What ‘digital’ really means (2023)

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Companies today are rushing headlong to become more digital. But what does digital really mean?

For some executives, it’s about technology. For others, digital is a new way of engaging with customers. And for others still, it represents an entirely new way of doing business. None of these definitions is necessarily incorrect. But such diverse perspectives often trip up leadership teams because they reflect a lack of alignment and common vision about where the business needs to go. This often results in piecemeal initiatives or misguided efforts that lead to missed opportunities, sluggish performance, or false starts.

Even as CEOs push forward with their digital agendas, it’s worth pausing to clarify vocabulary and sharpen language. Business leaders must have a clear and common understanding of exactly what digital means to them and, as a result, what it means to their business (for a deeper look at how companies can develop meaningful digital strategies and drive business performance, see “Raising your Digital Quotient”).

It’s tempting to look for simple definitions, but to be meaningful and sustainable, we believe that digital should be seen less as a thing and more a way of doing things. To help make this definition more concrete, we’ve broken it down into three attributes: creating value at the new frontiers of the business world, creating value in the processes that execute a vision of customer experiences, and building foundational capabilities that support the entire structure.

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Creating value at new frontiers

Being digital requires being open to reexamining your entire way of doing business and understanding where the new frontiers of value are. For some companies, capturing new frontiers may be about developing entirely new businesses in adjacent categories; for others, it may be about identifying and going after new value pools in existing sectors.

Unlocking value from emerging growth sectors requires a commitment to understanding the implications of developments in the marketplace and evaluating how they may present opportunities or threats. The Internet of Things, for example, is starting to open opportunities for disrupters to use unprecedented levels of data precision to identify flaws in existing value chains. In the automotive industry, cars connected to the outside world have expanded the frontiers for self-navigation and in-car entertainment. In the logistics industry, the use of sensors, big data, and analytics has enabled companies to improve the efficiency of their supply-chain operations.

At the same time, being digital means being closely attuned to how customer decision journeys are evolving in the broadest sense. That means understanding how customer behaviors and expectations are developing inside and outside your business, as well as outside your sector, which is crucial to getting ahead of trends that can deliver or destroy value.

Creating value in core businesses

Digital’s next element is rethinking how to use new capabilities to improve how customers are served. This is grounded in an obsession with understanding each step of a customer’s purchasing journey—regardless of channel—and thinking about how digital capabilities can design and deliver the best possible experience, across all parts of the business. For example, the supply chain is critical to developing the flexibility, efficiency, and speed to deliver the right product efficiently in a way the customer wants. By the same token, data and metrics can focus on delivering insights about customers that in turn drive marketing and sales decisions.

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Critically, digital isn’t about just working to deliver a one-off customer journey. It’s about implementing a cyclical dynamic where processes and capabilities are constantly evolving based on inputs from the customer, fostering ongoing product or service loyalty. Making this happen requires an interconnected set of four core capabilities:

Proactive decision making. Relevance is the currency of the digital age. This requires making decisions, based on intelligence, that deliver content and experiences that are personalized and relevant to the customer. Remembering customer preferences is a basic example of this capability, but it also extends to personalizing and optimizing the next step in the customer’s journey. Data providers such as ClickFox, for example, blend data from multiple channels into one view of what customers are doing and what happens as a result. In the back office, analytics and intelligence provide near-real-time insights into customer needs and behaviors that then determine the types of messages and offers to deliver to the customer.

Contextual interactivity. This means analyzing how a consumer is interacting with a brand and modifying those interactions to improve the customer experience. For example, the content and experience may adapt as a customer shifts from a mobile phone to a laptop or from evaluating a brand to making a purchasing decision. The rising number of customer interactions generates a stream of intelligence that allows brands to make better decisions about what their customers want. And the rapid rise of wearable technology and the Internet of Things represents the latest wave of touchpoints that will enable companies to blend digital and physical experiences even more.

