When anything new comes along in business, whether it be a new technology, a new service, or a new idea, it disrupts the current offerings or thinking.
For example, when music became available as an mp3 download that people could share, it disrupted the entire music industry. They focused on protecting and defending the status quo as they tried to stop or slow the tech-driven change. When photography went digital, it disrupted the entire chemical-based photography business to the point that some well-known companies such as Polaroid perished. In this context, disruptive technology refers to things that can disrupt markets, companies, and industries, rendering cash cows obsolete very quickly.
If you asked CEOs what keeps them up at night, the majority would say it’s the potential impact a new disruptive technology can have on their company. They’ve seen disruptive technologies change industries and put companies out of business fast. They’ve also seen it put companies out of business slowly (think Kodak or Motorola).
But here’s the good news: Disruptive technology is only disruptive if you don’t know about it ahead of time. If you know about the disruption in advance, you can turn it into an opportunity. Being proactive here is vital, because once the disruption occurs; you’ll run out of time fast.
Based on the quarter of a century I’ve been predicting the future of technology and the disruptions they will create, I’m going to share two predictions right now that are based on certainty and that will cause disruption. They’ll also cause mass opportunity for those who take action now.
Prediction #1: There is a rapid computer hardware revolution taking place now. Decades ago, you could only use a computer by accessing a mainframe using a terminal. Eventually, desktop computers became powerful and networked enough to become the main computing tool of choice. Mainframes did not go away; we simply changed our primary interface device. Next came laptops. Mainframes and desktops still didn’t go away, but the laptop became the interface device of choice. Now, the power of a laptop is being put in the palm of our hand with smart phones and smart pads. And because they are a phone, multi-media computer, video conferencing platform, still and video camera, locator and navigator, and game and entertainment center that is with us 24/7, they are transforming how we live, work, and play.
The third element to this hardware revolution is just now emerging as the smart television, think iTV.
Today’s newer televisions are already Internet enabled.
(And, by the way, all our wired and wireless devices will be Internet enabled one day.)
That means the processor and the television browser are built into the TV set so you don’t have to plug a computer into your television; the TV is the computer.
Prediction #2: We’re in the midst of a computing software revolution that is spreading faster than anything we’ve seen before. We went from enterprise level software for mainframes to personal and business packages for our desktops and laptops. Now we have the app software revolution. Again, the old doesn’t go away, but the main tool we’re using is changing.
While the current mass-market apps are a great start (such as apps for organizing files or creating action lists), few companies are thinking about the evolution of apps and what the next generation of apps will be.
So what exactly will tomorrow’s apps look like from a business perspective?
The natural progression will be for what I’ve coined “Enterprise Level” apps. These are apps customized for such wide-scale applications as purchasing, logistics, supply chain management, patient care, sales, and military security, just to name a few. Tomorrow’s apps will be like having a virtual assistant by your side. These apps won’t just make you more productive with your work; they’ll actually do some of the work for you. For example, in the medical field, we’ll see apps for remote disease management, remote diagnostics, and mobile e-patient records. The app will be more like an essential tool to perform a specific function rather than an ancillary item.
Now, here’s the real revelation: While the mp3 disruption affected the music industry and the digital photography disruption affected the photography industry (and past disruptions have typically affected only one industry or sector), the computing hardware and software disruptions affect every company across the board.
Smart phones, smart pads, smart televisions, and apps are not limited to any one business. That’s why this is something everyone needs to have on their radar. This is tectonic in size and needs to be taken seriously. You can run for a while but you can’t hide. But really, you don’t want to run from it; you want to embrace it.
Yes, it’s human nature to protect and defend the status quo. Most people want to keep what they have and want things to remain just as they are now because change is hard and often expensive.
But realize that it can be more expensive if you do nothing.
Finally, these two technology driven trends are not ‘ifs’ or ‘maybes’; they are happening right now, whether you’re paying attention to them or not. Therefore, it’s imperative for business executives to understand the certainty of the revolutions, the predictability of the revolutions, and the disruptions as well as the opportunities they bring to all businesses…and take action now!
Daniel Burrusis one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and business strategists, and is the author of six books, including the highly acclaimed Technotrends. He is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients better understand how technological, social, and business forces are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. Burrus also founded of Visionary Apps, which seeks to utilize the constantly evolving Smart Phone, Smart Pad and Smart TV to bring never before seen opportunities designed to engage and empower the user in new and exciting ways in the fields of real estate, healthcare, purchasing, logistics, supply chain, sales, marketing, energy, security and many more.