How Predictable Disruption Can Benefit Your Firm

By Marc Carrel-Billiard

Conventional wisdom says that disruption is unexpected, upsetting and unwelcome. However, according to the “Accenture Technology Vision 2016,” leaders in the digital age foresee ecosystem trajectories, and they embrace and wield disruption to gain competitive advantage.

The digital economy waits for no one, so it’s time for a fundamental shift in perception and strategy. Enter predictable disruption, one of five trends (along with intelligent automation, liquid workforce, platform economy and digital trust) outlined in this year’s report.

Across industries, leading enterprises are making big investments in digital platforms, connecting with new partners and starting to reimagine industries. New ecosystems are rapidly emerging, straddling and blurring industry boundaries.

In a companion Accenture survey of more than 3,100 business and IT executives worldwide, 81 percent of respondents said their companies were already significantly or moderately experiencing ecosystem disruption. As a result, companies are changing their business models, restructuring their business and IT strategies, and reinventing the products and services they produce.

The insurance industry provides a prime example. By pulling down driving data from connected car platforms, new services have been enabled, such as pay-per-mile insurance. With driverless cars expected to become a reality in just a few years, the pay-per-mile approach is providing a glimpse into the imminent disruption of consumer transportation.

Examples of this include Tesla, the automotive and energy storage company that plans to start offering cars with autopilot. Google is also entering the space, and is working toward launching driverless cars without steering wheels and gas pedals.

But both technologies are posing even tougher questions for regulators and insurers. For instance, who would be at fault if two autonomous cars hit one another? Does personal auto insurance even exist for autonomous vehicles?

These examples show that the disruptive nature of these new digital ecosystems is not bound by traditional industry barriers and that, as every industry becomes digital, ecosystems in one sector can cause disruptions in others.

How Companies Can Predict Disruption

How can companies succeed at predicting disruption? It can be an extraordinarily difficult undertaking to change a business model, technology infrastructure or corporate culture. But it’s an essential undertaking to compete and win in the digital age.

Ecosystems are inherently tied to industries and business models, so large organizations are particularly well-placed to predict ecosystem trajectories and take advantage of them. By honing the power of their enterprise scale, resources and industry knowledge, companies can map out ecosystem scenarios, charting disruptive opportunities and threats. In doing so, fast-thinking leaders can gain a competitive advantage and ride the results into new markets.

Ecosystem disruptions won’t happen across all industries at the same time or with equal velocity. But they will arrive and they can be predicted. Enterprise leaders should be studying these large-scale changes to identify which ecosystems will press up against their own industry and, more important, to discern how their business can anticipate such disruptions in time to establish a competitive advantage.

Some recommendations on how to get started include the following:

Build the partnerships that will support your ecosystem strategy.

Identify the key players in digital ecosystems, choose your preferred alliances and have initial discussions with those players.

Pilot an initial foray into a digital ecosystem.

Pick the one business process, product or service that best aligns with your prioritization of potential disruptions and can benefit from existing and new partnerships.

Create new metrics to determine success in digital ecosystems.

Develop these by tracking the progress of your pilot and use the insights you gain to uncover potential indicators. Then repeat this process until you find metrics that can reliably measure success.

Identify new skills needed to support the expansion of your digital ecosystem strategy.

What new technology skills are needed? Does your organization need experience in a specific industry? Once you’ve determined that, develop a plan to acquire these high-priority skills.

Marc Carrel-Billiard is global managing director of technology R&D at Accenture. You can follow him on @mcarrelb.