Now that the media hype of 2013 has settled . . . somewhat, 2014 will be a pivotal year in which we see small, tangible steps towards reality. Below are a few trends and commentary on what we’re seeing in the market:
1. Ecosystem components begin to marry. Investments, acquisitions, partnerships, and new developments will focus around unifying printers, software, and services for seamless 3D printing experiences. For example, Adobe recently announced direct integration with MakerBot and Shapeways to close the gap between 3D modeling tools and what printers need to physically produce objects. Other major software vendors like Autodesk will play an evangelist role in bringing ecosystem players together to enable interoperability across proprietary platforms.
2. New startups stretch our imaginations of business model disruption. 3D printing is a catalyst for rethinking inefficient analog processes. Startup SOLS aims to disrupt the entire orthotics value chain with an end-to-end digital service for custom shoe insoles. Customers scan a 3D model of their feet, input data on weight, lifestyle, and activity patterns, and send to print.
Globally, executives acknowledge the disruptive influence that digital technologies have on their businesses. In fact, in a recent Forrester survey fielded in conjunction with Russell Reynolds, 41% of business and IT executives believed that their industry had already been moderately or massively disrupted and over half expected to see more disruption over the next 12 months.
You don’t have to look far to find evidence to back this belief up. In fact, you don’t even have to look globally — digital disruption is happening right in your back yard. Just take the UK as an example:
The UK government is transforming its public services to deliver “digital services so good that people prefer to use them.”
Retailer John Lewis is offering a £50,000 cash investment to the winner of its tech incubator “JLab.”
British Airways is driving for operational excellence in baggage handling by RFID tagging luggage.
Movie streaming service Blinkbox, owned by retailer Tesco, is expanding into music.
PruHealth is partnering with wearable technology firm Fitbug to offer rewards for active health insurance customers.
The fact that the world is becoming digital is no longer really newsworthy. It’s a boardroom topic for most firms. As it should be. You only have to open your eyes to see the impact that digital touchpoints have on business. As I sit here writing this blog, I am in the departure lounge of Brussels Airport en route to Stockholm for the last leg of a presentation roadshow. I’m surrounded by travelers on smartphones, tablets, and a few laptops. Almost everyone (with the exception of a sole individual filling in a crossword) is using a digital device.
Firms are beginning to acknowledge this digital-first culture. We’ve been presenting to audiences in cities all around Europe, talking about Transforming Into A Digital Business In The Face Of Disruption. The overwhelming feedback from these presentations has been that firms are beginning to realize that digital is critical to their future success (and in some cases, their very survival). This spans B2C and B2B. But in many cases, the executives we speak to say their firms don’t have a digital strategy, and even if they do, they doubt their capability to deliver it.
It’s clear — companies need help to make sense of what digital means to them.