Are you a Digital Disruptor or Dud?

I spent last week out in San Francisco at the annual RSA conference. And while the conference offered lively discussion and perspective on the security market, it was the conversation I heard outside Moscone that intrigued me most. For starters, I scarcely had a cab ride where the driver was not lamenting Uber and its ride-sharing model.

“They don’t have to follow the same rules. They can raise their rates based on demand. They don’t have to carry as much insurance or have car inspections,” were common sentiments.

This got me thinking; these are the sounds of disruption.

It’s probably how the hallways at Borders Books sounded in the wake of Amazon. It’s what you might have heard from bored Blockbuster clerks after the rise of Netflix. And how it sounded in the newsrooms of now-dead publications replaced by cheaper, more nimble and more engaging online competitors.

Or maybe there wasn’t a sound at all. As Larry Downes and Paul F. Nunes wrote in their 2013 Harvard Business Reviewarticle Big Bang Disruption, “… entire product lines—whole markets—are being created or destroyed overnight. Disrupters can come out of nowhere and instantly be everywhere. Once launched, such disruption is hard to fight.”

I’m sympathetic to the cabbies’ pleas. But, as one particularly astute driver from Macau said, “By the time they level the playing field, we’ll be gone.”

Every analog business faces massive digital disruption. More to the point, they face a choice—evolve or perish. In fact, in its January report “Gartner Predicts 2014, Strategic Planning Assumptions,” Gartner predicted that by 2017, 20 percent of all market leaders will lose their number one position to a company founded after the year 2000 because of a lack of digital business advantage.

Also by 2017, 25 percent of all companies will lose massive amounts of market share because of what they term “digital business incompetence.” And by 2017, corporate strategists will conduct daily competitive scans because of a loss of sustainable competitive advantage.

In other words, the world will be evolving so rapidly there will be no static finish line to cross for anybody. Even Uber will have to look over its shoulder at the next new thing.

So what does that mean for the more traditional industries, where innovation and continual re-invention aren’t a common, everyday practice? What does this mean for automotive, health care, energy and manufacturing sectors—the physical economies—that play a vital role in our economy, employment levels and our critical infrastructure?

It means that even if you don’t see change coming, it’s coming. And from my vantage point, it means there are a few things traditional enterprises need to do… and do quickly.  Imperatives include:

  • >Create a secure exchange:  Businesses today are not an island.  The most successful are dealing with lots of pieces for lots of places.  And hence they need to offer a simple, unified digital experience to their value chain (suppliers, partners, customers and franchisees) – one digital identity for everything these critical audiences need to work with you online.
  • Tailor solutions to your customer: Get role-relevant information to these audiences, wherever they want it, whenever they want it and on any device they choose.
  • Make security paramount: Now that you’ve engaged your customer, secure them – treat their information as the most-valuable asset that it is, while protecting yourkey systems and information (see: Target and how its value-chain security failed it).
  • Empower disruption: Don’t just give your customers the ability to adapt to fundamental shifts in their market. Provide solutions that secure, connect and drive collaboration across their entire value chain. Give them ability to create a little disruption of their own and move them from defense to offense.

Disruption is coming, and it’s creating a whole new class of winning enterprises. What are you doing to ensure you’re in the winners’ circle?