Harnessing Electracy

Posted on: June 10, 2014 by Rob Price

“Electracy is to Digital Media what Literacy was to print”, was a phrase coined by Gregory Ulmer some years ago. I’ve adopted it in the context of describing the challenge of harnessing the unprecedented levels of innovation and entrepreneurialism that we are seeing in today’s Digitally enabled market. Organisations recognise the need to transform to both take advantage of Digital and, frankly, survive against a torrent of disruptive new entrants to the market – but how do they do so in a manner that takes advantage of the best technologies and services that emerge at any one time.

Of course, we know what we know. We are conditioned by our years of best practice. The Digital Native has the advantage, and is not bounded by the rules of yesteryear. Who do you trust in this market? Those in your own organisation … do you see that they have evaluated the global marketplace and have determined how to keep abreast of change? Those in your traditional supply chain – do you see them evolving? In truth, we all find something new every week, every day even – how do we meld the experience in business with the electracy we see out there in the ether.

“We want to go Digital” is a real question we’ve been asked before, and a question organisations are asking everywhere. Unfortunately there is no rule book – no single pattern of resolution. There is no expectation that post transformation, you can put your feet up for five years and address the next step then. The speed of Digital is continuous. The decisions we make today are ones to reconsider tomorrow.

In the example of going Digital, that organisation had to be Digital. As a media business, their market was fundamentally transforming, and the way in which people consumed their content has changed. For them however, the challenge they set was to transform the culture of their organisation to one which embraced Digital, where they were able to take advantage of advancement, of innovation in the wider market, because they were able to react with agility. Furthermore, this was about transforming the way their employees thought, and did. To act digitally, to think differently – to place them in the best position to deliver the consumer services their customers really really wanted.

Five years ago, Atos set up the Scientific Community to specifically enable its own employees to plan its evolution to a future business model. Whilst focused around the digital revolution enabled by Cloud, Social, Mobility, Analytics and Security – it’s role is to interpret the effect of these on the way we provide valuable services to our clients. We released the publication Journey 2016 which specifically considered the wider impact of globalisation (access to specialism anywhere, local vs global, instant collaboration, globalised market), Demographics (rise of the Digital Native), Sustainability (more than carbon and money, thinking people, resources, society and politics) and importantly Trust (impact of corporate, individual, geographic trust plus skills shortages in the market).

It’s role in Atos, in part, is to harness Electracy. To find a way of converting the thinking across an organisation, across our clients, across academic institutions with whom we collaborate, across innovative start ups that we find across the globe – into compelling, living breathing propositions that evolve – not just as technology innovation, but commercial and business model innovation too.

Forrester have written and spoken greatly around Digital, including published James McQuivey’s Digital Disruption book. In it he claims that true Digital Disruption is ‘giving the user what they really really want’ and that the market is so vibrant because there are “legions of innovators with widespread access to low-cost technologies.” This is an important point for harnessing electracy. Any organisation, whatever their type, will want to be able to validate the services that are taken from a supplier on a regular basis against further evolution in the market. Sometimes that evolution is technological, sometimes commercial and sometimes a digitally disruptive business model. How do we do this? How is it planned? What focus do we, and other organisations, give to such validation. It echoes again the importance of Trust in that equation. We must place faith in people, or organisations, to advise on activity in the Digital market.

On the back of working in this space for several years now, we have coined the phrase 2-speed IT. For years, there has been a degree of acceptable disappointment on the delivery of IT services. On one hand, there is an absolute focus today on driving efficient adoption and operation of IT Speed, yet the Digital Speed has different characteristics. It is one that we think of in terms such as “What would the web do?”, of agile thinking, of days and weeks rather than months and years, of show me not tell me, of innovative commercials (economic models of the internet), of innovative partner ecosystems and more. IT Speed is about it getting IT fit for purpose. Digital Speed is about crossing the chasm of the Digital Divide.

Thinking more about partners, we and many more organisations are putting significant effort into developing out our partner ecosystem. In doing so, we need to consider the areas of specialism that are important to our evolution – for example, Cyber Security or Analytics and also what our compelling proposition is to those partners. These may be varied, covering perhaps commercial stability through protected payment terms, or access to accelerating platforms such as our highly secure UK Government cloud platform or our pan European data crunching (EU borders) platform , or perhaps it is simply access to particular vertical market client strength such as media or Finance. Through our SME Harbour initiative, we have a mechanism to put the right support in place to deliver a range of styles – from loosely coupled through formal acquisition, of partnership that will enable us to more effectively harness electracy.

Key to the success of initiatives such as SME Harbour is to hook into the innovation clusters both locally and globally. Through initiatives such as www.techcitymap.com, we can see where innovation and entrepreneurialism is occurring and furthermore how organisations collaborate. Thinking about the clusters locally to you, and further afield the globally located specialist focus areas into which you may need to delve, will be key to defining the right set of trusted partners as you build your ecosystem.

We do not believe it is easy to harness electracy. We have to go back to school, to learn new things, new technologies, new culture, new ways of working. We have to think Digital Speed, as well as IT Speed. We have to meld the best of what we know, with the best of what we don’t yet know. And there is no time. No time now, no time later.

Whatever decisions you face today, you will be tempted to analyse, to specify and to plan - because that is what we are conditioned to do. In that same time, many other organisations around the world have just done some of the things you just thought. Today they may be too distant from you, but tomorrow they will not. To survive, to cross the Digital Divide, you need to harness electracy across your organisation, and you need to do it now. Fingers crossed.

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About Rob Price
COO for Worldline UK&I and member of the Scientific Community
Rob is COO for Worldline UK&I, the European leader in the payment and transactional services industry. He was previously Head of Digital for Atos UK&I, is a member of the Atos Scientific Community and was a founder of the award winning CIO/CTO Atos blog, the predecessor to Ascent. He successfully melds inspiration and creativity with strategic direction and implementation, focusing on driving more efficient and effective exploitation of technology and services to drive positive business outcomes and better connect our clients with their end consumers. The insight gained through both operational delivery roles and strategic Digital evangelist roles ensures that he views the Digital Revolution from multiple perspectives. Find him on twitter @The_Digital_COO

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