Digital disruption is going to affect every company sooner or later. Either the company will be disrupted, or it will be the one causing the disruption. Regardless of whether you are the disrupter or the one suffering disruption, the change can be stressful. There are ways, however, that you can avoid many of the pains associated with digital disruption.
- Define the problem that you need to solve. Is the disruption causing your company to lose sales, or is it driving sales that are greater than your capacity to produce? What is the nature of the disruption, i.e., is it a new mobile device for which your app is not optimized, or is it a shift in consumer attitudes? Do you need to solve issues related to your BYOD policy, or is the disruption affecting your company’s public reputation? Knowing exactly what problem the disruption is causing is critical to finding the right solution.
- Compile a list of possible solutions to the issues caused by the disruption. Get the people most directly affected to provide you with their thoughts on what they need if they are to combat the disruption successfully. Be willing to “think outside the box” when examining potential solutions, and do not be afraid to combine elements of more than one possible solution if the outcome might be improved.
- Identify or hire the right people to handle the issue. No one in your organization is likely to have every skill that might be needed to handle the disruption, so you will need to assemble a team. Look for team members who understand your business goals and are committing to helping achieve them. They also need to be able to function as part of a collaborative team in which credit and responsibilities are shared.
- Plan your strategy. You will need at least a framework initially that shows the different steps in handling the disruption. Before things progress too far, add the details, such as assigning areas of responsibility or delegating authority for approving certain tasks.
- Keep the scale appropriate for the disruption. It is fine to plan for scaling up at a later date, but it can be a costly mistake to address a disruption through a large-scale solution that is not necessary to handle the immediate problem.
- Make sure you allocate the funds that will be needed to deal with the disruption. Whether you are on the giving or receiving end of the disruption, your staff members cannot handle it if they lack the tools they need. Having your financial affairs in order is essential if you will be seeking funding from a venture capitalist or a traditional loan, but even if you have the means to finance the initiative yourself, you still need to examine matters in terms of dollars and cents.
- If you have to deal with multiple issues, plan to build for mobile and the cloud first. The use of smartphones has been increasing at a very brisk pace in recent years. Being mobile-friendly can pay handsome dividends, and it is typically less costly in the long run to start with mobile and then adapt for desktops than the other way around.
- Never underestimate the importance of security to your digital users. The disruption may create “chinks in your armor” that need to be addressed immediately, even if you have to handle the problem as a separate project. As you go forward, be sure that your solutions do not create security risks for your customers, your employees or your overall business.
- Above all, stay calm. Disruptions are inevitable. Do not panic, and do not allow yourself to “dive in without checking the depth of the water.” Act promptly, but do not be reactionary.
Digital disruption can provide your company with the opportunity to modernize IT and completely remake itself for the digital age. Alternatively, it can destroy everything you have achieved in far less time than it took you to reach your current level. You cannot prevent digital disruption, but you can ease many of the pains that come with it.