Liveworx | Digital Disruption Decoded

Digital disruption is highly misunderstood. While disruption (n) has a negative connotation, digital disruption is considered a “positive” factor. In his book titled “The Digital Transformation Playbook: Rethink Your Business for the Digital”, author David L. Rogers rightly says that digital is not about companies simply upgrading their technology stack, but more importantly “elevating their strategic thinking”. Managing innovation is essential in building a sustainable response that recognizes the inherent strengths in streamlining transformational initiatives to drive “value” for customers, partners, and stakeholders. Of course, there is no universal “mantra” to help companies define this journey. This blog summarizes some key tenets that help demystify digital transformational initiatives.

When and where does the digital tornado hit?

In 2015, in an article titled “Digital Vortex – How Digital Disruption is Redefining Industries”, the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation prophesied that technology and consumer-centric industries like M&E, Hospitality, Travel, Retail-CPG would have higher impact and immediacy from digital disruption when compared to high-asset industries like O&G, Utilities or regulated industries like Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals.  In 2019, we see that the immediacy of digital transformation is high across the board. Even regulated and asset-intensive industries are accelerating adoption to drive innovation in their businesses. For an airliner, digital touchpoint starts the moment they onboard a customer, while for a Utility, understanding prosumer dynamics and demand-supply patterns creates differentiation.

As per David Yockelson, a researcher at Gartner, Digital Disruptors are organizations that have leveraged digital to drive fundamental shifts – intentionally or otherwise – in their markets. It is not necessarily an overhaul of technology, but a combination of technology changes and the adoption of new business models. Every business will have its ‘Kodak’ moment that will be their tipping point for transformation (or extinction).

The digital impact is not necessarily disruptive in nature. Scores of companies have adopted technology to drive innovations not just within themselves, but also across the ecosystem. Manufacturing companies are taking a leaf out of Amazon’s supply chain to drive their efficiencies. O&G companies are collaborating with automotive majors to drive consumer synergies that share the same ecosystem. In the medical field, cognitive computing is changing the way patients are diagnosed, treated, and monitored.

In summary, enterprises should neither wait for the tornado nor pray it will move away. The entry barrier to exploring new digital technologies is diminishing given the maturity and quantum of platforms and services via the cloud. It’s possible for corporates to respond to disruptive forces by following four simple tenets:

1. Challenge the “Status-Quo”

(a) Start at the very top. Re-define your company mission to suit the digital era. Apple is not a computer company, but one that seeks “to make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.” The mission defined the foresight to expand into consumer electronics categories beyond its original roots.

(b) Identify your competitive differentiation. Many believe digital transformation creates competitive differentiation. Maybe this is true. However, every enterprise has a set of unique differentiators that distinguish itself from its peers and competitors. Porshe and BMW claim leadership in luxury and performance segments. For Porshe, the focus is on amassing driver data for real-time driver segmentation and offering customers what they want in these segments. BMW, on the other hand, is learning every detail about car-performance based on VIN, integrating dealer information, web and social media to provide customized offers for customers.

(c) Create a culture of innovation. Reframe your collective mindset to succeed with digital disruption. Successful disrupters like AWS have created a culture of innovation that is embedded in every employees’ day-to-day activities. Paradoxical, yet studies have shown that the IT function has not been an active part of innovation discussions in many enterprises. The advent of big data and analytics in the center of digital transformation in recent months has forced executives to rethink IT function. Three levers to develop an innovative digital culture include rethinking business strategies, adopting entrepreneurial processes, and focusing on talent management.

(d) Most importantly, break functional silos. The significance of digital adoption is centered around the power of data. An equipment manufacturer struggled for years because product data was not available to service engineers and vice-versa, costing the company millions in servicing their customers. With the breaking of the silos, the service teams were able to provide more value-added and informed services, while the product team got insights to continuously improve product features.

2. Time-box Innovation based on “Value” and “Outcome”

Scores of enterprises have lost time, money, and effort in initiating numerous PoCs only to find a lack of business support and funding to scale. This is because they failed to engage the right stakeholders, and set the right outcome and value expectations. As companies mature in their journey, they are seeking defined and measurable outcomes. Also in vogue is an outcome-based model to drive proof-of-value (PoV) instead of the traditional PoCs. Experts recommend selecting an area(s) that give you a competitive advantage, focusing on ideas that leapfrog ahead, because traditional incremental thinking runs the risk of irrelevance and being Agile – experiment, evaluate, iterate, improve. 

3. Listen to your customers

In today’s connected world, the success of products and services is a function of “innovative features” at relative “price-points”. The gap-to-market between leaders and followers is fast diminishing. Hence, it’s imperative for firms to stay connected with their customers. At Panera Bread, the customer experience was suffering due to long order and wait times. Being a data-driven company, they studied the problem using customer data and launched an ‘order-ahead’ mobile app, greatly decreasing order and wait times.

4. Recognize it’s all about Data

Forbes calls “data” the currency of tomorrow. Enterprises have no dearth of data (especially OT data). Today, it is more about how one understands and uses it. Recent surveys show 85% of businesses seek to be data-driven, but only 37% of them have been successful. Bottom line - change your perspective of data from an “output product” to being a “strategic enabler.”

IoT WoRKSTM, is a dedicated Internet of Things (IoT) business unit of HCL Technologies that enables organizations maximize effectiveness and returns on their asset investment by co-creating best-in-class IoT driven solutions with our customers. Rated a leader consecutively for three years by leading analyst firms, we help design enterprise IoT strategy, develop and run the IoT systems for realizing real business value.


  • Leading through Digital Disruption – Edited by Janelle B Hill, Gartner Research
  • Navigating Digital Disruption - How to thrive through Innovation Management –by Pragna Kolli and Saikat Chaudhari
  • Decoding Digital Disruption – A BusinessWorld article published on 15th May 2019 

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