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Risk & the Illusion of Centralized Control

A key myth of modern business is that of centralized control in general and of brands, messages and media in particular.

In the past, while it was possible for ordinary consumers to hijack brands and messages, it was too hard, time-consuming and expensive for anyone to bother. Thus companies and their marketers assumed that they were in control.

Further, because marketing in traditional media was an expensive and time consuming activity only larger organisations could afford to it. This meant that there were high barriers to market entry for many smaller competitors.

With the advent of the Internet and web 2.0 we see power shifting away from the larger companies and towards smaller competitors and consumers. Lower marketing costs and broader reach with digital marketing mean that smaller companies can now compete more effectively with their bigger rivals.

Consumers are now using web 2.0 technology together with social networks and social media platforms to answer back to the marketers. And we are all still getting used to this new world of digital connections. (UPDATE: Check out what users can achieve, e.g. with this Comcast clip on YouTube – HT: Charlene Li)

There remain a lot of unanswered questions about doing business in the digital age. Some of the questions we need to ask about digital & online and their impact on enterprises are:

  • What elements of our brand & communications should we/can we try to control?
  • What are the boundaries between personal and business activities for our staff in relation to online?
  • How do our human resources practices and polices need to evolve as a result?
  • How do the demands of the digital age align with our corporate values & practices?
  • How do we protect our intellectual property in the digital age?
  • How do we control the risks in opening up our internal systems to the Internet & do we understand those risks properly?
  • Are our people skilled and educated to deal with these kind of issues, and if not how do we fix that?
  • What new technical and operational risks are we opening up for our business with digital and online channels?

There remains a lot of thinking about enterprise risk to be done in relation to digital. Seemingly simple decisions can have significant flow on risks for finance, operations and personnel.