Digital Natives, Leading the Digital Revolution

The public dialog is rich in references to “digital natives” and “digital immigrants.” In my family we have a couple of digitally native teenagers and – as a digital immigrant – I am constantly trying to improve from “tourist digital” to true digital fluency.

But businesses, and indeed whole industries, are arrayed along a similar spectrum of familiarity or comfort with the digital world. I am constantly reminded of this by our work with our customers. Those in digitally native industries such as financial services, telecommunications, or media & entertainment, share a unique relationship with their data. For them, data, and the underlying IT infrastructure, aren’t just about the business, they are the business. They are in the business of shipping bits and bytes. If their data centers go down, their whole business – not just the reporting and billing activity – stops.  And if they go down for too long, they don’t need to worry about restarting, because their brand is burnt. Toast. We spend a lot of time working with these highly demanding customers who see big data – and big, fast data specifically – not just as the punchline to another press article but as a necessity and competitive advantage.

Digital immigrant businesses comprise another category of industries that ship physical assets but are aggressively digitizing their operations. Good examples include the transportation, logistics and retail sectors. These industries are immigrating, moving fast, and in so doing are disrupting their competition in a permanent fashion. FedEx founder Fred Smith envisioned this digital migration in 1978 when he said that “The information about the package is just as important as the package itself.”

In fact, in all spheres of life, more and more of the value that we accrue from using physical assets is derived from the digital element of the equation. We now prize digital capabilities like constant telemetry on actual usage patterns and the ability to tune and redefine the customer experience in real-time. It is this change, rather than merely the addition of connected devices at the periphery of a standard IT landscape, that really marks the boundary between conventional perceptions and uses of data and a new world of operational technologies. The digital natives, and ever more the digital immigrants in your home and your industry, are all eagerly waiting. The real question is whether your data infrastructure is ready to deliver in the modes and speeds they require.

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