Are you interested in disruptive technologies? Of course you are, or at least you should be! And you would like to know more about both what disruptive technologies are happening right now and what kind of disruptive technology that we can expect looking forward? Yes, but so what? We are in the age of the customer, of rapid changes of customer behavior and technology that doesn’t “behave” the way we are used to. So we need to think ahead and understand the trends and the mechanisms behind them. But where do we start?
Understanding disruptive technology is understanding trends and change. I would recommend you reading Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy by McKinsey MGI, if you have the time. It’s a full report (or more of a book) that in 176(!) pages discuss this topic. In essence it “…describes 12 technologies that could drive truly massive economic transformations and disruptions in the coming years.” McKinsey also “…estimate that, together, applications of the 12 technologies discussed in the report could have a potential economic impact between $14 trillion and $33 trillion a year in 2025.“ Impressive figures(!), but I’m quite sure that it might even be more. Disruptive technology has always exceeded imagination and with today’s pace of both business and technology, it makes sense that we will see quite dramatic changes in many areas. The convergence between the computer industry with music, TV, news as well as how we communicate and consume information is not surprising really, but the way it happens and the pace is faster then ever. It is also more ground breaking then believed before. Who thought that the “good old” music industry should change that fast or that iPhone was a start of whole new way of communicating and getting information? Again, if you like to know more about in innovation ten or fifteen years ahead, I think you should read the report by McKinsey regardless if you agree with what it tells or not.
The age of the customer
George Colony CEO at Forrester says in his blog post Tech management in the age of the customer – “We are now in the age of the customer – with buyers using technology to gain control over institutions.”. So very true, today any (and almost every) customer has a smart-phone, who would have known that 2007? That is just six years ago! And there are many other examples. The customer has always been the one that decides what he like own. Companies can drive demands, create new markets and so on, but the customer makes the decisions on what products it likes and purchases. It’s of course a matter of why that product he likes is the right one or not, but the change is how buyers to makes that decision today compared with just some years ago. Many of us – me included – looks on the web at home before purchasing anything “big” and if I’m at a store to buy something more spontaneous, I’m usually takes my phone to check prices and delivery times from other stores. So yes, it’s the time of the customer more than ever! The customers has the knowledge available in his hands. Customers aren’t fouls, they know how to use technology. A good example is the iPhone and I just have to give you all a quick reminder what Steve Ballmer @ Microsoft said after the iPhone was presented. Today, he probably regret most of what he said, but disruptive technology can be a fearsome beast regardless if you have a strategy or not.
Also, as Mr Colony says, the techie people at any company today need to understand Business Technology (BT) as well as its IT (infrastructure). It’s vital that the rest of the executives does the same and includes it into its strategy thinking. I’m not sure if I agree with Mr Colony that all companies in the future will be software companies, but he do have a point. Without software most companies will not work today and in the future it will become even more important. Enterprise architecture becomes even more important, as it will contain methods about how to create that roadmap for both BT and IT.
Prepare and practice change, tame the beast!
To prepare for the future it is very important and it includes following trends in your industry (but not limited to it), to understand the customer and its use of technology in any industry. This is not an easy task, this needs to be understood and on top of. Any Chief Strategy Officer knows this, but it’s a matter of how that Chief Strategy Officer is heard by the senior executive management or not. Do you have such a Chief Strategy Officer in your organization? If so, is that person visible and heard? Do you have the right intelligence about the market and the changes? Have you done the analysis of the impact on your business? If you have, how do you prepare, what do you do? Where do you start?
I like this short statement by Gilbert Lenssen, the president of The Academy of Business in Society; “Any analysis of the business environment that affects your strategy needs to look at your business model. What externalities does your business model produce, what risks are you exposed to, and then how do you change your business model accordingly.” I do agree fully, it’s all about changing the business model, shake it to the roots of the company if needed, making changes to the core Business Operating Model as a company might be needed including changing organization and top management. All in the name of disruptive technologies you say? Yes if you like to be in business in an ever-changing and even faster business environment where many kids are better in technology then parents and companies. It’s a hype you say? No, it’s fact and happening now. And will continue to be disruptive regardless what you might think. So you better understand the trends in your industry, the need from the customers and always practice and implement change! Change management has never been as important as today. Innovation has never been as important either and the strategies for any company or organization has to prepare for ground shaking changes needs to be in place or at least a plan to do so.
Disruptive technology is a fearsome beast, but with huge rewards if handled in the right way! It might even change the world, as it has done many times before in the history.
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