Disruptive Technologies: Did We See Them Coming?
Disruptive technologies have a way of sneaking up on mainstream markets, and slowly making their presence felt. These are technologies that established players brushed off as inconsequential, and hence paid no heed to the potential damage they could wreak on their established or potential markets. Eventually though, they worked their way from the fringes to prevail over the majority.
Clayton M. Christensen first spoke of disruptive technologies in a 1995 article titled Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave, which he co-authored with Joseph Bower. He later described the term in more detail in his 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma. However, in a sequel titled The Innovator’s Solution, Christensen interestingly replaced the term disruptive technology with disruptive innovation, to highlight that “few technologies are intrinsically disruptive or sustaining in character. It is the strategy or business model that the technology enables that creates the disruptive impact.”
We look at a few disruptive innovations in the IT industry Like Microsoft MCTS Training that radically changed the way we worked. Interestingly, radical change is not always for the better. The use or misuse of any technology often depends on the perspective and intention of the user. For this reason, the opinions presented below highlight the major role a usage code could play for any technology.
…and the microprocessor was born!
Srihari Boregowda, director and CTO, Canarys Automations Ltd, recalls the summer of 1984, when he had just begun his final year in BE, Electronics. The afternoon lab session was being conducted by the head of the department. It was the class’s first exposure to the “Microprocessor Kit.” Further, he reminisces, “Ours was the first batch to study about microprocessors (the Intel 8085) as part of the course curriculum. Our professor demonstrated a 1ft x 1ft kit with a red LED and a hexadecimal keyboard,to key in the instruction to add two numbers from the user and display the result. After 25 minutes of keying in (well rehearsed) he executed the program on the kit.” That was it! Call it love at first sight or anything else, but it triggered off the young student’s dream of a career wherein he could create industrial products.
Boregowda believes the technology was disruptive because of its stored program, which unleashed creativity (as there was no longer a need to change wires to change functionality or behaviour). It made use of a keyboard and display,these represented its interactive nature, and the empowerment of the end user. It was economical,it could be owned by an individual, and thus stood for economy in the digital world (increasing capacity with decreasing cost) MCITP Certification.
As for the impact the microprocessor made on him, he says, “It is only when I tried to do it on my own that I realised the real meaning of disruption. The microprocessor has a logic of its own, which to us humans can be classified as illogical and often tiresome. That was my first introduction to the world of IT and programming. Although I am still hooked, I continue to wonder about its logic!”
The Internet scores
When it came to identifying a disruptive technology, Deepak Kukreja, head,strategic planning at Moser Baer India Ltd, chose the Internet. He goes on to mention that the disruption it has caused spreads far beyond technology, and has ramifications across the value chain from consumer branding to distribution, and order fulfilment to supply chains.
According to Kukreja, “The Internet was (and still is) the technology driving Amazon. While the Internet was the technological backbone, its commercialisation eliminated the need for brick-and-mortar stores, thus causing a disruptive scenario.” Why disruptive? He explains, “The Internet provides complete access to information to just about everyone, thereby eliminating the opportunity for organisations to make money by capitalising on consumers’ incomplete information. What this means is that consumers can directly compare product or service offerings and opt for the lowest offering, unless the product/service is appropriately differentiated. This leads to greater emphasis on brand-building and re-inventing your value proposition, lest your brand gets commoditised.”
“In a way, this has changed the fundamental paradigm of competition itself. For instance, travellers are now not solely dependent on travel agents. They can use websites like makemytrip.com, yatra.com, or travelguru.com to plan and book their travel itineraries. However, since all of these websites essentially offer similar services, each needs to entice customers by building its brand in a specific manner. For example, they could offer personalised travel or holiday services to create differentiation, or offer loyalty programmes to frequent users of the website.
“Further, the Internet provides an order-fulfilment or delivery mechanism that can create value by compressing the supply chain for consumers. You are no longer forced to go via the stockist, wholesaler, distributor and retailer route. Several firms have eliminated the middleman and passed on benefits directly to consumers, like lower prices or faster turnaround time. New business models have sprouted around this proposition,such as Netflix in the US or Madhouse in India (a DVD rental firm). Finally, the Internet also provides customers an interactive platform to connect with organisations. Companies may avail of online consumer feedback, and some companies go so far as to even get consumers into designing new products for them.”
As Kukreja emphasises, “It is not the availability of technology that is a key success factor, but its use that distinguishes the men from the boys.” He cites WalMart as a company that has used technology, and its application in inventory management, as a core competitive advantage over its competitors.