I’ve been lucky enough to spend most of my career helping businesses succeed through digital, running my own business during the dot com boom/bust years and watching the digital economy explode.
There is no doubting the transformational power that digital brings, it’s even transformed my own life over the past 15 years and given me a career I could have only dreamed of. When I look back to 1998, my first real foray into Online, life is now very different. Back then I didn’t own a PC, internet access was pay per minute dial up, there was no broadband, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Google, no smartphones, no tablets, no wifi, no 3G, no 4G, no connected TV and no Cloud.
Fascinated by the possibilities, sensing an opportunity and driven by a desire to do better, myself and a friend I met at school set up a web design and development company with no real plan and no real idea of where it would end up. But we believed we could do something significant. We spent every waking hour immersing ourselves in HTML, Perl and Photoshop, quickly learning the necessary technical skills. We took the bold step of quitting our day jobs, got a loan from the bank and established our business.
Over the next 2 years, we experienced big highs and crushing lows as we tried to make sense of what was emerging around us. We built sites for all sorts of companies, worked round the clock to meet deadlines, chased new business and made some money. We slowly built a reputation and established relationships which took our company forward. Those relationships started to bear fruit, culminating in us being ranked as one of the top 6 small web design companies in the South East of England in a national newspaper and interest in our tiny organisation exploded. I remember one morning receiving a Fax (remember them?) from the NHS asking us to pitch to redesign their website and having to call them to confirm it wasn’t a mistake! Us, 2 guys with no real experience being considered to rebuild one of the most important websites in the UK… how far we had come.
As the bubble started to burst we sold the company and our careers took different paths, but the lessons we learned were invaluable. I moved into the corporate world with a career that has so far taken me to AOL, T-Mobile, Vodafone, O2 and most recently BSkyB. I've launched world-class digital products and led their digital transformations. But the experiences that counted more than any were those during those first 2 years.
Digital re-invented me; fast forward 15 years and the next generation of entrepreneurs are re-inventing the world around us. We are seeing analogue convert into digital, virtually every aspect of life is now being captured and stored in some digital form. And the Internet of Things opens up the possibility of a network of interconnected everyday objects.
For businesses, the possibilities are endless. New revenue streams, IT simplification, joined up cross-channel experiences, process re-engineering, and efficiencies that create opportunities to reinvest and deliver greater profitability.
Ernst & Young's white paper "The Digitisation of Everything" sums it up nicely - "The proliferation of digital channels, platforms and devices has produced a generation who are born ‘plugged-in”. This ‘Generation Y’ already plays a major role in accelerating the emergence of a new, digital world, and their impact is impossible to ignore."
By Darren Linden
Director of Transformation, e-Experience at Sky