You have heard the word disruption; you know what that is. And you have heard the word digital. You know what that is, too. But put them together – digital disruption – and they add up to much more than the mere sum of their parts. Digital disruption, when properly understood, should terrify you.
Three sources of digital power – the prevalence of free tools and services that enable disruptors to rapidly build products and services, the rise of digital platforms that are easily exploited by aspiring competitors from all directions, and the burgeoning class of digital consumers ready to accept new services – have combined to unleash a disruptive force that will completely alter every business on the planet. Digital disruption isn’t disruption squared. It’s the disruption of disruption itself.
Most people I meet think they get digital disruption. And a survey of global executives we conducted shows that 89% of executives believe that digital will disrupt their industry. But they don’t realize just how big a deal disruption will be when it finally hits them.
I have been writing and speaking about digital disruption for years – full time for more than a year now – and it still manages to surprise me. In the month of October, I’ll keynote several Forrester Forums and there confess that digital disruption is even more powerful than I thought it was when I wrote the original Disruptor’s Handbook in 2011. What have I learned?
The poorly kept secret that is the Google Nexus 7 tablet was just announced amid much developer applause and excitement. The device is everything it was rumored to be and the specs — something that only developers care about, of course — were impressive, including the 12 core GPU that will make the Nexus 7 a gaming haven. True, it's just another in a long line of tablets, albeit a $199 one that competes directly with Amazon's Kindle Fire and undercuts the secondary market for the iPad.
But as a competitor to the iPad, Nexus 7 isn't worth the digital ink I'm consuming right now.
But Google isn't just selling a device. Instead, the company wants to create a content platform strategy that ties together all of its ragtag content and app experiences into a single customer relationship. Because the power of the platform is the only power that will matter (see my recent post for more information on platform power). It's unfortunate that consumers barely know what Google Play is because it was originally called Android Market, but the shift to the Google Play name a few months back and the debut of a device that is, according to its designers, "made for Google Play," show that Google understands what will matter in the future. Not connections, not devices. But experiences. The newly announced Nexus 7, as a device, is from its inception subservient to the experiences — some of them truly awesome — that Google's Play platform can provide through it.
Last week, we released our newest report about the future of TV and argued in it and the accompanying blog post that the battle for the TV is not really about TV. It’s about the future of the platform giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft that want to add the TV to their platform ambitions. Surprising to some was our claim that Microsoft was in the lead in the US TV platform battle with its base of millions of Xbox 360 owners generating more online video views on the TV screen than viewers of any other device. Many have challenged this assertion, putting the data about current use aside and asking a good question:
Won’t Apple easily walk away with the TV business once it releases its next big thing, presumably a TV?
You’re in for a big surprise. Microsoft is winning one of the most important battles in the digital world: The battle for the TV. The TV battle is important for reasons you already know: TV consumes more time than anything else and it generates annual revenues from $140 to $160 billion each year in the US alone.
But the stakes of the battle have risen sharply. The fight over the TV is really a fight over the next massive consumer platform that is coming up for grabs. Of platforms there are few: Google owns search, Amazon owns digital retail, Facebook owns social, and Apple owns consumer devices. Microsoft owns, well, nothing at the moment, despite its handsome revenue stream from Windows and Office.
That could change soon. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is already the most-watched net-connected TV device in the US and soon, the world. With more than 70 million consoles in households worldwide – as many as half of them connected to the Internet, depending on the country – Microsoft can rapidly drive new video services into tens of millions of households.
This week hundreds of us in and around the book industry will converge on Digital Book World 2012 (#DBW12). It's a conference that has risen in significance because this industry has rapidly come to understand that it is uniquely susceptible to digitization -- and poised to benefit from it -- in a way that other media are not.
This awareness has translated into relative optimism among publishers. As I'll share with the DBW12 audience on Tuesday morning, we recently conducted a survey with Digital Book World of publishing executives whose companies together earn 74% of all US trade publishing revenues. As we closed out 2011, 82% of publishing executives we surveyed were optimistic about the digital transition. That's a large number, even if it's smaller than the 89% it was a year ago. But when we take into account all the measures of optimism we threw at them -- about the industry in general, about the fortunes of readers, and the importance of their own roles -- most of them decreased somewhat and some decreased significantly.
Most tellingly, only 28% of these executives thought their own company would be stronger in the future because of digital compared to 51% who agreed with this sentiment the prior year. This suggests that publishers have started to do the hard work of making the digital transition and they're finding that it is, indeed, hard work. It's worth putting ourselves in the shoes of these publishing industry product strategists for a moment to consider just why they aren't positive that their companies are going to come out better off. I see three reasons:
What to do when a failed product concept still lingers, haunting every attempt at injecting it with new life? That's the problem with interactive TV, a term that grates like the name of an old girlfriend, conjuring up hopes long since unfulfilled yet still surprisingly fresh. Gratefully, it’s time to put old product notions of interactive TV behind us because this week Microsoft will release a user experience update to the Xbox 360 that will do for the TV what decades of promises and industry joint ventures have never managed to pull off.
