Everybody is talking about the new digital economy, a big transformation which is ongoing. Some even call it “digital darwinism”. Whole industries are challenged, new business models emerge. Some companies die, others climb to unprecedented heights in terms of turnover and stock price. You would suspect that within most companies there is a high sense of urgency for pushing the topic to the top of the CEO’s strategic agenda. Some of my recent experiences however tell another story.

In a study on the status of “Digital Transformation” published in September 2014 by Pierre-Audoin-Consultant, more than 150 CIOs and CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) were asked about their opinion. According to this study two thirds of the respondents believe that Digital will have a major impact on their industry and all claim that they are working on the topic. However a majority in each of the two groups (CIOs and CMOs) thinks that digital transformation is primarily their own private topic and that they do not need to collaborate with each other. Even worse when asked for “need for action concerning customer experience management” more than two thirds of the CIOs deny that there is any, and guess what: their colleagues from Marketing have a completely different perception on that. The study was conducted in the German market but my colleagues from all over the world basically experience similar attitudes.
As I could not believe it I decided to do a reality check with one of my larger customers from the discrete manufacturing industry. I was discussing a new application for service contract management with the IT folks and I wanted to encourage them to implement it in alignment with the principles of the new digital world. What I learned is that every department dealing with service contracts, from product management to sales, from customer care to finance, has its own redundant copy of the (originally) same set of data with which they work. Not surprising all those copies are inconsistent and in different granularities of data. Hence my customer does not have a single, consistent view on his service contracts – which is by the way a very important and profitable part of his business and the foundation for future buying decisions of his customers. I was told that it is intentionally designed like that and that there are no ambitions to change this in any way.

The exclusive access to data obviously constitutes the right to exist for a vast majority of organizational units as if it were their own proprietary. In the era of Digital this concept is no longer sustainable as digital leaders, such as Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and maybe soon Tesla possess a much clearer picture of a customer. Established enterprises need to understand that this is exactly their weak spot where digital challengers successfully attack them. To survive in this battle, information on customers who ultimately fund the existence of the company must not be owned by single individuals in the organization.

There is just one valid conclusion for your company: democratize the knowledge about the ones, who pay your wages, and free your data from its silos – or your competitors will do it. This is an organizational challenge, not a technical.