Until recently, the buzz around digital disruption seemed largely confined to the game-changing proposition of Airbnb and Apple et al.
The narrative is now broadening, as continually transformative business interactions become a mainstream reality as technology fuses with our ever-growing imaginations.
Against a backdrop of instant gratification, where same day deliveries and more immersive and interactive shopping experiences become the norm, the repercussions of heightened customer expectation are rippling through the supply chain. As a result, the creation of new business models and changes in value streams have become a practical necessity for businesses of all scope and scale, if they are to meaningfully compete and thrive in today’s digital world with no industry immune.
In fact, the stark reality for today’s businesses is that failure to change can have far deeper repercussions than simply ‘missing out’. Any kind of inertia can be detrimental, swiftly rendering the enterprise irrelevant in the face of competition stealing a march by embracing the opportunities that exist. It’s a threat that is coming from all sides – the established industry scions with the resources and reach to spearhead true disruption fast and effectively, to the nimble innovation of new entrants on their coattails capitalising on the cheaper offering of platform providers. In short, the warnings that have rumbled on from a host of industry commentators are right: businesses really must disrupt or die.
Inevitably, we see many responding with a significant focus at the front end of their digital offering honing the omni-channel experience, bringing more consistent and contextual experiences across the different consumer channels, as well as a renewed focus on website design and aesthetics. Yet the sheer pace of change means that this applied in isolation is only scratching the surface. Ultimately our attention and investment need to go far deeper, right down to the backend systems of the enterprise if a business is to be fully primed and equipped to disrupt.
By its very nature, disruption is quick, which means getting more speed into the operation is vital. Rethinking the use of data and key business processes and ensuring your business infrastructure is as flexible as possible should be priorities. Think the microservices architectural approach – deconstructed business processes that can be developed, deployed and scaled independently to respond to new opportunities and threats at a much faster pace. Replacing large, single applications, with these configurable building blocks is a prerequisite to support the delivery of the 360-degree engagement and experience model that customers now demand.
Things get more interesting when you add real-time analytics to the mix in order to review the changes and assess the impact made. If true disruption hinges on fast responses and decision making, then the quality of data and contextual insight collated and at your fingertips, becomes one of your most potent weapons. Furthermore, it is a sure-fire way to motivate individuals in the enterprise to get more involved with this agenda and even drive the decision-making process.
It’s invaluable because not all the answers around digital transformation lie in the technology and technicalities alone. Disruption demands a truly holistic solution, including the human touch and the people behind the systems being empowered and on board.
Traditionally, people are resistant to change, but continuous reinvention demands a team that is comfortable with ambiguity and can thrive in a continuous state of flux. It’s a mindset that may well be inherent in some individuals, but such behaviours can also be cultivated.
With the size, silos and governance of many corporate cultures traditionally posing obstacles to agile thinking and processes, CEOs need to build teams whose job is to disrupt. People who are more than simply effective reactors to change, but actively look for new opportunities for reinvention and improvement and display an appetite for measured risks, perhaps motivated by reward mechanisms.
The fail fast mantra is pivotal here, so that corporate employees act like entrepreneurs in a start-up – trying something and quickly regrouping if it doesn’t work out, ready with the next iteration of the idea. A culture that celebrates this spirit and sees failure as a learning experience is vital to achieving this. With much made of today’s more digitally empowered consumers dictating the product and service, we mustn’t lose sight of the role organisations can play in innovating products. It’s never been easier or more cost-effective to test the market: revolution rather than the evolution must be the norm.