Digital potential often lies beneath the surface

A more comprehensive understanding at decision-making level of what digital is and how it can add value to business is needed if organisations are to exploit their digital potential more effectively.

Every organisation that has an Internet connection has an inherent digital capability. There is however a huge variation in the way that organisations use this capability. Those that understand the opportunity and learn to measure and improve their own digital capability are likely to be in a better position to compete in the digital economy.

Forming an understanding of an organisation’s digital capability involves comparing the digital technologies and processes that are at its disposal with how it is actually using them. With this information the company’s digital capability can be measured and future targets set for improved productivity and business value.

Lack of awareness, unresponsive corporate culture, generation gap at management level and simply getting the wrong advice are among the reasons cited for the relatively low adoption of digital technology in business. In some regions as few as 20% of companies that have broadband are doing business online.

Digital capability is an issue for companies on an enterprise-wide basis, not just in marketing. HR is a prime example of this. Many companies have trouble hiring staff with digital skills. This is increasingly because traditional recruitment practices don’t attract digitally savvy candidates.

In a survey by the European Commission on the impact of digital technology on workplace productivity, 25% of respondents said they owned smart phones and were digitally literate but that this wasn't recognised or leveraged by their companies. In any organisation, this would be an inhibitor of digital capability.

Measuring and improving digital capability may be regarded as the start and end points of a journey, where the journey itself is the digital transformation that the company needs to undergo. The value proposition for companies who decide to avail of the digital capability assessment can be summarised as follows:

  • It can make organisations aware of their digital capability and its value to their business.
  • It can help to increase an organisation’s capacity to do business online.
  • It can help to make their business processes more efficient.
  • Proper skilling and training can make its workforce more effective.
  • It can open up new business opportunities at home and abroad.
  • It can equip an organisation to engage more effectively with the digital economy.

Increased digital capability can add business value in the context of better staff performance, customer service and quality of products. A broad range of organisations stand to benefit.

Digitally-enabled SME’s are likely to grow faster than their traditional counterparts, creating jobs in the process. Digital service providers such as web developers and broadband providers stand to benefit indirectly from an increased demand for their services.

The digital ecosystems that are likely to emerge as a result of these alliances have the potential to generate considerable economic benefits and increase the collective digital competency, not only of important business sectors, but cities, regions and countries.

The digital capability assessment process can help organisations of all types and sizes to get more value from the Internet. The challenge therefore is to encourage more companies to develop a “Go-Digital” culture by delivering a management-level, competency-based, self-assessment process, based on change management underpinned by digital best practice.


Kieran O'Hea - IP Digital Practice Leader - Former Chief Digital Officer, City of Brisbane