February 13, 2013
You’re going to hear a lot about digital disruption in 2013. And not just from the traditional culprits, like Silicon Valley startups or Israeli engineers or Russian coders. You’ll hear about digital disruption from big companies like GM and G.E. Even agribusiness giant Monsanto has released apps designed to give farmers the digital tools they need to improve crop yield, right down to the square meter. Amid this digital melee, it's important to understand what digital disruption is and what it is not. Important enough that I've written a book about it.
If you’re not careful, when you hear stories about traditional companies like HBO setting up software development teams on the West Coast, you may conclude that digital disruption is about apps. Or if you listen too closely to the pitches at startup conferences, you may think that digital disruption is about social media. Or social TV. Or whatever new flavor excites the digital elite.
Be careful. Digital disruption is all of those things, but it’s much more than that. It’s a fundamental shift in the way consumers approach the market, empowered by digital tools and experiences that have led them to expect not only new levels of service but new types of services. Consumers are ready to put a digital mirror in the bathroom to help them make beauty decisions. They’re ready to let their mobile phones jack into their car operating systems to learn from and ultimately control the car. They’re ready to interact with favorite TV shows and even ads. Perhaps even more disruptive is the fact that they are ready to take those same technologies and expectations into the workplace, disrupting the way your business operates, making you faster and more responsive if you let them.
Even though digital disruption is bigger than most think, it is deceptively simple to harness. That’s because the tools of digital disruption are available to everyone.
Every day, the cost to take an idea from concept to final product or service falls even lower. Twentysomething kids are starting businesses on Kickstarter for $40,000. Digital experiences can be offered on whatever combination of devices makes sense to consumers – Web, mobile, TV, and beyond. Every company of every size has access to digital platforms like Google Play or the Apple App Store, which has paid over $7 billion to developers since 2008. And even the most physical products can and must be wrapped in digital product experiences that expand satisfaction in areas as everyday as fashion and healthcare or as specialized as military camouflage and cement manufacturing.
Not only will digital tools and platforms make it possible to create and deliver experiences faster but the collision of new competitors eyeing the digitally available consumer will accelerate this even more. Because the competition is motivating but also because many potential competitors will partner across digital lines to get there first.
That’s why 2013 will be a busy year. Companies will barely have time to realize digital disruption is happening to them before they’ll have to swiftly organize to join it.