A Digital Business Primer


Brian Armstrong & Gregory Lee

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ISBN of hardcopy: 978-0-620-91112-2

Welcome to A Digital Business Primer, a thrilling new text on the fourth industrial revolution and its intersections with business, organizational strategy, and digital transformation and change.

It has become practically axiomatic that technology is a pervasive and accelerating influence on organizations, with wide-reaching impacts on every level of management and business function, from product design and customer experience to HRM, finance and all other areas of organizational functioning.

However, there are so many unknowns and underdeveloped areas of knowledge within the arenas of digitalization and the fourth industrial revolution. What do these things refer to in the first place? What really are the implications for organizational strategy – does strategy change fundamentally, or rather adapt traditional thinking and models to new realities? How do organizations effectively and correctly transform themselves to these forces, in order to thrive in our new realities?

Therefore, this book addresses these questions in five parts comprising thirteen  chapters:

Part I contains a chapter giving an introduction to digitalization and digital business.

Part II then expands on some of the major technologies powering the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), in three chapters:

  • Chapter 2 discusses three foundational 4IR technologies, namely cloud computing, robotic process automation, and cybersecurity.
  • Chapter 3 discusses the ‘virtuous triangle’ of big data, the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).
  • Chapter 4 covers other 4IR technologies, including blockchain, additive manufacturing, virtual and augmented reality, and neurotech.

Part III consists of selected chapters which provide specific topics on strategy in the digital age:

  • Chapter 5 discusses disruption and strategy.
  • Chapter 6 expands the discussion on exponentials, abundance, and convergence
  • Chapter 7 discusses business models, including some new business model thinking in the fourth industrial revolution.
  • Chapter 8 unpacks platform businesses in detail.
  • Chapter 9 covers exponential organizations.

Part IV covers selected topics in digital transformation and change management.

  • Chapter 10 discusses the process of digital transformation.
  • Chapter 11 discusses the dimensions, factors and measurement of digital maturity.
  • Chapter 12 discusses and displays the tool of organizational architecture, which provides a broad tool and canvas for transformation and change projects.
  • Chapter 13 discusses lean innovation, focusing on practical techniques for rapid but well-validated design, business model development, and scaling in the digital era.

There are several challenges with writing a book such as this. One of these is the sheer breadth of the ground that needs to be covered. We endeavor here to provide sufficient breadth and depth on the key topics of business in the digital era. However, it is clearly impossible to cover all of the material in great depth, and so we provide extensive references for readers interested in particular areas to explore further.

Another challenge is the rate of change of most of the topics we address. Most of them are very ‘live’ areas of current research. The definitive body of knowledge has not been completed. Technology is evolving ever more rapidly, and organizational responses to that process of change are therefore always dynamic and accelerating. We acknowledge that many of the specifics covered herein will therefore date reasonably quickly. Nevertheless, we believe that the underlying principles will be more durable and provide a solid foundation for business leaders contemplating the transformation of their organizations for a digital future. This text is essential reading for our time.

Intended Audience

Digital Business has a wide potential audience. It seeks first and foremost to present an holistic view of the practice of organizational strategy and business in the digital and fourth industrial revolution era. When we say organizations, we mean a wide array of organizational forms ranging from for-profit businesses and firms to non-profit, government, and other public organizations (see Appendix A at the end of the book for some of these definitions). When we say ‘business’, too, we mean both for-profit business activities as well as others (the business of government, the business of philanthropy, and so forth).

Therefore, this book is appropriate and important for managers and members of all types of organizations, business owners, business students, consultants, 4IR experts, government leaders, and others who are affected by the ongoing technological revolution of our age. The text not intended to be a technical guide to digitalization, and, therefore, is not targeted at technical experts in any field. Although the book does seek to demystify the technological elements of our time and place them into a business and organizational context, these discussions are aimed at organizational leaders and others mentioned above for the purposes of equipping them to lead and manage the wide range of organizational projects that involve and are affected by digitalization.

This edition of Digital Business makes extensive reference to this topic within the context of the South African economy and its organizations, while still employing a wide variety of developed world examples. These geographic specificities mean that this version will be especially relevant to South African readers, although the nature of the South African economy suggests strongly that these local elements could be extremely relevant to other emerging market contexts. An international edition of Digital Business will be forthcoming shortly for those wishing an greater emphasis on developed world contexts and illustrations.

Weight 2 kg
Dimensions 28 × 2 × 19 cm


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