Can your company survive disruptive competition?
Chris Anson
Chris Anson Consultant, Marketing & PR

This article is about disruptive technologies, how they affect your business and how to deal with the problems they cause. Let’s begin with what a “disruptive technology” is:

Disruptive technologies were first conceptualised by Clayton Christensen in 1997. He designated “disruptive innovation” as a mechanism through which small entrants gradually steal markets from larger incumbents. One example of this is the internet search engines’ disruption of print directories. The Yellow Pages, a prime example of the latter, struggled due to difficulties updating its content – it’s a paper book, so any update requires a huge re-issuing of the volume whilst the internet can be updated instantaneously. As a result, the usefulness of the Yellow Pages declined as the internet become more and more prevalent, eventually resulting in the death of the physical paper directory. The Yellow Pages now exists online, showing that survival is possible through adapting to a new environment.

How is this relevant to you though?

The Yellow Pages were a useful, functional product that met the needs of the time. Before the internet, it was the most effective way to get the telephone number of a business. Imagine yourself in the shoes of their CEO thinking “people will always need to call businesses (true), so there will always be a need for a list of business numbers in one place, in an easily accessible format (also true)… hence we will always have demand for our product”.

The above is pretty sound thinking, none of those arguments are untrue and the paper version of the Yellow Pages fills those criteria.

Now look at your own business – are you in a leading position in a market, or a niche market, where you believe that the demand for your product will never change? Let’s say food, money or clothing. Well, yes, you’d be correct!

Do you believe that your way of providing your product is the only way you can do so though? This is where you’d be wrong. Despite it being unseen currently, it is almost guaranteed that some new technology will come along to revolutionise your industry. This is where a company can thrive by being agile and open to change.

There are 3 key factors that a company needs to possess if it is to survive the change in the landscape.

1) Awareness of change

To react to change, you need to know it’s there is a change in the first place! Awareness is dependent on how outwards looking the company is – it needs to understand who the major players are in their market and also understand the technology that surrounds them.

A modern company should also be aware of the tech firms and startups that are relevant to their industry since these small companies are most likely to be the ones that create something game-changing. Creating early relationships with these companies is critical in order to create a strong partnership, should they become “the next big thing”.

The best way to tackle the above is to assign an employee (possibly from the SRM team) to look into strategic partnerships with relevant small companies, even if it’s at a “hello, how are you” level. Startups will probably be driving change… so if a company is aware of the relevant startups, it’s therefore aware of the upcoming change and can react appropriately.

2) Willingness to change

Willingness to change is based on a company’s culture. If the status quo of employees and management is to “stick to what they know” it’s likely they’ll be left behind as the rate of change increases. This is not inherently due to any fault of their own – their current process might currently be best practice and industry leading.

However, over time, a competitor *will* come along with either a better or entirely new way of matching your service offering. If you realise too late and it catches you with your pants down, then there are some methods you can use to recover (see my next point).

These recovery steps are worthless though if your employees drag their feet, don’t use the new SaaS tools given to them and don’t obey the new processes put in place. Here is where willingness to change comes into play.

Some reasons for employees to be unwilling to change:

  1. “It’s just another reshuffle”
  2. “I don’t see how this works better”
  3. “Every time we get a new tool, it sucks”
  4. “It’s easier to do the old way”

3) Ability to change

Ability to change depends on the systems and processes you have in place.

Firstly, implement an “awareness team” as mentioned above, to prevent this from happening again in the future.

Secondly, get on the bandwagon. By this point, it’s too late to develop your own solution to the problem so you need to play catch up. Don’t be afraid to subscribe to the latest SAAS product or purchase the forward-thinking tech that’s storming your industry.

Thank you for reading this article and we hope it will help you to survive and prosper in the rapidly changing world of technology.

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