Strategic use of disruptive technologies can transform business

by Sohini Bagchi    May 24, 2013

disruptive tech

New and innovative technologies are constantly evolving in the market. However, not every emerging technology will alter the business landscape. Experts believe that only a few technologies will have the potential to disrupt the status quo and add value to business. At the same time, when disruptive technologies are used in a strategic way, keeping in mind the value they would bring to business, economy and the society, these technologies can lead to tremendous benefits. It is therefore critical that business decision makers understand which technologies will matter to them and prepare accordingly.

Transforming businesses and society

A recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute titled “Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy,” identifies certain technologies that could drive truly massive business and economic transformations and disruptions in the coming years. James Manyika and Richard Dobbs, authors of the report believe that some of these technologies have been gestating for years and thus will be familiar, whereas others are more surprising.

The authors of the report provides an example of advanced robotics that can generate significant societal benefits, as well as organizational benefits, including robotic surgical systems that make procedures less invasive, as well as robotic prosthetics that restore functions of amputees and the elderly.

Another disruptive technology for the healthcare sector which again has tremendous societal benefit is the next-generation genomics that combines with rapidly advancing computational and analytic capabilities. This would be a breakthrough in health diagnostics and treatments, potentially creating opportunities to improve the performance of agriculture and the like, say the authors of the report. The McKinsey report also mentions energy-storage technologies, such as lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells, power electric and hybrid vehicles, which in the coming decade can make electric vehicles cost competitive, bring electricity to remote areas of developing countries, and improve the efficiency of the utility grid.

Companies need to make deliberate decisions about how they fit with their expected needs in the near future.
-David Cearley, VP and Gartner Fellow

Gartner has mentioned the disruptive technologies that will shape the enterprise landscape in the coming year and thereafter. In early 2013, the research firm identified mobile-centric applications and interfaces, cloud centric innovative, social advancement and UC and collaboration platforms as the top 5 disruptive technologies in the coming year. David Cearley, Research VP, Gartner mentioned in his report that most of the enterprise innovation will be centered around these technologies and IT leaders should factor into their strategic planning processes over the next two years.

Cearley said that these technologies are emerging amidst a nexus of converging forces - social, mobile, cloud and information. Although these forces are innovative and disruptive on their own, together they are revolutionizing business and society, disrupting old business models and creating new leaders. As such, the Nexus of Forces is the basis of the technology platform of the future. However, this does not necessarily mean enterprises should adopt and invest in all of the listed technologies. Therefore, he points out that companies need to make deliberate decisions about how they fit with their expected needs in the near future.

Getting ready for disruption

The potential benefits of the technologies are tremendous—but so are the challenges of preparing for their impact. Therefore experts caution that if not used strategically, disruptive technologies may lack refinement and may not find a practical application.

James Manyika and Richard Dobbs also mention that for disruptive technologies to become meaningful, businesses and government should plan for these in advance as it will be too late to capture the benefits of these technologies are exerting their full influence on the economy.According to them, business leaders should keep their organizational strategies updated in the face of continually evolving technologies, ensure that their organizations continue to look ahead, and use technologies to improve internal performance.

“Organizations will often need to use business-model innovations to capture the business value from these technologies. For that decision makers need to plan for a range of scenarios, abandoning assumptions about where competition and risk could come from, and not be afraid to look beyond long-established models. Organizations will also need to keep their employees’ skills up-to-date and balance the potential benefits of emerging technologies with the risks they sometimes pose,” state the authors.

The McKinsey report also mentions that policy makers can use advanced technology to address their own operational challenges. For example, they can deploy the Internet of Things to improve infrastructure management. The nature of work will continue to change, and that will require strong education and retraining programs.

To address challenges that the new technologies themselves will bring, policy makers can use some of those very technologies—for example, by creating new educational and training systems with the mobile Internet, which can also help address an ever-increasing productivity imperative to deliver public services more efficiently and effectively. In other words, to develop a more meaning view of technology’s impact, governments may also consider new metrics that capture more than GDP effects.

In this regard, IT and business strategy expert Dion Hinchcliffe observes that the main challenge posed by technology advancement is the pace at which it is happening. And it is the smart enterprises and institutions that are constantly driving innovation and bringing the greatest value in business, economy and society with the help of disruptive technologies.