Real-time automation. To support this cyclical give-and-take dynamic with customers and help them complete a task now requires extensive automation. Automation of customer interactions can boost the number of self-service options that help resolve problems quickly, personalize communications to be more relevant, and deliver consistent customer journeys no matter the channel, time, or device. Automating the supply chain and core business processes can drive down costs, but it’s also crucial to providing companies with more flexibility to respond to and anticipate customer demand.

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Journey-focused innovation. Serving customers well gives companies permission to be innovative in how they interact with and sell to them. That may include, for example, expanding existing customer journeys into new businesses and services that extend the relationship with the customer, ideally to the benefit of both parties. These innovations in turn fuel more interactions, create more information, and increase the value of the customer-brand relationship.

Building foundational digital capabilities

The final element of our definition of digital is about the technological and organizational processes that allow an enterprise to be agile and fast. This foundation is made up of two elements:

Mind-sets. Being digital is about using data to make better and faster decisions, devolving decision making to smaller teams, and developing much more iterative and rapid ways of doing things. Thinking in this way shouldn’t be limited to just a handful of functions. It should incorporate a broad swath of how companies operate, including creatively partnering with external companies to extend necessary capabilities. A digital mind-set institutionalizes cross-functional collaboration, flattens hierarchies, and builds environments to encourage the generation of new ideas. Incentives and metrics are developed to support such decision-making agility.

System and data architecture. Digital in the context of IT is focused on creating a two-part environment that decouples legacy systems—which support critical functions and run at a slower pace—from those that support fast-moving, often customer-facing interactions. A key feature of digitized IT is the commitment to building networks that connect devices, objects, and people. This approach is embodied in a continuous-delivery model where cross-functional IT teams automate systems and optimize processes to be able to release and iterate on software quickly.

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Digital is about unlocking growth now. How companies might interpret or act on that definition will vary, but having a clear understanding of what digital means allows business leaders to develop a shared vision of how it can be used to capture value.

FAQs

What are single quotation marks used for? ›

Single quotation marks are also known as 'quote marks', 'quotes', 'speech marks' or 'inverted commas'. Use them to: show direct speech and the quoted work of other writers. enclose the title of certain works.

What is a smart apostrophe? ›

Smart apostrophes, also known as curly or typographer's apostrophes, are the professional-looking marks preferred by most publishers. In word processors you will probably get them by default, thanks to a feature called smart quotes.

What are the different quotation marks? ›

There are two types of quotation marks: 'single' and “double.” Which one to choose generally depends on whether you are using US or UK English. The US convention is to use double quotation marks, while the UK convention is usually to use single quotation marks.

What makes a powerful quote? ›

Be conversational, yet avoid trite, filler language. Use phrasing that is memorable and helps create a picture in the reader's mind. Provide meaningful insights and perspectives in a quote that increase the value of the quote and the likelihood of its pick-up by media. Opinion is fine, but hype is counterproductive.

What are the 3 apostrophes? ›

The apostrophe has three uses: 1) to form possessive nouns; 2) to show the omission of letters; and 3) to indicate plurals of letters, numbers, and symbols. ​Do not ​use apostrophes to form possessive ​pronouns ​(i.e. ​his​/​her ​computer) or ​noun ​plurals that are not possessives.

What are the 2 types of apostrophes? ›

The two types of apostrophes are apostrophes of possession and contraction.

Are there two types of quotations? ›

Types of quotes and examples

There are two main types of quotes: direct and indirect. Whenever you want to use someone's statement word-for-word in your text, you'll need to include properly cited, direct quotations. However, if you want to paraphrase someone's words then indirect quotes could be more appropriate.

Which quotation marks should I use? ›

The short answer is that it depends on the country that you are writing in. In British and Australian English, one typically uses single quotes. If you're writing in North America, double quote marks are typically used.

Are there two types of quotation marks? ›

The use of quotation marks, also called inverted commas, is very slightly complicated by the fact that there are two types: single quotes (` ') and double quotes (" ").

