Transformation or Disruption?

Reimagining the future through new business models and digitally enabled products and services.

Digital adoption

Adopting a digital strategy is no longer a case of if, but when. Yet, for many organisations, while the best of intentions exist, there’s a sense they’re already lagging. Four in ten are behind schedule with their digital strategy, a 2018 report from SnapLogic suggests. It’s still the exception rather than the norm.

However, there are some sizeable differences in digital strategy adoption across different sizes of organisation. Fifty-five[1] percent of small to medium-sized (SME’s) organisations have already adopted a digital business strategy compared to 38 percent of traditional, larger enterprises.

With fewer layers of bureaucracy and the ability to make decisions quickly, SMEs are generally considered better at progressing a digital strategy. Supporting this, a KPMG study found 40 percent of respondents from larger organisations agreed mid-sized companies are nimbler, and more ready to adapt to change.

If you’re working through your own digital strategy approach, here are some pointers to help you understand how to reimagine your organisation’s future.

To disrupt or transform?

Where digital is concerned, you’ll have likely heard two very common words – transformation and disruption.

Quite often they’re interchanged without much thought for their meaning. But there are marked differences. This is important as you plan to understand how your business models, products and services should gear up to address customer needs.

To disrupt is to…

Take something that already exists e.g. goods /services – or be it a way of doing things, or a deliverable – and changing it.

To transform is to…

Take something that was, and turn it into something completely different e.g. organisational activities, processes and models.

To innovate or adapt?

Throwing further thinking into the mix, renowned entrepreneur and blogger Seth Godin suggests older, often larger organisations tend to be better at adaptation. While, newer, smaller organisations are better suited to innovation.

There are exceptions to the rule of course. And, this may go some way towards explaining why we see SMEs innovating markets and industries, leading the charge on a disruptive front. While larger organisations tend to adapt and thus be considered transformational in response.

Many organisations would probably like to both disrupt and transform – but what does that mean and how exactly is this done?

Innovation through disruption

Quite simply, disruption is about creating new markets or leveraging the power of information to offer products, services or solutions in new ways. And, the threat is very real to a lot of large organisations.


Fifty-one percent of executives surveyed in a Forbes Insights/Treasure Data survey reported a high level of risk to their organisation (measured by market share and revenue) from technology-driven disruption by start-ups or innovations by incumbent companies.

And, data is key for true innovative disruption. Done with the goal of augmenting the customer experience, as well as delivering products and services on demand, access to well-organised data is vital. You need to ensure it is accessible to the people making decisions about how to reach customers in deeper, more advanced ways.

Adaptation through transformation

Transformation, particularly in the context of digital, is often used as an all encompassing term for all modernisation efforts. Whereas, it actually means a fundamental rework of how an organisation uses people, process and technology.

Digital transformation initiatives, such as moving from on-premise to cloud, or waterfall to agile are undertaken mainly because of changes in customer expectations for products and services. Nervous of being outfoxed by the younger, more innovative organisations Seth Godin refers to, there’s a sense of urgency to accelerate innovation. Exploring new digital services and capabilities to enhance existing offerings.

Consider the rise of chatbots for example. These tools have established a new digital pathway directly between the customer and the business. Although simplistic at the front end, at the back-end, powerful analytics offer recommendations via the chatbot, based upon huge data sets gleaned from customer interactions.

Delivered through as-a-service model

The key to both disruption and transformation is speed and agility. This is where the as-a-service model delivers so many benefits to organisations.

It offers services (such as cloud, infrastructure, platform and networks) to help organisations become more efficient, reduce costs and create better, more advanced ways to smash customer expectations.

And, the range of services on offer is growing fast, helping to transform and disrupt both markets and organisations. Digital service providers for example are offering more innovative and creative solutions in areas such as security, analytics, IoT and strategic services to name but a few.

They offer the ability for greater collaboration between users and devices, while the benefits of cloud means you can connect to the services you need anytime and anywhere. All of this helps you and your organisations on the pathway to disrupt or transform, meaning enhanced agility and responsiveness to customer expectations.

[1] IDG, 2018 State of Digital Business Transformation