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How to power the latest wave of technological disruption

  • Jay Scanlan

    Former Private Equity Business Leader

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Technological disruption is nothing new to economies and societies – contrary to some of the hype of the digital evangelists of the 21st century.

The invention of the dynamo, for example, is an interesting parallel to our current disrupted age. Its invention in the mid-1800s was a game changer for electricity generation. But it was still highly inefficient and only commercially viable in select applications. It would take a full generation of technological tinkering before engineers developed something resembling modern power generation and the economic ecosystem required to generate, use, and distribute this revolution at scale.

Today, I believe we're about half a generation into a similar wave of technological disruption. And as such, we still have another half-generation to go before we can claim to have a truly robust ecosystem founded on digital, advanced analytics, and cognitive intelligence to power our economy. What do we need to power this latest generational journey?

First is ubiquitous connectivity

By McKinsey's estimates, more than 7,500 new devices connect to the internet every minute, and that number promises to keep growing exponentially. This is a key transformational ingredient. Some shipping containers, for example, can now tell you their geolocation in an instant. And it's likely that the first drone delivery to your house will happen this decade. So, this world of ubiquitous connectivity, once fully fleshed out, will be incredibly different from anything we've known.

Next is increasing computing power

Moore's Law still holds roughly true. But what was once a doubling of raw computing power every 18 months has now moved to a two- to two-and-a-half-year journey. Other developments such as graphics processing units, specialized cognitive intelligence processors, and more, are continuing to enable the world in a completely different way. Other more early stage advances such as quantum computing could provide completely novel computational and modeling capabilities.

I used to pull out two iPhones and say that they had more computing power than the entire International Space Station when it launched nearly 22 years ago. Now, one iPhone is more powerful than the entire station was 17 years back.

Then there's access to and availability of data

The ability to access data at scale is transformational, and this is data from not only your internal systems and processes but also from a huge variety of external sources. That could be public mobile networks describing foot traffic on a city's streets or unstructured data you can capture from social media. The world of big data has truly arrived, and it's increasingly easier to access.

The way companies can use data to guide both strategic and operational decision-making is advancing significantly. 'Radically transformational' may sound like an overstatement, but the reality is that our children have access to far more insight and understanding of what's happening around them than we ever did at their age some 30–40 years ago.

Finally, there's the introduction of low-code tools

Several powerful changes in how humans interact, create, and deliver are driving the emergence of this new economic ecosystem. But before we explore these critical changes, it's helpful to understand the technological shifts that underpin this new era.

The advent of low-code tools means that huge legacy systems are no longer a fundamental barrier to transformation. These tools use a visual approach to application development that enables people of varied experience levels to create web or mobile apps using drag-and-drop components and model-driven logic through a simple interface.

Using this readily available technology, you can connect systems. Cognitive intelligence, robotic automation, and dynamic workflow technologies are changing the nature of how we can transform our businesses and meet company, customer, or consumer expectations. Increasingly, non-technologists will wield these new tools as easily as they wield word processors and spreadsheets today.

What does this mean?

These four enablers are powering corporate growth, renewal, and destruction. Indeed, many observers suggest long-term large corporate survival rates will range from 15–25% over the next 10 years. The enterprises that replace them will use some sort of cognitive intelligence capability – automation, machine learning, deep learning – to reimagine what their businesses do and what they deliver.

Their employees must be digital realists who see new technologies ushering in neither a utopia nor a nightmare. And these companies will build on the increasing comfort of consumers and business customers to use these capabilities safely and efficiently. Our research indicates that consumers are becoming more comfortable with a company using AI and their personal data to improve their user experience.

People expect technology to satisfy both their work and personal lives. To meet their expectations, businesses need to transform around the customer and provide what they want: a simpler, faster, better experience every day.

For your business that will mean:

  • Putting the customer at the heart of your transformation efforts
  • Remembering that tools are a means not an end in your journey
  • Using traditional techniques – such as voice of customer – in new ways
  • Integrating your data strategy with your business and digital strategies

Sticking to these steps will help your enterprise become much more than a dynamo. It can become a next-generation power source for transformation. We'll examine these tenets in future posts.

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