At some point, digital disruption comes for every organization. While some companies might be flexible and lucky enough to ride a wave of disruption and survive, if you are able to predict and prepare for it accordingly you might be able to use it to thrive.

Unless well planned and executed, digital disruption – the inevitable deluge of new tools and processes that is part and parcel of refining digital business processes – can be akin to managing a natural disaster.

“An incumbent’s guide to digital disruption”
McKinsey Quarterly, May 2016

For those prepared to leverage the new business environment that it can bring, however, it can drive tremendous and unexpected advancement within an organization. For those that are not ready for it, like natural disasters, the results are catastrophic.

But what exactly is ‘digital disruption’ and how can your organization best anticipate and react to it? The following sets out some recommended best practices to ensure a successful digital disruption plan is part of your overall innovation management and growth strategy.

Defining digital disruption

Tech Target’s SearchCIO defines digital disruption as implementing new digital tools that can drive change and affect the fundamental value proposition underlying the sale of goods and services.

It ranges in scale from minor improvements to customer-facing processes to innovations that are expected to ‘change the face’ of entire industries, such as the Internet of Things (IoT).

Clues for early identification

Although spotting digital disruptions is often a relatively simple task for astute market observers and laypeople, separating hype from reality to quantify which smaller tech changes are going to have far-reaching implications for an industry is an altogether more difficult and nuanced endeavor.

In practical terms, this might mean estimating where a prospective business process likely sits on the Gartner Hype Cycle to evaluate how close to peak productivity and maturity it is.

Business strategy decisions that may be considered include whether to actively work towards preparing for an expected disruption or to adopt a ‘watch and wait’ approach and see how market conditions evolve.

Gartner Hype Cycle

To help CIOs and other team members involved in planning the technological stack to identify digital disruption in time, Gartner recommends categorizing proposed change into a quadrant that distinguishes between business changes (those affecting the market, pricing, and delivery); technology changes (those affecting invention, design, usage, etc); industry changes (to processes, standards, and normal operating procedures) and society (cultural changes, etc).

Categorizing the vast sea of potential change facing any industry according to this rubric — and ensuring that a robust dialogue exists for collaboration between those responsible for managing innovation implementation and other parts of the organization — are key ways to make the process of planning reactions to digital disruption easier for all involved in corporate innovation.

Embracing Digital Disruption: A Five-Step Process

Once an expected digital disruptor has been identified, organizations should shift into the preparation phase during which internal processes are aligned and adjusted to best implement the newly identified digital process.

This cycle should involve the following steps: implementation, connectivity development, ensuring a ‘first and foremost’ focus on innovation, ideation and brainstorming, and finally, implementing a formal innovation management system.

  1. Get Lean:digital_disruption_implementation

    One of the most important factors when it comes to combating disruption is flexibility. There’s an ancient quote from Confucius which summarizes this principle perfectly:“The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.”

    Often the size and infrastructure of a large organization becomes a weakness rather than a strength when a business landscape becomes disruptive. It is important for all companies in this day and age to maintain lean and agile methodologies to ensure that they are flexible enough to adapt to any change which comes their way. This is not to say that all companies should go on spree of discharging employees, but they should at least attempt to break down any obstacles which might appear if they need to take this course of action at short notice.

  2. Total connectivity:digital_disruption_connectivity

    Staying connected to the market, business partners, and customers is also essential to doing digital disruption ‘right’ before the tides of change begin shifting.Changing business models can result in a massive shift, for example, the total embrace of digital cameras over cameras which used rolls of film which led to the demise of Kodak is one of the most commonly encountered and oft-cited examples of digital disruption. Maintaining a constant dialogue and remaining in constant contact with your customers, alongside making market research an ongoing priority, are both vital steps towards ensuring that sudden pivots do not take your business – and its bottom line – by surprise.

  3. Constantly plan for innovation: digital_disruption_plan_innovationTo successfully implement digital disruption, innovation must be prioritized and ideally be enshrined as a formal discipline (or at the very least as a formal job description, such as Chief Innovation Officer, or CINO) within an organization. Qmarkets’ experience working with companies which are implementing formal innovation management programs has borne out the truthfulness of the belief, that efficiently handling disruptive digital business practices is far more straightforward for companies that have already made some manner of a formal, systematic efforts towards undertaking innovation development.A constant focus innovation involves placing innovation as a management priority and ensuring that the organization as a whole is working towards ensuring the fulfillment of the strategy for its achievement.
  4. Use ideation and digital brainstorming:digital_disruption_brainstorming

    Brainstorming is one of the key disciplines in leading a successful innovation program. It is also an incredibly useful means for different business departments to share information, alongside insights on what digital disruptions they see advancing from over the horizon. This can contribute a great deal towards facilitating improved responsiveness of the business unit as a whole, while also allowing for cross-pollination of information and ideas between disconnected silos.Scheduling regular brainstorming sessions between different departments and teams is an important tool to facilitate cooperation between various elements within your organization during the often fast-moving process of responding to disruptive changes in the digital business environment.

    Complete rollout of a platform, across all the elements within your organization, will ensure that not only can you absorb the shock and upheaval of incoming digital disruption, but will also assist you in launching your own digital disruptions onto the marketplace.

  5. Implement Disruption:digital_disruption_idea_innovation_management

    Finally, the most important step is to actually implement the new technologies, practices, or processes which have been identified through the previous steps. At a minimum, this should include provisioning the appropriate internal resources to welcome the change, ensuring compatibility between existing systems and those expected to come to market, and preparing best and worst-case scenarios for how the competitive landscape may evolve in reaction to the change.

In conclusion

Harnessed properly, digital disruption can be an enabler of rapid technological and business advancement within the organization. Failing to prepare for it, however, is simply preparing to fail. Use of an idea and innovation management system, such as Qmarket’s Q-max, provides numerous benefits for enterprise-grade organizations. Using an innovation management platform, companies can brace for the impact of incoming disruptions, minimizing potential damages and helping the company weather the storm. At the same time, using such a platform can help organizations with their own digital disruptions.