Digital Disruption

Are you ready for Digital Change ?

As business owners we are not really comfortable with the word “disruption”, however there is a relatively new “kid” on the block, meet Mr Digital Disruption.

What is Digital Disruption?

Digital disruption is the process of change that occurs when new digital technologies and business models affect or change the value proposition of existing goods and services of a business and / or industry.

If you look at the definition then one might think that it is a good “change” because technology will most probably add value to your business. But the word “disruption” is there for a reason.

Disruption refers to the negative effect that the digital world will have on a business and employees. It is possible that automation or digital disruption will make certain positions redundant and the turnover of some industries will also be negatively affected.

Examples of Digital Disruption

To explain this even further one can look at a number of examples:


In 2012 the well-known Kodak company, filed for bankruptcy. Kodak was slow to adopt digital technologies and believed that film cameras will still be the future. Other companies such as Canon did realise the possible disruption and adapted to digital, and as we know Canon is today a very profitable company.

Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers spend years in research and marketing and was a well-known brand. Then along came the Loose It app. Within four years the app managed to attract an estimated 13 million customers of Weight Watchers.

The music and film industry

As music move towards digital platforms the sharing of music is not only a concern to artists but also manufacturers of CD / DVD players and music retailers. Thus, the whole supply chain of music is affected, and again people lose their jobs due to this change.

Will digital disruption affect my business?

Indications are that most industries and businesses will be affected, however to what extend the change will be, remains yet to be seen.

It is predicted that road, sea and air cargo transport companies will see a gradual decline in business in the years to come. 3D Printing is becoming very popular not only to commercial users but also to the end user, the home user. The accessibility and ease of use of 3D printers allow business owners to “print” their own products, parts, accessories or whatever. So the need to transport items, due to 3D printing, will become less. One can then argue that logistics companies and manufactures will be digitally disrupted by 3D printing.

Most consumers are already part of this “disruption process”. A good example is the insurance industry. Some insurance companies offer incentives if users install tracking systems in their cars that monitor their driving behaviour. Good driving behaviour will be rewarded with cheaper premiums. In my opinion however these systems are designed to favour the insurance company and not so much the consumer, so the consumer will be disrupted if he/she is not a good driver according to the insurance company.

Another very good example is Uber. The worldwide taxi industry did not anticipate the massive disruption of Uber on their industry. Worldwide Uber is getting resistance from taxi operators but this will not derail them soon. In a nutshell, Uber uses smartphones to determine your location
and then link you to the closest available Uber driver. The Uber driver is self-employed with his / her own car and is registered on the Uber digital network.

Preparing for Digital Disruption.

Business owners must take ownership of Digital Disruption. What I mean is that businesses must accept the fact that we live and operate in a digital world and that business will be affected one way or the other.

How you prepare for this disruption will ultimately determine the extent to which you will be affected.There is a saying; “If you can’t beat them, join them” and this is true when it comes to Digital Disruption, because let’s face it, Digital Disruption is here to stay, whether you like it or not.

Preparing for this disruption is not only the responsibility of business owners but essentially everyone in the organisation, i.e. if you want to remain competitive. There are no clear cut processes to follow in order to prepare for it, but businesses can consider some of the following:

a. Be innovative – Digital Disruption or not, businesses should continuously innovate new products and services as well as improving existing products or services.

b. Keep yourself informed – What worked 5 years ago will not necessarily work 5 years from now. Stay up to date with the latest trends in your specific industry.

c. Evaluate your competition – Keep a close eye on your competition and try to be one step ahead of them.

d. Rethink strategies – Strategic planning is essential for the success of any business, however these strategies should be evaluated and changed continuously to remain competitive. Attention should be given to minimise cost and maximise revenue.

To conclude.

You will still do business tomorrow, next week, next month and hopefully next year but as a business owner and employee it is your responsibility to understand and accept that change is coming. So, how are you going to prepare for the change, and will the change be positive or negative?

You decide.

Author, Fritz Els 18 August 2015