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Dan Telling
Dan Telling 19 April 2018

Dealing with Disruption: a five-point checklist for success

The last couple of years have been marked by uncertainty. From Brexit to global politics, new technologies to regulation and governance, there has been a general feeling of caution from businesses surrounded by disruption from all sides.

During this time organisations asked themselves some big questions: ‘how exactly will Brexit impact my business?’ ‘What effect will new technology such as A.I have on my organisation?’ ‘What will connected cars and homes mean for us as a business?’ ‘How is my business model being disrupted?’

Without any obvious answers to these, or clear ideas on how best to respond, many businesses have instead concentrated on keeping their heads’ down and focusing on doing the basics well.

Don’t miss the opportunity

The real challenge for businesses is how to respond quickly, but appropriately, to the disruption occurring around them so that they are able to harness the opportunities that change brings.

There is always a temptation, when confronted by disruption to either rush in with a knee-jerk reaction or freeze with indecision. While maintaining the status quo is not an option, storming in and getting caught up in chasing the next ‘big thing’ in technology, without proper thought, is counter-productive too.

Ultimately, what will drive business value is how organisations respond to change and this response needs to be both swift and appropriate. Organisations can no longer afford to think in 3 or 5 year cycles, the world is moving far too fast. As such, a huge cultural shift is needed where innovation is embraced across an entire business, not just in siloed pockets.

Know where you are

A key element of taking a rapid, but well thought out approach to responding to disruption, is knowing where your business is right now. Without this, it is extremely hard to plan where you want it to go.

The first step here is to conduct an audit of existing technology, systems and processes. Many businesses are likely to have multiple systems in place, which are not being utilised properly.

Having an in-depth awareness of current capabilities and positioning in the market can then help inform an overarching business strategy. While it is important for this strategy to be informed by internal factors, such as an organisation’s current capabilities, it is absolutely vital that it is also based on external factors.

When facing disruption from any source, stepping back and running through the following check list is key:

Five point disruption checklist:

  1. What is the threat? Qualifying how big a risk a particular disruption poses to your business
  2. How quickly will it disrupt? Establish how soon both the industry as a whole and your business specifically will be affected
  3. What opportunities does it present? Identify how your business can benefit from the disruption
  4. How quickly can you respond? Know how long it will take you to act on any disruption
  5. What are your strengths in responding? Identify where you can lead the way to steal market share.

While being able to answer the above points, as well as having an overarching strategy including a clear business vision is vital, it is also very important to be able to identify exactly where disruption is likely to come from.

Four key areas of disruption

Broadly speaking, disruption tends to fall into four main camps. These can be summarised as:

1.    The market

From legislation and regulation such as GDPR, to political upheaval in the shape of Brexit – the wider market can throw curveballs that disrupt businesses of all sizes from across industry. While many of these disruptions are completely out of the control of individual businesses, what they can control is their understanding of the market as a whole and their ability to respond in an intelligent and agile way.

2.    Competitors

While Henry Ford’s philosophy of ‘don’t think about your competitors, think about yourself’, is generally very sound, businesses can now be brought to market faster than ever before and can therefore disrupt incredibly quickly. So on the one hand, businesses should absolutely focus on their own solid business strategies, but do increasingly need to keep a very close eye on competitors and would be competitors.

3.    Customers

We are truly in the age of the customer, where consumer expectations are evolving as rapidly as emerging technology is. Today’s consumers are sophisticated and empowered and they expect personalised, easy to use, speedy and efficient experiences across all areas of their lives. It is vital for businesses to know their customers inside out and ultimately be able to pre-empt their needs.

4.    Your own business

All too often, one of the biggest disruptions to business comes from within. By not listening to customers, not fully understanding the market, not moving quickly enough in responding to change, or in making decisions too early for their capabilities and trying to ‘jump ahead’ on the transformation journey before they are ready, organisations can risk harming themselves.

We strongly urge all businesses not to fear disruption. If you are properly prepared, by having a well researched and executed business strategy, as well as a good understanding of how you can be disrupted and (more importantly) how you can respond to disruption, then disruption isn’t something that should be seen as a threat. Instead, disruption can be embraced for the opportunities it presents.

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