“Every industry and every organization will have to transform itself in the next few years. What is coming at us is bigger than the original internet, and you need to understand it, get on board with it and figure out how to transform your business.” Tim O’Reilly, Founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media
The fourth industrial revolution started gaining speed at the turn of the century. It was enabled by new information age technologies, which fostered new ways of working and living, and in turn, drove the need for organizations to transform digitally.
Here “information” is a key term or concept. Organizations can enhance or improve all products and services by improved utilization of information and information technology. Indeed, many new products and services are at their core information products or services!
We can find examples of new technologies and start-ups that displace industry leaders all around us; there is no need to repeat these dire stories told about Blockbuster, Kodak, Nokia, Border Books, and many more. Neither is the aim to tell you about the firms and technologies that replaced them — for that, there is a mountain of reading material available on the internet. It would, in any case, be counterproductive as, by the time you read this book, game-changing technologies will have changed!
Like previous industrial revolutions, the use of technological advances becomes pervasive and disruptive and results in the displacement of well-established industries or incumbents. Unlike previous industrial revolutions, however, the fourth industrial revolution brings to bear an entirely new dynamic that was not (or to a lesser extent) present in earlier generations of industrialization, they are:
- Technology has enabled organizations to pervasively enter the consumer’s world and interact perpetually and seamlessly, which has led to a significant increase in insights into consumer behavior, needs, and desires.
- Small innovators can take on large incumbents because access to capital is now no longer (or is less of) a barrier to entry.
- The pervasiveness of new sources of competition, most probably driven by the highest education level ever (almost all work is now knowledge-work).
- The ease of access and pervasiveness of technological aids to innovate, manufacture products and offer services in competition to long-standing incumbents.
- The availability of data, information, and knowledge and the possibilities of understanding these bring to bear.
In 1990, organizations needed to re-organize about every 30 years. Thirty years has first shrunk to twelve, then eight, and now to 3–5 years during the last three decades. Data from Forbes, McKinsey, Deloitte, Credit Suisse and Forrester all tell the same story. In a 2016 study, McKinsey found that the average lifespan of companies listed in S&P500 shrunk from 61 years in 1958 to less than 18 years. They now believe that by 2027, 75% of the companies on the S&P 500 in 2016 will have disappeared.
The bottom line: If your organization does not re-invent itself every three years — you no longer have a reason for existing!
“The disruptive force of technology is killing off older companies earlier and at a much faster rate than decades ago, squeezing employees, investors, and other stakeholders, according to a new report.” Technology killing off corporate America by Michael Sheetz. CNBC Aug 2017
For some, the digital age is a fantastic opportunity. Still, if you consider the destroyed value locked up in incumbent organizations based on McKinsey’s projection, it is also a scourge that will affect the livelihood of millions.
Organizations have two choices, transform or die. Choose how your organization will respond, either move on and transform, or unwind your business. These are your only two choices.
You may say that the second option is a bit harsh, and yes, it is. However, in the long run, it will be better for your shareholders to cash out now than be left with nothing later!
We believe that continual renewal is much easier than re-organizing and rightsizing at intervals, with all the pain and change that go with it. When using our approach, you will never have to do this all again.
This article is part of a series exploring the use of Agile ADapT™, a Digital Transformation Method for incumbent organizations struggling to compete in the digital age.