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McKinsey Quarterly 2014 Number 4: Overview and full issue

By Martin Hirt and Paul Willmott

This issue of the Quarterly, available here as a PDF download, explores the expanding digital frontier and examines ongoing gender-equality efforts in Australia, the United States, and the Persian Gulf states.

Download the full issue of McKinsey Quarterly 2014 Number 4 (PDF–6.8MB).

Last year, we coauthored a Quarterly piece called “Strategic principles for competing in the digital age.” Our article was an effort to distill the opportunities, threats, strategic forces at work, and critical decisions facing leaders amid the ongoing digital revolution. It turned out that there was an appetite for such a synthesis: published exclusively online, this has been one of the most widely read articles or reports our firm released in 2014.

Since then, a number of colleagues around McKinsey have been working hard to advance our understanding of what it takes to compete on the digital edge. This issue of the Quarterly reflects some of those efforts:

  • Research from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) highlights the changing nature of global economic activity, particularly information flows, which are enabling new business models to take shape and rewriting the rules of globalization. A separate article, also based on MGI research, describes how Chinese companies are catching up with the country’s consumers in their embrace of the Internet—accelerating China’s economic transformation and shaking up the competitive landscape.
  • Fresh perspectives from our colleagues in McKinsey’s automotive and service-operations practices describe the trajectories of those critical sectors. Digitization in the auto industry is generating new forms of data, attracting new players, and demanding new forms of expertise. Many service-oriented companies, in turn, now confront a growing array of digital attackers, necessitating heightened levels of service innovation, greater personalization of the customer experience, and simplification of service delivery. The head of Starwood’s loyalty program provides a close-up view of these shifts in the hotel industry.
  • Articles in this issue’s Leading Edge section also present new findings on digital competition. Learn from our colleagues about, for example, the wide range of software-development performance across corporate IT departments and why that matters in a digital era. In the marketing arena, review the relationship between brand performance and digital capabilities, as well as the growing data-driven sophistication of pricing in emerging markets. From the operations world, investigate the rising importance of 3-D printing and the potential for advanced analytics to tame manufacturing complexity.

The intensification of digital competition in no way diminishes the importance of some very human organizational issues for senior leaders. One prominent example: the barriers holding back women as they climb the corporate ladder. A special package highlights new McKinsey research on gender diversity in the Gulf States of the Middle East, along with perspectives from Saudi Aramco’s most senior female leader. Also presented are views from three Australian companies whose male CEOs are part of a coalition to push the boundaries of gender diversity Down Under. And for companies taking stock as they set gender priorities, our colleague Lareina Yee proposes a corporate fitness test. All of these articles are a good reminder that even as technology and analytics advance, people are an ever more critical differentiator—both to exploit cutting-edge digital possibilities and to ensure organizational vitality in our rapidly changing times.

Download the full issue of McKinsey Quarterly 2014 Number 4 (PDF–6.8MB).

About the author(s)

Martin Hirt is a director in McKinsey’s Greater China office, and Paul Willmott is a director in the London office.