Failure is an ever-present danger for today’s businesses, whether they are an established player in their industry or an agile upstart just arriving on the scene. Familiar retailers are disappearing from the high street at the same time as many young challenger banks are failing to make their mark. But why do these seemingly very different organisations face the same challenges?
The answer is that they are victims of disruption. Omni-channel retailers are struggling to compete with online-only giants, while challenger banks are increasingly being rendered irrelevant by a new generation of payments providers. Incremental innovation – doing the same thing but slightly better or cheaper – is leading to business stagnation in the long term. Disruption today has an entirely new definition and meaning to businesses – done well however, it can bring much greater and longer-term rewards.
Disruption in the digital age
The nature of disruption has changed. Traditionally, a business could ‘disrupt’ its industry by being more competitive. Releasing higher quality products or lowering prices would create significant but temporary success in the form of higher revenues.
Disruption today is much more than the gradual innovation of the past. Many industries have witnessed the rapid, exponential rise of new and usually digitally-enabled alternatives. Within only a matter of years, they become the dominant force in their market and the yardstick against which all others are judged. Being disruptive means being a game-changer. It means holding the power to create new monopolies overnight or make entire industries obsolete.
In many ways, the catalyst for this new wave of disruption has been data. Businesses have never had more access to information on their customers, partners, products or markets. With the right tools and techniques, disruptors are able to use this information to better understand their customers and rivals. This gives them insight which, when used effectively, can transform their offering and operations into something the competition cannot provide. Ultimately, data makes the disruptor.
Obligations and opportunities
Disruption, however, is not the sole preserve of the legacy-free upstart. Indeed, even long-standing, established brands will have to learn to become game-changers to stay relevant in a forever shifting digital marketplace. Yet before they can begin their disruption journey, brands need to make several considerations.
Disruption acknowledges both the ownership and obligations now associated with data. With greater access to data comes an even greater responsibility. Not only must organisations use data to improve the customer experience and advance the business, there is also a responsibility to customers to protect it. New, increasingly stringent data privacy laws, such as GDPR, oblige this and, as new channels are created, regulations will only become tougher.
There’s also a need to understand where an organisation’s obligations lie. When moving to the cloud, companies must not assume that the responsibility for protecting their data in the cloud shifts to the cloud provider. Our Truth in the Cloud report found that eight in ten firms believed this to be true, but the cloud neither optimises or protects data by default. Such an attitude leaves customer data open to theft and abuse, along with all the reputational damage and penalties that come with it.
If a disruptor fails to respect regulations or their customers’ data privacy rights, then they stand to lose much of the momentum they previously enjoyed. Abusing customer trust is not worth the risk.
The cloud catalyst
Adopting best-in-class solutions and technologies can play a crucial role in the disruptive process. The cloud has had a transformative effect on businesses in recent years, improving efficiency, saving money and delivering new tools and capabilities. It has been the catalyst for much innovation and disruption, but the march towards a multi-cloud future will take it to the next level.
A multi-cloud architecture offers additional flexibility without being locked in with a single cloud provider. As businesses evolves and push new boundaries to remain disruptive, so too will their business needs; whether it is to save on cloud costs, create new workloads, access new markets or reach more customers. The ability to seamlessly shift data between multiple cloud environments and on-premises gives organisations the agility they require.
Many businesses also run business-critical applications or services that have to be ‘always-on’. A single blip or hour of downtime can net them millions in losses, or $5,600 a minute, according to Gartner. Multi-cloud allows organisations to split their risk across numerous environments. This means that if one cloud goes down, their service is backed-up on another, allowing them to continue operations and protect the bottom line.
Delivering on data-driven disruption
To effectively monetise their data, a business needs to know where, and indeed what, its data is. This is particularly relevant in multi-cloud environments where data could exist on one of many cloud or on-premises locations. Organisations need to be able to identify, locate and analyse specific data when it is needed. Careful and consistent classification policies are essential while a centralised data management platform will help an organisation track data across multiple environments.
Jasmit Sagoo, senior director, Northern Europe, Veritas Technologies
Image source: Shutterstock/Carlos Amarillo