Measuring business performance in the “Dark Matter Digital Universe.”


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Businesses don’t know how to measure performance in the “Dark Matter Digital Universe. Already challenged by their own traditional thinking on how to transform their value propositions to be relevant in the big bang explosion of digital technologies and IOT collaborative business models, most companies have yet to grasp the fact that they must also start measuring their performance by new sets of metrics. If they can’t make this important leap of understanding, they risk not knowing what thier position is as they make their journey though the Digital Universe. I equate this phenomenon to man’s only very recent comprehension that after millenniums of observing and documenting the heavens above us by looking at only the shiny objects…the stars, planets, comets, galaxies, quasars, supernovas, etc. We now realize that these fascinating things only make up 3% of what the entire known universe is actually comprised of, and that the other 97% is not really understood at all. And since this 97% is not shiny, physicists have labeled it “Dark Matter.”

I see a strong metaphor to businesses only tracking the shiny digital KPI’s of B2C, measuring clearly observable things such as customer journeys popularity rankings on social networks or a competitor who has enabled their customer facing sales force with iPads. They have just barely starting looking into the B2B aspect of digital, the 97% of the equation. It is this 97% what I call the “Dark Matter Digital Universe.” Today’s concepts of competition and partnerships within industries are being redefined through the advent of increasing capabilities of smart, connected products expanding industry boundaries. The traditional model of competition shifts from discrete product systems made up of closely related products, to systems of systems that mesh a cadre of product systems together. It’s these forces that are redefining industry boundaries and are driving the thus far unmet requirement for businesses to find and adopt new ways to measure success and failure.

Businesses are currently realizing that with the advent of Cloud, digital technologies and smart devices, huge quantities of data are now affordable to obtain and ripe for analytical discovery of new insights. But I believe they do not yet know how to view or measure these insights with true meaningful scientific rigor and understanding of the new contextual forces of the nature of consortium type partnerships that will challenge the existing model of the 5 forces that shape industry competition:

– Rivalry among existing competitors
– Threat of new entrants
– Threat of new substitute products or services
– Bargaining power of suppliers
– Bargaining power of buyers

They have been unable to see these analytics as it applies to the performance of their businesses in the new “rules space” that resides in systems within systems. Thus I think businesses will remain in the “Dark” until they understand how to measure

So how do we go about resolving this gap in line-of-sight? Let’s start with the always clear thinking advice from Peter Drucker. When engaged by some CEO seeking to start down the road of business transformation and enlightenment, Drucker would boldly ask the CEO, “If you were to start your business today, what would you eliminate from your current business practices and what would you do differently”? I suggest we apply this same logical progression of thought to our current problem and ask ourselves, “if you needed to set up measures for tracking performance of your business today, what current methods would you stop using and how would you start measuring performance differently as to realize value in the Digital Universe filled with Dark Matter?”

So what metrics should they stop measuring?
– Traditional inward view of benchmarking of time, quality, and cost ratios
– Ownership of IP
– In-house ownership of best talent
– Analyst trends
– Succession planning
– Longevity and placement in top industry indexes

So what metrics should they start measuring?
– The ability to make decisions
– The ability to play well with others
– The ability to have their brand “top of mind” in social networks
– The ability to provide clear digital strategy and stay the course by establishing strong and consistent governance models
– The ability to have the right digital widgets launch successfully in the marketplace
– The ability to access the results complex algorithms on data to drive beneficial insights and actions
– The ability to master the Cloud and keep IT integration costs low
– The ability to be Agile in business and efficient in technology development
– The ability to do more with less
– The ability to generate non-linear revenue
– The ability to innovate with others and realize profits from their investment
– The ability to successfully do things differently

Let’s be honest; it’s easier to run with the herd and do business as usual. And it’s common practice to measure business as usual…but this comes with tremendous risk and cost. Remember that for most of our history we thought we were the center of solar system and that the earth was flat. And also realize that most of us only see the crescent, while others are seeing the whole of the Moon.

Corey Glickman
I am the global lead in Design & Innovation with Capgemini, a $14B solution integration consulting firm. I specialize in the formation of design and innovation programs, providing technology & business leadership experience as an expert in digital transformation, customer experience strategy, design, & the use of visualization. I have won 100's of awards, included being named one of the 100 most influential designers of the decade by AIGA. I currently blog weekly on how businesses are dealing with Digital Transformation, Design & IOT. I am a member of the HBR Advisory Council.


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