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The Digital Revolution - Why and How It Started?

The Digital Revolution - Why and How It Started?
February 16, 2015


We are 14 months away from ‘What is Digital’ videos, to everyone taking the definition of Digital for granted. The Digital megatrend however goes beyond being a buzz word. Go back as early as 2011 Gartner Technology Predictions and we will see components of Digital strategy well understood and forecasted. To understand and leverage the Digital megatrend, we need to understand the technology changes that triggered a social change that triggered companies to understand and address Digital.

Technology Revolution

  1. We live in a sensor world

Cisco and GE predict a trillion connected sensors world as early as 2020. The world already has more connected sensors than population. In 2013 alone, 6 billion sensors were shipped in mobile devices. Today, the focus is building sensors to capture data while sensor collaboration, data sharing and integrated data analytics is expected to grow mainstream before the end of the decade. That means, the day when your car tells you to take a detour to the grocery store based on the refrigerator’s recommendation, isn’t too far away (and I will be thankful for that day!)

  1. Implosion of Technology Cost (and that’s a good thing!)

The fundamental elements of any smart product are computing, connectivity and data storage. We can add sensing, but we will cover that separately. According to Deloitte, the cost of computing, connectivity and storage has come down by 33%, 28% and 37% CAGR over the last decade or more. In simple terms, if we wanted to manufacture iPhone 1st Generation today, the cost of the processor, RAM, storage and connectivity will go down from $80 (or 1/3rd the Bill of Material cost) to $10. Alternately, if Steve Jobs wanted to launch an iPhone in 2007 with today’s specs – we would have shelved at least $6000 for it (and it would resemble Gordon Gekko’s mobile phone).

Social Changes

  1. Rich experience as a basic consumer demand

    Smart phones triggered two fundamental changes in our expectations through the ‘App’ revolution. It became a catalyst for bringing the best of Rich Internet Applications (RIA) into the mobile environment. The rapid expansion of the number of Apps meant that the ones with ‘Rich’ and ‘Connected’ experience survived initial interest. The second change was empowerment of consumers with access to a wealth of data (files, photos, videos) remotely and by simplifying transactions – from making reservations to depositing checks. ‘Applification’ didn’t stop with mobile devices and the consumer’s demand can be summarized in 2 requirements:

    1. If you had a screen, the experience will be benchmarked to mobile devices
    2. If you didn’t have a screen, add one and then read (1)
  1. ‘Re-imagine’ Your Business

    In 2012, Mary Meeker suggested a very simple but powerful term for the Digital Revolution – RE-IMAGINE. Mobile Apps started transforming business – first in consumer-centric business but slowly in global enterprises. The journey started with using mobile as a channel to provide information to customers to making it a powerful tool to transact with customers. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and consumer demand for transparent operations meant that businesses had to empower employees with Digital age tools.

Impact on Business: The Rise of Digital Organizations

Digital becomes the tool for disruption across the business. According to a recent McKinsey survey, 2013 was a watershed year, when for the first time more than 50% of CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, and CMOs actively participated in Digital Initiatives. Over 30% of Fortune 100 companies have a designated Chief Digital Officer (CDO). The CDO wave goes beyond large corporations; the number of CDOs globally crossed 1000 in 2014 and has doubled since 2005.

That’s a brief history of how we arrived here. Do you agree? Is there something missing in this picture? I believe that we understand the fundamental drivers of change, we are better equipped to respond. As Jeopardy! And Douglas Adams taught us, many a times, the question makes all the difference.


  1. ‘What is Digital’ Blog & Video -  Cisco
  2. Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2011, October 2010
  3. Mary Meeker, Internet Trends 2014
  4. McKinsey Survey, The digital tipping point: McKinsey Global Survey results