Forrester: Prepare for digital disruption in your business

The digital revolution will impact every business sector. CIOs must adapt to support digital products

The digital revolution will impact every business, not just those that deal with consumers directly, according to James McQuivey, principal analyst at Forrester.

An online study from Forrester has found that 89% of people believe “digital” will change their industry.

Digital disruption is one of the major themes at this year's Forrester CIO Summit Emea, taking place in Paris. Addressing delegates, McQuivey said: “Mark Zuckerberg represents the face of digital disruption. Facebook is a company which has amassed 900 million customers in four years.”

Digital rewrites the rules of innovation

While there have always been disruptive technologies, such as the locomotive or the light bulb, the cost of entering the market has previously remained very high, which meant few ideas were successful. 

But McQuivery claimed digital disruption rewrites the rules of innovation. “Digital is better, faster and stronger. Today there many more people, who for much lower cost per idea, can bring products to market,” he said.

The people in business responsible for product ideas will want to emulate some of the success of products like the Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad, Facebook and Microsoft Kinect, which have attracted millions of new customers in a very short period of time. 

But IT will be seen as a barrier, he warned. Forrester's study found that only 33% of companies think they have the policies to adapt to digital.

Not only will IT need to adapt policies to support digital disruption, said McQuivery, but CIOs will need to choose the right business partners to outsource work to, due to the pace of digital disruption. 

Rather than deliver one big digital product to the business, he said successful digital disruption is more iterative, where some ideas are allowed to fail. For instance, an app could be enhanced over time to bring on new features to create a more integral customer experience.

IT's role in digital disruption

Speaking of her own experience at Dell, Adriana Karaboutis, vice-president and CIO at the technology supplier, said: “IT [at Dell] had to move from being an organisation that gathered specifications, to understanding what people in the business wanted to achieve to help Dell's customers.”

Dell once had what was considered the world's best supply chain system, but as the company evolved from a product-focused PC supplier to become more services-led, Karaboutis said IT was inadequate. 

“From an internal perspective, all my systems understand products, but now I had to think about recurring billing and services. The real key to success was to look at understanding our new business model,” she said.

The experts warn that just bolting on a digital disruption strategy is not likely to succeed unless IT looks at how existing IT-enabled business processes will be affected.

Image: Hemera/Thinkstock

Read more on Business applications