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Digitisation: disrupt or decline, and why it matters

29 June 2016

Like many businesses, last Thursday's referendum result has got us thinking about the future, and how we and our customers will manage the changes it might hold. Change is a given in the tech industry of course, and disruption was already on my mind last week as I attended three events: The first was a Cisco EMEAR partner advisory exchange in London, while the other two - a DLA Piper panel discussion on women in technology and Bailey & Fisher’s Designing our Future event - took place as part of London Technology Week.

The Cisco event was an opportunity for partners to share experiences, and to explore how digitisation presents opportunity. For resellers like Ideal, the opportunities include compelling reasons for a customer to refresh their network infrastructure. At the event, broad-minded, intrinsically technical solution providers shared how they had transformed their businesses by asking different questions and developing different relationships with vertical specialists, thus extending the reach and relevance of their portfolio and better meeting their customer's evolving business needs.

We heard how the Global Centre for Digital Business Transformation uses the concept of a vortex to help illustrate the impact of digital disruption on organisations and industries. The 'digital vortex' is the inevitable movement of industries towards a 'digital centre', characterised by rapid and constant change as all business operations become increasingly digitised. The Centre proposes that, to thrive in the face of disruption, businesses should become hyper-aware, use data to inform their decision making, and execute quickly via automation.

The industry that is predicted to experience the most digital disruption between now and 2020 is our own: technology products and services. Armed with this knowledge, what can a business like Ideal do to prepare for inevitable disruption?

Size, agility and process inertia

Still relatively young and small, Ideal is able to respond quickly to changes in market conditions. This business agility is a core strength, and in a fast-paced industry it more than compensates for what we lack in brand awareness. We can get to know our customers really well, respond quickly to their changing demands and design relevant business solutions to meet their needs. We provide flexible service agreements to customers, hosting their infrastructure in our data centre, installing solutions in their premises, or selling solutions as a service.

But what if the future brings something completely new?

Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School has observed how an incumbent is encumbered by the processes and business model that make them good at the existing business, but bad at competing for the disruption. What can we learn by thinking differently to challenge the status quo and disrupt ourselves, and how can we digitise our business to adapt for continuous change?

At the DLA Piper event, Debbie Wosskow, chair of the UK Government's independent review of the sharing economy, argued that large corporations are often a poor fit for a world where survival demands continuous change, rapid prototyping and a test-and-ditch cycle, and further argued that disruption cannot occur from within large companies.Talking about her experience as CEO of Love Home Swap, Wosskow stressed the importance of being prepared to fail - but fail fast.

This theme of prototyping and failing was returned to by speakers at the Bailey & Fisher event, who included Emily Mackay, founder of Crowdsurfer, and Sarah McVittie, co-founder of Dressipi. Like Debbie Wosskow, both women have built successful tech businesses: they've combined their personal passion and entrepreneurialism with technology platforms which have disrupted finance and fashion.

Preparing for the unknown

So, to succeed we must create an environment where we can test, learn and move on. At Ideal, unifying our branch compute, storage, and networking with HyperFlex at our new premises will ensure our own IT is efficient and scalable. Deploying Cisco's Application Policy Infrastructure Controller Enterprise Module (APIC-EM), we will also enjoy programmable, automated network control which, will help us rapidly respond to business requests.

We have built a chatbot to deliver real-time key information to the business via instant message, and have built our new website on a marketing automation platform to test how we connect with our customers and how we might extend our reach further. We have introduced an automated customer feedback tool so customers can easily let us know what they think of our service, and have also deployed a SaaS monitoring system to automate the monitoring and management of our own and customers' networks, applications and services.

What more can we do to prepare for the unknown? How else could our business processes be digitised to make life easier for our customers?

Broadening our thinking further, might the sharing economy disrupt an IT reseller like Ideal? Are businesses likely to turn to a sharing platform like Task Rabbit to purchase professional services? Most new clients take up references from existing clients to confirm our competence, expertise and integrity. A sharing platform which provided such assurances could transform how we do business, reducing friction for our clients and making it easier for them to overcome the obstacle of working with an unknown supplier. Or it could disable our workplace practices, if all skilled labour moves to a self-employed model.

The failure to spot disruption can often come down to an attachment to a traditional business model or the need for broader thinking. Changing how you do things is difficult: if it was easy and predictable, the chances are it wouldn't be disruptive.


How does your business rapidly deploy applications, or find new ways to engage customers? At Ideal we help organisations prepare for the unknown, map technology routes, and build advanced, secure intelligent networks capable of automation and ready for change. Talk to us on 01273 957500, or get in touch online.


Header image: Tony Hisgett/Flickr. Post image: Tsahi Levent-Levi/Flickr, both images are Creative Commons.