When I talk to clients about what ‘digital’ means to them and their business one of the most common responses I hear is “we are not silicon valley”. When I probe into what they mean by that I typically get something like “we are not like Amazon. We are not a start-up. We are not a tech company. We have legacy system. Our business doesn’t work like that.”
So here’s my rant in response.
"We are not in Silicon Valley"
Where your head office is located is no excuse. Why are only the inhabitants of silicon valley allowed to be innovative and understand digital trends? Have you seen the digital doughnut that is Apple’s new offices? Do you really think that gives them an edge, or could it be that being in a standard office in London or Glasgow or Frankfurt might keep your people more in touch with what real people want in today’s digital age? You are not in silicon valley. Get over it and compete.
"We have legacy systems"
You have legacy systems? So does every big company. So does Amazon. They had a major legacy system problem back in the early 2000s. So they dealt with it. Specifically, Jeff Bezos got involved and sorted it with a famous email. Amazon has been going for almost two decades, so legacy is something they continually deal with. Today we have new technologies and delivery approaches for minimising legacy issues challenges. Learn about these and use them! If you don’t know where to start try Googling DevOps, Continuous Delivery, Containers and Microservices for a start.
"We are not a tech company"
Not many successful companies are. Spotify is a music streaming company. They are about music. Netflix is a media company. They are about great TV content, making a large amount of their best shows. Uber are a taxi operator. Tesla are a car manufacturer. Even Amazon are primarily a retailer, albeit with a technology division in the form of their AWS business. You’re not a tech company. Fine. You’re not Microsoft. But your company does use technology because every company does. That means you need to be tech savvy, and not just in your IT department.
"We are not a start-up"
This is the one which kills me the most. Large businesses moaning about how they can’t compete with little Joe and the business he runs out of his garage. I’m pretty sure Joe would love to have the resources of the big companies he competes with. The truth is that the big businesses can’t deal with Joe because they have become fat, lazy and unwilling to change.
So there you have it. You want to compete in today’s digital market you need to stop moaning and realise that things are not going to return to how they were. Things change and that means big businesses need to adapt to compete. Stop pretending you can’t change because you are not a silicon valley company. Not pretending you can’t be digital because you are not a tech company.