CIOs need to plan and prepare for disruption

A recent survey indicates that a number of CIO’s don’t think their industry is facing the prospect of disruption, meaning they're not preparing appropriately. Disruption is a reality, you must prepare and adapt.

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“In a recent survey by CIO UK Magazine 24 percent of CIOs didn’t think that their industry was facing the prospect of disruption but new technology has had a democratizing effect on ideas, funding and the creation of new products and services and every business, from Financial Services all the way through to Space and the Automotive industries have already been disrupted. There is no hiding place, you must Adapt.”

By anyone’s measure 24 percent is a high number, so it surprised me that of all of the UK CIOs surveyed 24 percent “don’t think that their organization is facing the prospect of disruption.” When you realize that the CIOs surveyed represent companies who collectively turn over trillions of dollars worth of revenue that means that new market entrants could walk almost unopposed into markets worth many hundreds of billions of dollars.

The CIO office sits at the intersection of technology and the business, but if the majority of CIOs don’t feel that their industry or business is facing the “prospect of being disrupted” then it’s unlikely that they’re preparing an appropriate defense or offense. If this is the case, by the time your business does begin to feel the implications of disruption it’s safe to say that it’s going to take you too long to transform and respond by which time you’ll inevitably witness the erosion of your core revenues, a decline in share price, mechanical restructuring and layoffs. If you’re the CEO then all of this is bad news but for the new breed of entrepreneurs your inability to react quickly to changing market conditions or opportunities is a godsend.

Whichever continent, whichever industry and whichever demographic or social group you look at, the signs of disruption are everywhere and it’s accelerating at a frenetic pace driven by a new wave of global 21st century entrepreneurs who last year registered over 100 million new companies and who are all being powered by the same new democracy, but unlike the political democracies that we’re used to in the west this democracy is unstoppable, sweeping across China, Africa and the Middle East and at its heart is technology.

Today, technology is becoming increasingly ubiquitous and as it does so new social, mobile and cloud based technology platforms are helping people around the world collaborate and communicate easier and faster than ever before, find funding, information and expertise faster than ever before and helping them create, build, distribute and sell new products and services faster than ever before. This democratization – of ideas, resources and channels is fuelling a new innovation arms race unlike any we’ve seen before.

The new democracy

This ‘technocratic democracy’ is helping people and communities disrupt your industry and your organization faster than ever before because when you connect billions of people together in real time the next great idea and the resources needed to design, build, promote and sell it, as well as the consumers needed to buy it are potentially just a click away.

The people have a voice. They have ideas. They have resources and they have funding. They have the power to create, and hundreds of millions of them are. They also have the support of governments and hundreds of billions of dollars of funding from investors around the world. They’re disrupting everything and they’re using new tools and technologies to build agile businesses that have already generated trillions of dollars’ worth of new value. The next generation of business leaders aren’t coming they’re already here and Airbnb, Alibaba, Box, Dropbox, Facebook, FireEye, Hailo, LinkedIn, Lyft, Palantir, Ratesetter, Service Now, SpaceX, Square, Tesla, Twitter, Uber, Whatsapp, Waze and Workday are just the beginning.

Six degrees of separation

Globally only 39 percent of the world’s population is connected - in Asia only 27 percent of people are connected and in Africa that figure falls to below 13 percent, so as you can see and, whether your organization likes it or not, the fact is that we’ll see billions more people coming online so the rate and breadth of peer to peer led industrial innovation and disruption is only going to increase. It’s a wave that your organization can either ride or, as we’re seeing all too often, get swept aside or crushed by.

If we step back just 10 years, a new company, whatever their industry, would have had to invest hard won capital building IT systems. Such systems are now all available on tap as pay-as-you-go from the Cloud, hired office space - which teleworking is making obsolete, hired staff locally – who can now be provisioned from anywhere in the world at lower cost and they would have burned capital designing and developing products and prototypes – which can now be made faster, cheaper and more effectively using technologies like software emulation, additive manufacturing and Platform-as-a-Service. In addition, they would have needed to create a sales and distribution channel – which is now a Web portal and spent a lot of money on marketing – which is now next to free thanks to social media. Entrepreneurs are using technology not just for business advantage - they’re using it to rewrite the rules of business itself.


Every industry is already being disrupted and it’s only a question of time when you realize your business is at risk. Embedding digital DNA into your organization is one answer because it helps speed up the pace of your business and allows you to pivot faster, but unless you innovate and create the right offensive and defensive strategies you’ll be overtaken sooner rather than later.

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