Do you need permission to use someone's quote? ›

The use of relatively short direct quotes from a published work does not usually require permission from the copyright holder as it typically falls under the “fair use” provision.

How many lines can you quote without permission? ›

Quotation without permission is possible in works of criticism. You can use up to 400 words in a single extract or you can quote up to 300 words at a time provided that you don't use more than 800 in total. For poems, you're allowed up to 40 lines as long as this is less than a quarter of the piece.

How do you quote someone what a person said? ›

Use double quotation marks (“”) around a direct quote. A direct quote is a word- for-word report of what someone else said or wrote. You use the exact words and punctuation of the original. Harriet Jacobs writes, “She sat down, quivering in every limb” (61).

What is the best definition of quotation? ›

(kwoʊteɪʃən ) Word forms: quotations. countable noun. A quotation is a sentence or phrase taken from a book, poem, speech, or play, which is repeated by someone else.

What is the best meaning for quotation? ›

A quotation is a sentence or phrase taken from a book, poem, or play, which is repeated by someone else. He illustrated his argument with quotations from Pasternak. [ + from] The quotation is from The Great Gatsby. Synonyms: passage, quote [informal], excerpt, cutting More Synonyms of quotation.

What is a strong woman quote? ›

A strong woman knows she has strength enough for the journey, but a woman of strength knows it is in the journey where she will become strong.” “I'd rather regret the risks that didn't work out than the chances I didn't take at all.” "You must love and care for yourself because that's when the best comes out.”

Can you get paid for quotes? ›

Can I earn money by writing quotes? Yes, you can easily earn money by writing quotes online with many new services and platforms that support new and experienced writers.

What's a short positive message? ›

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” “When you have a dream, you've got to grab it and never let go.” “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

What is the best thing in life quotes? ›

The best things in life are often waiting for you at the exit ramp of your comfort zone.” “The best things in life are simple, abundant, and free.” “The best things in life are the things that we cannot buy with money.” “The best things in life can not be experienced virtually.”

What are the two most common uses of apostrophes? ›

To show the omission of one or more letters in a contraction. To show ownership or possession.

How do you show possession with a name? ›

To show possession using an apostrophe, add 's for individuals (“Smith's car”) and just the apostrophe after the s for plurals (“the Smiths' car,” “the Martinezes' dog”). By convention, names from classical mythology and the Bible ending in s show possession with the apostrophe only (“Jesus' teachings”).

What are the two main uses of apostrophes? ›

Apostrophes have two main purposes, to form possessives and to mark contractions. Correct usage of apostrophes is an easy way to prevent a loss of points on your papers. Unless you are showing possession or a contraction an apostrophe should not be used.

What is the rule for using apostrophes correctly? ›

An apostrophe is a small punctuation mark ( ' ) placed after a noun to show that the noun owns something. The apostrophe will always be placed either before or after an s at the end of the noun owner. Always the noun owner will be followed (usually immediately) by the thing it owns. 2.

What is the most common mistake made using an apostrophe? ›

Mistake #1: Using apostrophes to make a word plural

It's not raining cat's and dog's, it's raining cats and dogs. Apostrophes are not typically used to make words plural.

How do you know its an apostrophe? ›

Apostrophes are used for only two purposes: to indicate a contraction or ownership. Use the apostrophe with contractions. The apostrophe is always placed where the letter has been removed. For example couldn't, don't, isn't, you're, she's, it's- which is “it is.” (N.B. This is the contraction, not the possessive.

What does 3 quotation marks mean? ›

The triple quotation is a nice way to be able to include other types of quotation within your string without having to use escape characters. For example: print("He said \"my name's John\"") That example requires escape characters \" to use double quote marks.

What is a double quote called? ›

Quotation marks can be double ("...") or single ('...') - that is really a matter of style (but see below for more about this). Quotation marks are also called "quotes" or "inverted commas".

