Surviving digital disruption

Disruptions are driven by the Big D: Democratization of data and digital capabilities. It’s nothing less than a revolution on an industrial scale


As the cost of embedding intelligence into a device approaches zero, everything from refrigerators to television sets to industrial lines are talking to each other through pulsing nodes and sensors. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
As the cost of embedding intelligence into a device approaches zero, everything from refrigerators to television sets to industrial lines are talking to each other through pulsing nodes and sensors. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

Over the past 12 months, the established order has been shaken to its core in nations around the world. Seemingly unknown outsiders have unseated seemingly unassailable organizations—and everyone is talking about cognitive intelligence and artificial intelligence (AI). It’s almost absurd: Apple and Samsung are talking about connected cars; Google wants to take over your home; and, closer home, companies as diverse as Paytm and India Post are turning into banks. Disruption isn’t just a buzzword; it’s happening as we speak.

These disruptions are driven by the Big D: Democratization of data and digital capabilities. It’s nothing less than a revolution on an industrial scale, and is as transformative as the discovery of fire, the invention of the wheel, and the steam engine. However, it won’t be a bloodless revolution.

The Goliaths of every sector are uneasy about the Digital Davids that threaten their existence. Giants have seen their market share and mind share wiped out by savvy and nimble start-ups that understand and respond to consumer expectations better.

People are now digitally connected, and so are devices. As the cost of embedding intelligence into a device approaches zero, everything from refrigerators to television sets to industrial lines are talking to each other through pulsing nodes and sensors. During the Union budget it was announced that the government has received over 250 proposals for electronics manufacturing in the last two years, entailing an investment of Rs1.26 trillion. This implies that we are going to be flooded with smart electronics and intelligent hardware, all of which will create massive new sources of information. Using that information, in real time, to provide better insights and to build a better world is the greatest opportunity of our generation.

Particularly in India, where Digital is a national agenda and strategic priority and a new generation of digitally native consumers is taking the reins, the opportunity to transform is unbounded. A recent World Economic Forum initiative reported that the value generated by four digital initiatives in Telangana could equal 40% of India’s 2015 gross domestic product (GDP) accruing to society, the environment and industry.

The nation’s transition to a digital economy is a much larger-scale version of enterprise digital transformation. To manage the pain of this transition, IT, people and security need to transform as well. As new payment methods such as mobile wallets to crypto-currencies, to the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and the Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) become more prevalent, they need to be built on a foundation of trust.

The future will not wait for organizations to be ready. And for traditional businesses that didn’t see any of this coming, it’s a question of survival. Every disruption brings its own set of opportunities. In order to tap into this opportunity, organizations require transformation in every aspect of the business.

The pillars of transformation are the 3Ts: technology, teams and trust.

Transformation of technology or IT transformation

Advanced technology systems allow data to be generated and contextualized for better decisions. In fact, 90% of the data that exists today was created in the last two years. This data, and the information it contains, over time becomes a company’s most precious asset. Future-relevant organizations will have modern data centres, automated technology processes, and transformed processes and service delivery. Whether you’re a product or a service company, new software is required to make your product smart, or to take your service online. The challenge for many companies is that they haven’t written a line of code in 20 years. It is therefore important for organizations to build software, specific to their products and markets. There is a clear move from “buying software and building infrastructure” to “building software and buying infrastructure”.

Transformation of team or workforce transformation

Empowered and digital-first teams have the disruptors’ mindset, unencumbered by traditional frameworks or limitations, and are connected to each other all the time, everywhere. They need to be empowered with modern user experiences, new ways of working and innovative decision-making, intuitive apps and data insight.

Transformation of trust or security transformation

Underlying the two other transformations is trust, without which all transformational initiatives will fail. In an increasingly uncertain world, where the digital revolution is still taking baby steps, there is a corresponding rise in the hijacking of these opportunities for malicious purposes. Organizations should defend against cyber-risks more quickly, using threat intelligence, analytics and shared expertise to become better informed.

The scale of the digital revolution requires organizations to adopt a “transform or die” mindset, channelling the paranoia about the threat of upstart start-ups into transformative initiatives that can forge a new, connected future for all. Opportunities are abundant, but the winner will take all.

Rajesh Janey is the president and managing director of enterprise, India at Dell EMC.

More From Livemint