Scotland: Stuck in the Digital Noughties?

Time Warp Poster

Is Scotland stuck in a digital noughties time warp?

Given the current obsession with eCommerce, it would seem so.

In the last eighteen months, we have seen:

If only it was that easy.

As described recently by an expert in the field, eCommerce is about ‘selling stuff online’. Are we really going to gamble the future export competitiveness of the Scottish economy on our ability to sell ‘stuff’? If so, a number of legitimate questions need to be addressed by those pushing the current eCommerce agenda:

  • Why have previous eCommerce initiatives failed? Please refer to the following two press releases from June 2000 – Nicol Stephen urges Scottish firms to make e-commerce their business and Henry McLeish launches drive to promote e-commerce. Why, 13 years later, has eCommerce not become ‘an integral part of the business community’?
  • Are we really that naïve (or arrogant) to think that there are 7 billion global customers just waiting to buy Scottish products online if only our companies would start ‘selling stuff’?
  • Do we actually have a critical mass of companies in Scotland who can significantly improve our export performance if only they would sell online? If so, why are they currently not doing it, 13 years after we made eCommerce a strategic priority for the Scottish economy?
  • Is it right to provide public sector support to such sleeping giants, if they actually exist?
  • Why does the Scottish Enterprise web page promoting Global eCommerce use a video of a brewery where you can only buy online from the UK mainland? Is there a problem exporting beer ‘stuff’ to 7 billion potential customers worldwide?

My own view, for what its worth, is that the current obsession with eCommerce is highly damaging to the future export competitiveness of the Scottish economy. It diverts attention away from the real digital challenge facing Scottish industry in global markets – how do we survive and prosper in an era of constantly connected, highly empowered global customers? This requires new approaches and new mindsets radically different from the current ‘build it and they will come‘, ‘sell stuff online‘ approach currently in vogue.

I am fully aware of the politically incorrect nature of this post. However, our future international competitiveness depends on thinking like Clayton Christensen and Brian Solis rather than Arthur Daley or ‘Del Boy’ Trotter.

Are we happy to pretend that 2013 is the same as 2000? Or are we willing to accept that it is now the End of Business as Usual?

Comments and feedback are very welcome (Please Note: due to a recent spam problem, all comments will require ‘approval’. We will normally do this same day).

Take care.

Dr Jim Hamill


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  1. Steven Curran
    November 27, 2013 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    Great article Jim. I strongly believe the reason that Scotland is in a digital/eCommerce time warp is due to the lack of talent available to them.

    Scotland is packed full of ‘digital gurus’ ‘digital strategy consultants’ and ‘eCommerce experts’ and in fact they are neither experts, gurus or consultants with little but no experience.

    Where do Scottish companies go for advice? Scottish Enterprise – I don’t think so. A digital agency? – The chances of finding an agency that can deliver results – Impossible. Hire a consultant? – Almost impossible to find a serious contender (that’s not already employed).

    I strongly believe Scottish businesses are (at most) actively trying to improve their digital and e-commerce propositions, the issue isn’t the want, its the delivery by poor ‘experts’.

  2. Jim Hamill
    November 27, 2013 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    Steven – thanks for taking the time to comment and I agree fully with the sentiments you express.

    There is a shortage of digital skills across the board in Scotland, but especially in the area of ‘digital leadership’ – people like yourself who can integrate digital with the core vision, strategy, objectives etc of the organisation; with a strong emphasis on performance measurement and ROI.

    Also – there is no accreditation system for the digital industry. Barriers to branding yourself as a digital expert are very low.

    In the New Year, we will be launching a Digital Academy to try and address these issues. Might be worth a chat if you are free to meet up sometime to discuss.

    Take care and again thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Jim H

  3. Steven Curran
    November 27, 2013 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    I would be delighted to be involved. Drop me a line. Regards

  4. Jim Hamill
    November 27, 2013 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    Will do Steven and thanks again.

    Take care.

    Jim H

  5. David Farrell-Shaw
    November 27, 2013 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    Brilliant article. I was involved in e-commerce in the previous century, and continue to this day. Scotland is, sadly, full of Arthur Daley MD types who expect online selling to be a breeze. They refuse to adapt to the culture changes required by businesses to be a power online.
    It has taken me until now (after my first taste of E-biz with Compaq in 1998) to work with a company that actually wants to do it right. Many of this company’s trade customers still order by fax!!!!!
    We have integrated CRM to the online Channel with seamless reporting via the Intranet. It’s not magic just good business practice. However, there are still many Scottish companies who think slipping an agency a couple of grand to built a website will result in huge sales increases. They need to change their mind set. E-business is just business and should be the norm instead of the realm of a few, really successful, companies.

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