and they include business-to-business, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-consumer, etc. A true digital business utilizes connections through multiple channels including Web, e-mail, wireless application protocol (WAP), store sites, broadband, pagers, mobile phones, etc.

Digital Intelligence: This is the culmination of data warehousing, business intelligence, advanced data mining and neural networks, and portal capabilities to provide insight into the business. In the world of digital business, you can expect to have more data than ever before. Details on trends, attitudes, behaviors, events and relationships are readily available to the business. There is enormous potential to turn this data into real business value – to understand, track, anticipate and find new insights.

Digital Relationships: This is the combination of customer relationship management with digital business. Digital relationships include managing the relationships with customers, vendors, partners and employees – allowing the organization to be more personalized than ever before. Successful digital relationships are a balancing act.

Ecosystem Integration: Combining all the capabilities is the final key component in a digital business. Information from each capability is vital to the other capabilities. Also, the need to tie into legacy systems and external systems is a critical requirement for a company behaving as a digital business.

In order to become a true digital business, integration of all of the capabilities is necessary. However, having a solid approach for building your digital intelligence component will ensure that the appropriate data and information are available throughout the corporation to support the business. As you build your digital intelligence systems, take note of the four primary types of implementation approaches. It is important to understand these and also where your company wishes to be positioned.

Type 1 – Data Warehouse Implemen-ters: As data warehouse implementers, the solution is designed through interaction with IT, not with the business community. The belief is that by merely putting the information in an accessible location, the business users will utilize it. This approach does not typically provide the framework required to support a digital business.

Type 2 – Business Intelligence (BI) Implementers: BI implementers interview users and develop a strategy based on their needs. These teams develop a solution that fits the requirements of the business community based on the interviews. However, limited external knowledge is leveraged pertaining to the specific company's surrounding ecosystem.

Type 3 – BI Industry Experts: BI industry experts provide a two-part solution consisting of identifying the solution that would solve the users' problems and focusing on what should be done given the industry situation and potential emerging markets. Industry expertise by vertical is a requirement for this type of implementation which helps position a company at the leading edge of the industry.

Type 4 – Emerging Markets Experts: This type of solution is developed based on understanding industry trends and direction based on advanced data mining, the use of neural networks and predictive analysis. The key is to position the organization at the leading edge of the next wave of solutions. Algorithm-based data mining provides the ability to sense future trends that are not intuitive to people. The solution leverages image-oriented technology and provides greater analytical ability, thus providing a competitive advantage for the future.

Analyzing your organization to ensure that your digital intelligence systems are being built with the proper level of maturity will be critical to the future success of supporting a true digital business.

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