The Post-Digital Era: Is It Hype or Is It Here?

The Post-Digital Era: Is It Hype or Is It Here?

A global consultancy believes that the post-digital era is upon us. Others aren’t so sure.

Accenture recently released its Technology Vision Report for 2019, stating that the post-digital era is upon us and asking us if we’re ready for what’s next.

While the title of the report is attractive to a species wired to constantly look for novelty and towards the next big thing, the crux of it is that digital has become ubiquitous and if businesses want to continue to distinguish themselves from their peers, they should be looking to take advantage of these future technologies and trends: DARQ, Get to Know Me, Human + Worker, Secure Us to Secure Me and My Markets.

Everything is Becoming Digital

The concept of a post-digital era being upon us is an interesting one. Despite the article title, Accenture doesn’t deny that digital continues to play a huge role in the business environment and in our lives.

As the report states in the foreword, “Everything is becoming digital. Organizations are making enormous strides and realizing the benefits of new digital business models and processes. We see examples of this everywhere – in how people shop, work, learn, communicate, decide, respond and even elect leaders.

There is also acknowledgment of the power of digital. In the introduction, the report mentions that “The digital saturation of reality has granted companies with exceptional capabilities. They can understand their customers with a new depth of granularity. They have more channels than ever to reach those consumers. And with every company finally converging on the same digital footing, there are more digital ecosystems and more potential partners to help companies create holistic experiences.

Has the Term ‘Digital’ Become Meaningless?

“The argument that Accenture makes for the ushering in of the post-digital era however, comes from the fact that every company is now on-board with digital and has incorporated it into its business operations to some extent. Digital has become so pervasive in our lives, both personally and professionally, that the term has essentially become rather meaningless if applied to gaining an advantage. If everyone has access to the same advantages and benefits, they cease to be advantages and benefits.

While containing merit – think of how much current fatigue exists around the word ‘digital’ – this concept has met with pushback in certain quarters. The technologies which Accenture posits as now being the true advantages are not yet fully developed in some instances, and their integration into the business environment to the point where they can be considered competitive advantages seem far off at this point.

For example, the report cites Japan ecommerce company Zozotown in delivering what it calls “custom fast fashion”. The company’s app takes exact customer measurements, with these then being passed onto production and the resulting customised spandex suit being mailed to customers in short order.

Gillette is another company referenced in the report, partnering with a 3D printing startup to offer ‘customised razor designs’. According to the report, consumers create their personalised product through the company’s website and the digitally-personalised design is then physically printed and assembled, to be shipped directly to their door.

Still a Novelty?

However, in writing for Econsultancy, Rebecca Sentance dismantles this concept somewhat, stating that “these instances of hyper-personalisation, while innovative, are still largely a novelty in this day and age.” Sentance goes on to mention that Zozosuits have been hit by production delays and high costs, as well as numerous tales of customers’ disappointment with their ill-fitting clothes which on occassion have taken months to arrive. And in the case of Gillette, the customisation only extends to the razor handles, not the entire razor.

Sentance summarizes by writing that while these examples “hint at the possibilities for the future, these experiments are a long way from being scalable or profitable, and I would be hesitant to characterise them as evidence that we’ve entered some kind of a “post-digital” age where technology like this is commonplace.

Digital = Speed, Accuracy and Convenience

Where digital is changing businesses is in the areas of speed, accuracy, convenience and the creation of new business paradigms such as the platform business. By enabling software platforms which connect demand to supply, digital technologies have had a massive impact on our collective business environment.

It’s debatable what the main trends and technologies in a ‘post-digital age’ might be. It’s debatable whether most businesses have evolved to a point where they’re capable and ready to take advantage of them. And it’s debatable whether the post-digital era has actually arrived, or even what it is.

What’s not debatable is how powerful current ‘tried-and-tested’ digital technology is, and how impactful it has been (and continues to be) on all sectors of business, the IT channel included.

Derek Wayne

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