Has Your Business Already Been Disrupted?

There's still time to get back on top, if you can recognize that technology is both the cause of the calamity—and its solution.

I once heard something very interesting: If you’re not spending enough time, resources and money to address disruption, you’ve probably already been disrupted—you just don’t know it yet.

The Meaning of Disruption

What does “disruption” actually mean? One of the most often used examples is the way so many brick-and-mortar retailers were caught off guard by the coming storm of online sales. It’s pretty easy in this example to understand what went wrong for those retailers. Technology creates disruption—and is also the key to avoiding it. So if you’re trying to build (or maintain) a business-of-the-future, you need to be fully aware of the technological changes in the marketplace and all around you. Once you know the technological changes on the horizon, it’s important to imagine how they may impact your business before they become mainstream.

I’ve been in the technology industry for a long time, so tape backups come quickly to mind. Tape backup systems were the “big thing” in data storage and retrieval for decades. All the sophisticated data centers had them, and they were considered business critical. Then, the technology changed to cartridges. And then to disk. Now enterprises rely on a combination of data transport, file sharing, and storage-and-retrieval methods that range from Dropbox to Azure and AWS clouds. We know what works for us today and what’s cutting edge right now, but we have no idea what the technology will be like tomorrow.

A Closer Look at End-User Support

Now, think about how that kind of shift applies to your business. Today, depending on where your business resides, you’re relying on the electricity delivered by 110- or 220-volt outlets for the energy your business demands. But what will energy consumption look like in the future, and how will those as-yet-to-become-mainstream ideas impact your organization? To avoid business disruption, you have to be careful not to get so entrenched in today’s technology that you forget to plan for the disruption that may—and very likely will—happen with the introduction of new technologies tomorrow. You simply can’t afford to let your guard down.

Take a good look at your in-house teams and the value they provide. HR, IT, marketing and so on. Let’s look at your IT team for an example. Even if you have a very competent in-house IT staff, don’t let that lull you into complacency. They may be skilled—but are they applying those skills in ways that can help you avoid being disrupted? Or are they completely consumed with the mundane, yet business-critical tasks from users who can’t access the server, got locked out and need help with their password, are missing a file on a shared drive, and so on?

Supporting everyday end-user needs accounts for about 80 percent of most organizations’ IT budgets. So when you look at things that are going on in the marketplace and the challenges and disruption encountered by your sales and marketing teams, your R&D folks, and your manufacturing experts every day, your IT team can quickly become overwhelmed with requests. How can your technical team help you make the IT transformations necessary as the business works to adapt and thrive in a competitive landscape when they are pressed on all sides just to keep the lights on and all systems running smoothly?

Reducing Risks from Disruption

It’s not just your IT team, either; it’s every department that is not core to your business. Every organization deals with challenges in one form or another. The solution for each one is the same: There is nothing you can’t solve if you have the right time, resources and investment to make it happen. So, the question then becomes, do you have the skill sets you need in-house to solve your HR/IT/marketing/etc. challenges without being disrupted in the meantime? If not, then it’s time to consider partnering with outside organizations that can extend your team and bring the right mix of talent to the table. Look for a “disruption solution provider” that understands the role technology plays—both in disruption and in the defense against it.