What is the second quotation mark called? ›

The double quotation mark is identical to the ditto mark in English-language usage. It is also similar to—and often used to represent—the double prime symbol.

What is the use of single and double quotation marks? ›

Double quotation marks are used for direct quotations and titles of compositions such as books, plays, movies, songs, lectures and TV shows. They also can be used to indicate irony and introduce an unfamiliar term or nickname. Single quotation marks are used for a quote within a quote.

Which is an example of quotation marks used correctly? ›

Rule 1. Use double quotation marks to set off a direct (word-for-word) quotation. Correct: “I hope you will be here,” he said. Incorrect: He said that he “hoped I would be there.” (The quotation marks are incorrect because hoped I would be there does not state the speaker's exact words.)

What are some examples of quotations? ›

Direct Quotations

sentence. Example: My sister said, “I need to do my homework.” If the quoted material is a fragment or a phrase, do not capitalize the first letter. Example: The phrase “don‟t win in practice” is consistent for all sports.

What do you do when two quotation marks are next to each other? ›

In American English, use double quotation marks for quotations and single quotation marks for quotations within quotations. In British English, use single quotation marks for quotations and double quotation marks for quotations within quotations.

Is there a difference between speech marks and quotation marks? ›

Quotation marks—sometimes called 'speech marks', or more colloquially 'quotes'—are used to indicate direct speech. Depending on where you are, the quotation mark may be different.

What is the difference between 1 and 2 quotation marks? ›

General Usage Rules

In America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the general rule is that double quotes are used to denote direct speech. Single quotes are used to enclose a quote within a quote, a quote within a headline, or a title within a quote.

When should you use single quotation marks in business writing? ›

There are three basic scenarios requiring single quotation marks: a quote within a quote, a question in a quote, and titles or quotes in headlines. In addition, single quotation marks are used for titles found within titles.

Can single quotation marks be used for emphasis? ›

Quotation marks around single words can occasionally be used for emphasis, but only when quoting a word or term someone else used. Usually, this implies that the author doesn't agree with the use of the term.

What are the two types of quotations? ›

The use of quotation marks, also called inverted commas, is very slightly complicated by the fact that there are two types: single quotes (` ') and double quotes (" ").

What is the advantage of using double quotes? ›

Overall, I prefer to use double quotes since I feel it provides more readability for me. Also, I use backticks whenever I need to take advantage of its features like interpolation and multiline strings. These conventions can be different from person to person.

What does 2 with quotation marks mean? ›

Double quotation marks (" ") are used to enclose quoted speech or writing when they are run into the text.

How do you use single quotes examples? ›

Single quotation marks (') are used inside another pair of quotation marks ("), or a written quote-within-a-quote. For example,"When I say 'immediately', I mean some time before August", said the manager. This punctuation mark may look like inverted (upside-down) commas, depending on the font type being used.

Should names be in quotation marks? ›

That's it for most named people or things or places—most are capitalized but do not require italics or quotation marks. A quick rule: Names (of people, places, and things) need to be capitalized, but titles (of things) need both capitalization and either quotation marks or italics.

Why do people misuse quotation marks? ›

It's quite ironic: People often use quotation marks to add emphasis to certain words but they're actually subverting their intended meaning. Quotation marks around words can instruct the reader to think the words mean something other than what they say.

When should quotation marks not be used? ›

Quotation Marks: When Not to Use. Do not use quotation marks with indirect quotations. One woman I interviewed said that her husband argued like a lawyer. Do not use quotation marks with cliches, slang, or trite expressions that you have doubts about using.

Why do people put words in quotes? ›

Perhaps it should go without saying, but quotation marks are for quoting people. Quoting doesn't mean summarizing or paraphrasing; it means repeating exactly what someone said. If you put double quotes around a phrase, your reader will often assume that someone, somewhere, said that exact phrase or sentence.

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