Meet engaged TV. From now on, I will no longer need to plead with the audiences I address, the clients I meet, or my friends who still listen to me to imagine the future of TV. Because Microsoft has just built and delivered it: A single box that ties together all the content you want, made easily accessible through a universal, natural, voice-directed search. This is now the benchmark against which all other living-room initiatives should be compared, from cable or satellite set top boxes to Apple’s widely rumored TV to the 3.0 version of Google TV that Google will have to start programming as soon as they see this. With more than 57 million people worldwide already sitting on a box that’s about to be upgraded for free – and with what I estimate to be 15 million Kinect cameras in some of those homes – Microsoft has not only built the right experience, it has ensured that it will spread quickly and with devastating effect.
Or will someone else do it for you? That's the principal question I have after seeing the first week's worth of responses to our Digital Disruption Readiness Assessment survey. This 5-minute survey (available at forr.com/digitalreadiness) is already revealing critical vulnerabilities in corporate readiness. Consider the following data point:
It's not that people think their industries are safe from digital disruption -- quite the contrary. A full 76% see "significant opportunity" for digital to disrupt the industry they serve. Yet only a third think their companies will put the right resources in place to adapt to the changes that digital will bring.
I spoke at a private conference outside of San Francisco on Tuesday and shared our digital disruption research with the room, elaborating on the Lose It! case study I posted on Mashable last week. Afterward, several entrepreneurs spoke to me about their own experiences as digital disruptors. One of them -- who self-identified as a Gen Yer who had recently received $15 million in funding for his startup -- explained to me that the cost of disrupting has fallen so low that he doesn't even think people like him need to go for the big funding anymore (not that he refused it when it came!). He said, "Especially in software, it only takes $30,000 to build anything in software today."
That's a digital disruptor. He's not bound by traditional economics, old-school partnership boundaries, or even antiquated notions of customer privacy. How are you going to compete with someone who thinks -- and acts -- like that?
Yesterday I took the main stage at our 2011 Consumer Forum here in Chicago to introduce the 500+ members of the audience to digital disruptors. You can read about the guts of my presentation in my blog post and learn more about the effect of digital disruptors in "Beware the Digital Disruptors," my Mashable piece from earlier this week.
But what I really want you to do is participate in our Digital Disruption Readiness Assessment. It's found at forr.com/digitalreadiness and takes just five minutes to complete. We launched it yesterday as part of my speech, and many thanks to the hundreds of you who have already hit the survey (even those of you who just checked out the first page and didn't proceed; I want you back). The results are already fascinating and will only get better as we get more of you to participate, so please pass this along to your friends and let's collect enough data that I can share more nuggets as they come through. Here's a teaser:
You're very optimistic: 43% think it's very likely that "My company will be a top provider of its goods and services in five years." Yet only 21% of you think it's very likely that "My company will be more innovative than other firms in our industry or category over the next five years." Red flag: How will your company lead in products if it doesn't lead in innovation?
In our assessment, we ask you to evaluate your industry, your company, and your individual readiness for (or vulnerability to) digital disruption. And here's the real kicker: When we get to the level of the individual, the answers are sure to trigger empathy.
As I write this blog post, somewhere in the hotel below me our Forum team is busily preparing for the opening day of our 2011 Consumer Forum. There I will take the stage as the opening keynote presenter and, although I'm going to be talking about the future, it makes me think about the past. Because in 1999 I stood on a similar stage and offered my first Forrester keynote address, entitled "Meet the Digital Consumers."
Back on that stage, with the help of Forrester's Consumer Technographics survey data, I explained how consumers -- once digitally enabled -- would forever alter the way companies serve them. It's now 12 years later, and everything I said then came true, plus some. I didn't know then about YouTube, Facebook, or Groupon. But I did know that digital consumers would want more benefits, more easily, than they received in an analog world.
Today I'll stand on the stage and introduce people to a new entity: digital disruptors. Because while disruption is not new (just as consumers have always been with us), digital disruption is more powerful than before. It allows more individuals to bring ideas to market more cheaply than ever before. Below is a sneak peek at a key slide from the presentation I'll deliver in an hour's time.
Join me in Chicago on October 27-28 as I help you prepare for digital disruption.
Not old-school disruption, the kind you've heard of before, that takes years to develop and decades to have its devastating effect. I'm talking about digital disruption -- a better, stronger, faster version of disruption that is running rampant across industries as divergent as book publishing, cosmetics, and auto insurance. Digital disruptors are people and companies that use digital tools to: 1) remove traditional barriers to entry; 2) produce better products and services; and 3) build digital relationships with your customers that forever relegate you to the margins of your customer's thoughts and plans. And they do all of this faster than you can.
It's what makers of the app Lose It! are doing to the dieting business (and what their competitors at Daily Burn are trying to do to the folks at Lose It!); it's what Garmin is poised to do to personal training; it's what our magic mirror will undoubtedly do to the beauty and wellness business; and it's what every digital disruptor is plotting to do to your business right now.
Beat them by joining them. Become digital disruptors yourselves before it's too late. How? By stealing crucial pages from the digital disruptor's handbook. Check out this video summary to hear more about The Disruptor's Handbook.