Adjusting Your Business Plan for the Digital Future

By Steven D. Peterson, Peter E. Jaret, Barbara Findlay Schenck

You will need to account for the digital future in your business plan. The digital revolution has transformed so many industries and so many markets that the world most people live in today looks very different from what it did just a generation ago. The music business, journalism, retail sales, personal transportation, healthcare, movie-going, and even dating have been turned upside down by the rise of the Internet and mobile devices. The digital era has also changed how people plan and operate businesses.

Today, if a business doesn’t have a strong website, it may as well be invisible. And that’s only the beginning of the transformations that many businesses have undergone.

In some industries and marketplaces, the transformation is still in its early stages. The power of digital technologies is just starting to change the way medicine is practiced, the way home appliances operate, the way people get from here to there, and the way people use energy, to name just a few examples.

Every promising business idea must take into account the transformative power of the digital revolution — or risk being buried by it.

As a first step, ask three questions:

  • How important are the Internet and social media to your business idea and how will you employ them in plans for product design and development, research and development, marketing, and customer service, customer retention, and customer loyalty?
  • How could you leverage digital technologies to make a good idea even better, whether through customer and market research, co-creation with customers, team input using web-based collaboration project management and chat tools, or other applications?
  • How can advances in digital technologies — think virtual reality glasses, implantable communication devices, and the Internet of Things (the growing network of Internet-connected everyday household and other physical devices), online customer access to goods and services, business access to customer and research data, cloud computing, and more — improve or disrupt your business idea?

Take the time to come up with as many ideas as you can. Not all of them will turn out to be useful, but pondering the impact and opportunities of digital technology can help you refine your business idea to take into account inevitable changes.