Our personal lives are being digitized as quickly as, if not faster than, our professional lives. But just as wearable technologies like Fitbit enable people to monitor and take action on their personal health, similar technologies are helping businesses recognize their challenges and take action to overcome them, enabling the digitalization of business. Data, devices, services, and partners increasingly are integrated and accessible in the digital realm. Information about what happened can be combined with insights into what is currently happening to identify the right choices in the moment. Businesses can even predict what will happen and adapt to influence outcomes.
But this combination of factors is not alone in driving digitalization. In fact, businesses are already employing a new type of worker who is changing business outcomes. Individuals, young and old, who have seen the advantages of digitization in their own lives, are eager to bring those advantages to their work. It’s a new category: the digital citizen.
Three broad trends have combined to give rise to the digital citizen:
- Millennials entering the workforce. The rising youth culture rejects slow-moving institutional processes in favor of their own agile ways of working. Born into a world where answers are at their fingertips, Millennials are naturally positioned to lead the charge.
- Social + Mobile + Cloud (SoMoClo). The emergence of mobile Internet, social media, and cloud-based services and apps has forced all companies to become software companies, whether they like it or not.
- Era of openness and transparency. The growing propensity for individuals to share data and crowdsource the best course of action for any given task.
Digital citizens work with data of all shapes, sizes, and varieties. They understand how data fuels business processes and decisions. They understand technology more innately than their peers and constantly monitor the technology scene for a new idea or gadget that can be applied in this context. They believe in testing early and deciding without making assumptions.
While digital citizens can be a major force for innovation within your organization, not knowing how to manage these individuals can lead to significant business problems and unexpected outcomes. Here are eight traits of digital citizens that help explain how they are unique and how to provide them with what they need to succeed:
- Accesses data anytime, anywhere. Digital citizens know they are a part of the hyper-connected world and expect to access the data they need across multiple channels, whether they are in the office, at the gym, at a conference, or on their couch.
- Lives at the speed of the business. Digital citizens seek to be on top of what’s happening in their business, what’s happening across the globe via social networks, and even what’s happening in their own house via sensors. They look for notifications of situations of interest, such as a customer overachieving expected results, or a campaign reaching a critical state.
- Uses apps, not applications. Digital citizens use purposeful apps that excel at solving a specific issue or provide unique value. They’re not looking for applications that pretend to encompass all of their needs. Their needs are unique to their business and evolve quickly. The digital citizen will provide a unique solution without waiting for a new release of a platform from the IT team or software vendor.
- Uses unique ways to reach unique insights. Digital citizens want direct access to data, not just reports based on logic they do not control. They use analytic solutions that allow them to visually interact with raw data of any sort. They are also looking for solutions that will accelerate this process, for example, by identifying correlations in the data and guiding the user with recommendations.
- Knows other people are connected, too. Digital citizens know their findings can be useful to their peers, and they leverage their peers’ experience as well. They are looking for solutions to share insights rather than just raw data.
- Looks for all types of data for their decisions. Digital citizens utilize information captured on the fly as much as data aggregated over time. They know business moments (marketing campaigns, customer orders, customer experience) are highly contextual and can be identified by specific patterns of events. The digital citizen expects easy access to the data they need to reach improved awareness.
- Turns decisions into actions. The digital citizen acknowledges the awareness that data provides, but also the actionable impact this awareness can have. From sending a message to a customer to changing the course of a process to reallocating an asset, the outcome of a situation can be changed.
- Needs decisions applied right now. Digital citizens are not willing to take part in or even wait for complex development processes to take place. Once digital citizens have decided which actions need to be taken, they seek to apply their decision immediately. Actions follow decisions by hours, minutes, or seconds, and also may change dynamically as a situation unfolds.
Data equips digital citizens with the ability to make informed decisions and apply them immediately. Organizations should take the initiative to develop digital citizens within their staff. Creating the environment in which they thrive will provide immediate benefits for customers and accelerate the march toward becoming a true digital business.
Michael O’Connell is Chief Data Scientist at TIBCO Software, developing analytic solutions across a number of industries including financial services, energy, life sciences, consumer goods and retail, and telco, media and networks. He has published more than 50 papers and several software packages on statistical methods. Michael did his Ph.D. work in Statistics at North Carolina State University and is Adjunct Professor Statistics in the department.
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