5 Top Technologies for Digital Disruption


Digital disruption is the flip side of digital opportunity. Established companies and startups alike enlist new technologies in the fight to dislodge incumbents, protect entrenched positions, or re-invent entire industries and business activities.

To help business and IT executives evaluate emerging technologies and their potential impact on the digital transformation of their organizations, Forrester recently published “Top Technologies for Digital Predators, 2017,” a detailed analysis of 15 emerging technologies with a wide range of disruptive potential and time-to-impact. Here’s my summary description of the 5 technologies with the highest potential to create competitive advantage, change markets, or alter the business landscape altogether:

Intelligent Agents

AI solutions that can interact with their users, learn their behavior and understand their needs, and even make decisions on their behalf. Today’s prototypes include Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Now and Google Home, and Apple’s Siri. The landscape for this emerging technology is expanding rapidly to include a wide range of chatbots, virtual agents, robotic process automation, and other digital assistants. Personalized, high-quality experiences promise to increase customer loyalty and reduce customer attrition. As minders of internal processes, Intelligent Agents also promise to reduce costs, improve productivity and optimize all types of business activities. Example of current use: Artificial Intelligence From Salesforce Partner DigitalGenius To Boost KLM Customer Service.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

Augmented reality (AR) overlays digital information and experiences on the physical world while virtual reality (VR) creates a new interactive digital environment. AR has the potential to radically change the customer experience (especially in retail) and the way employees perform their work (e.g., assisting in machinery maintenance). VR will have a more limited impact, but can play a disruptive role in consumer applications. Example of current use: Lowe’s Introduces In-Store Navigation Using Augmented Reality.

IoT Software and Solutions

The Internet of Things (IoT) provides companies with on-going insights into what’s going on with their products, operations, and customers. “The ability to map the physical world into a digital model will define business within 10 years,” says Forrester, and “for many companies dealing with physical assets, IoT will simply become a way of doing business.” Forrester puts “IoT Analytics” in a separate category with somewhat lesser disruptive potential but I would argue that the entire potential of IoT to make a profound business impact lies in analytics and deriving insights from “connected devices [that] spew out a colossal amount of and diversity of IoT-specific, time series data.” Example of current use (at Sanofi): IoT Analytics And Dell Statistica Deliver Time Compression.

AI and Cognitive Technology

Using advanced machine learning to discover insights in data, suggests actions, and continuously learn by mimicking natural human cognitive functions. This set of emerging technologies (e.g., natural language processing) has the potential to create unique, highly differentiated customer value and radically improve internal processes. Example of current use: Artificial Intelligence From Maana Speeds Up Digital Transformation At Maersk.

Hybrid Wireless Technologies

Interfaces and software that allow devices to simultaneously leverage and translate between two or more different wireless providers, protocols, and frequency bands, such as light, radio, Wi-Fi, cellular, and Sigfox. Connecting everything to everything with a new communications infrastructure, coupled with advanced analytics and contextual customer and consumer engagement solutions, will drive new applications capable of understanding, anticipating, and meeting customer demands in new ways. For a current example, see Comcast unveils Xfinity Mobile.

Forrester says that CIOs must act as VCs and recommends they support early-stage tech companies and have their own technology scouts. As CIO Angela Yochem told me in 2015, she has set up a process to find “capabilities that are not yet commercially available” and “quickly absorb, test, and utilize emerging technologies, and discard them if they are not appropriate and don’t give us a leg up on our competition.”

“Grow your company’s Digital DNA,” is Forrester’s advice. Not a moment too soon, as a recent Gartner Survey of CEOs found that 47% of CEOs are being challenged by the board of directors to make progress in digital business. 20% of CEOs report they are now taking a “digital-first” approach to business change and 56% said that their digital improvements have already increased profits.

I’m Managing Partner at gPress, a marketing, publishing, research and education consultancy. Previously, I held senior marketing and research management positions at NORC, DEC and EMC. Most recently, I was Senior Director, Thought Leadership Marketing at EMC, where I launche.