Time to put Digital in the C-Suite

“We are at the beginning of a new era for social internet innovators who are re-imagining and re-inventing a web of people and places, looking beyond documents and websites.”-John Doerr; Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers-
What the Financial Times (FT) predicted back in 2005 (it had predicted that the Internet would be the number one media for people 40years and under by 2010) came up suddenly on Nigeria like a tsunami; very few people, governments and companies were prepared for it (though it was clear at the time that our population stats showed that people within that demographic amounted to 70% of the population). This demographic is the most economically and productively active part of our population. Corporate Nigeria (always reactive) was roused from its deep sleep by the resounding success of the President Barack Obama campaign at the American Presidential polls, which was driven powerfully through the use of the digital media (in many circles, President Obama is regarded as the first President of the millennials). The Government and Corporate Nigeria continue to sleepwalk and grope through the labyrinthine passageways of digital media to connect with the citizenry and customers/prospects and to gain political/business value respectively by doing so.

The challenges for the Government and Companies in Nigeria are;
• How do you reach or communicate with a generation with umbilical links to their mobile phones?
• How do you engage people who are basically ‘googlelized’?
• How do you move from a brick-and-mortar mentality into an App Economy?
• How do you communicate and engage on Social Media without losing control, since the individual online wields infinitely more power than the individual who walks into a physical branch or store without any connection to the internet (new consumer behavior)?
• How do you keep up with this highly connected generation, who are always online and constantly feeding the world with information and being fed in return in ever-increasing measure?
• How do you prepare for the internet of things?

The problem has been two-pronged; first, an inextricable addiction of the Political class and Business Leaders to their stodgy sides and secondly, the chronic apathy of people in the ruling class and those in the C-Suite of the major Blue-chip Companies of Nigerian origin towards young people and by extension, the Digital Media fuelled by the socio-cultural make-up of the country which is essentially pro-geriatric. This means that very little mind is paid anything that is popular amongst young people. Most people in the pro-geriatric class are even yet to shake off completely, the thought that Internet serves scammers (“Yahoo Boys”) or ne’er-do-wells.
The citizens and consumers of the 21st century are not merely value-taking (the old order where Governments or Companies determine what value is, and just dish it out to the populace) but are value-demanding (they seek active roles in the design and creation of value-they determine what value is!). This statement assumes frightening dimensions for businesses in the light of the fact that we are in an excess economy (which means that for every product/service provided by a company, there are several others provided by other companies, all striving within a single marketplace and mind-space); therefore, on-the-spot research, infinite connection to consumers, time-to-market, ability to delight the customer who is fully persuaded of his power and flexibility of businesses are key to a brand carving out market share and etching itself in the minds of consumers. In this generation, there will be little or no regard for country borders/territories; this is the era of a borderless world. The clear message to the Nigerian business community is that “The World is coming!”

To engage this generation, the near narcissistic ‘arrogance’ of yesterday, where brands had very little consideration for consumers in the product/service creation processes of their companies, should be done away with, completely. Brands (People & Companies [toss Government into that equation]) must keep talking and must keep listening thrice as much. All of today’s brands must be publishers (this is an information age-every brand must develop contents that are relevant, timely and situated in the specific social milieu of specific categories of its customers/prospects while deploying the language/tonality that is perfectly familiar)-industry report, white papers, ever so subtly-entertainment (except entertainment is your sole business), how-to tips (videos and documents), etc. Brands must provide platforms or forums for its users/consumers to connect and/or organize; in other words, brands must create the environment and set the tone for its users/consumers to connect in an unfettered manner with the company and with one another. Brands must create opportunities for their users/customers to fulfill their aspirations even as it touches on their products/services provisioning. Note that I have not focused on the technology/technologies because; technology, like business, loses out if it loses its social relevance. It’s all about real people, real emotions, and real aspirations (there’s no anonymity online, anymore)! The plan therefore, will be to focus exceedingly more on people than technology-every technology must be viewed as a tool that must be mastered to serve your customers; so, always ask how they’d serve your end).
There is no over-emphasizing that today, Digital Media is where brands are made and broken; therefore active participation and deployment must start from the C-Suite (let’s face it, how many of the guys in the C-Suite have active ‘public’ social media accounts?). This must be an integral part, if not the driver of every brand’s business and marketing goals. Your digital strategy must be spot-on, comprehensive enough with actionable tactics and measurable results. As an extra incentive for the pro-geriatric to join the bandwagon, statistics made available by Facebook, submits that the older demographic are latching on to the use of social media (and by extension, the web), which makes embracing digital, a greater, more intense imperative.

In other climes, companies and cities have Chief Digital Officers-this is predicated on the fact that a great number of people can be reached in an instant (the internet as a communication tool like no other, engenders the dispersion of information from one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many; all in a micro-blink) and resources deployed in quick response to citizens’ needs and trouble spots (Senator Cory Booker, former Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, literally coordinated his office on Twitter, in the marshaling of relief efforts and materials to citizens when the City experienced a Snowstorm in 2012). The City of New York has a Chief Digital Officer and other great cities have followed suit. All over the world, room is being created in the C-Suite of Top Companies/Corporations for the office of a Chief Digital Officer; why? Technology is changing with amazing rapidity and that radically affects how we work, view the world, live and interact with one another and with the world; the change can be so bewildering that we can go to bed today and wake up tomorrow to a whole new different world-somebody must monitor the changes, the trends and predict for all, what’s around the corner; so that when change comes, we are ready and adapting to and adoption of technology is seamless or better yet, we can lead it. The authors of what I consider the Holy Grail of Modern business, “Funky Business” (Dr. Jonas Ridderstrale & Dr. Kjell A. Nordstrom), are of the opinion that, “Yesterday’s information is history and today’s information is tomorrow’s profit”. Somebody must be there to cause opportunities and innovation/s to meet and make them live together happily ever after (and the vehicle for executing this matrimony must be finely-crafted digital strategies which respond to mobile, web, social, local and any other around-the-corner digital innovation). Other revolutions caught the entire African continent napping and after many centuries, still struggling to adapt. It will be a shame for this phase of the Technological revolution (which is happening real-time with all the information staring all of us in the face and with startlingly vast opportunities for collaborating across borders) to catch us unawares or ill-prepared.

More reasons to put Digital in the C-Suite
• In March 2011, Apple announced it had sold its 100 millionth iPhone. Last year 2014, it sold 33.8 million iPhones. In July 2011, Google’s Android OS was on 130 million devices; now about 3 out of every 4 devices use the Android OS.
• As of July 2011, it was reported that Apple retail store is handling 24 million app downloads per day and the Android market is handling 19 million app downloads a day.
• As of January 28, 2015, there were more than 1.393 billion monthly users of Facebook. On average, Facebook users install over 20 million apps every day. There are more than 680 million active users currently accessing Facebook through mobile devices.
• As at December 2014, more than 938.4 million people have signed up on Twitter; while, in September 2011, it was revealed that there were 100 million monthly users and only recently, Twitter introduced their ecommerce feature.
• In 2010, global revenue for the virtual goods industry was over US$7 billion, according to Ted Serom, CEO of Risty, a virtual currency platform.
(Credit for these stats: Rhys Grossman co-leads Russell Reynolds and Jana Rich co-leads-Internet & Media Practice)
• Estimated downloads of Apple apps in 2013 range from 56 to 82 billion. In 2017, there could be 200 million downloads.
• Estimated revenue from Apple apps could be US$20-25 billion in 2013; this could triple in 2017.
(Credit for these stats: mobiforge.com)

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