Plan To Disrupt

Plan to Disrupt or Plan to be Disrupted.

Tech Companies Are The Disruptors

Disruption in The Marketplace Comes From Thinking Like a Tech Company

TLDR; Companies that are disruptive think differently about technology than the disrupted. Changing your companies mindset is the first step to becoming disruptive.
Disruptive companies:

    1. Have people dedicated to research and development.
    2. Have knowledge of tech and then look for problems to solve.
    3. Understand the role of computers and technology.
    4. Have a proper build versus buy formula.

I recently wrote an article called Your Company IS a Tech Company and I had quite a lively discussion with folks about it.  This was, after all, the point of the article.  My Intent was to point out that modern day technology (whether better machinery, process, or software) has become a distinguishing difference in the competitive marketplace. If that is the distinguishing part of your competitive advantage, then you should value it more than you probably are.

Softening the Message

I will say, after my discussion I have softened my position a bit. Now am going to backtrack a bit and say, “Disruption in your market WILL come from a company that ACTS like a tech company. Here are a few key differences in how a tech company acts and how you should start thinking about things if you want to be disruptive in the market.

Research and Development

One of the biggest things that technology companies realize is that research pays rewards.  A company that is not continuing to update their knowledge of their technologies are will no doubt be disrupted.

Keeping pace with the pack is falling behind the disruptors.

Tech first companies realize this means that your producers, cannot also be researchers.  Every scenario that starts with “This position is 80% producer and 20% research” invariably ends up as 100% producer and the only effort given to research is done beyond the standard work week.  Technology companies have several research strategies that include:

Research and Development

  • A person or people dedicated only to research
    • Architects
    • Innovation teams
    • Process Improvement teams
  • A schedule that includes time that is specifically NOT production time
    • Innovation Sprints
    • Personal project time
  • or rotate people into research roles at regular intervals
    • Research sabbaticals
    • Innovation teams

Technology Companies Look for Business Problems

Technology companies have done research and know technology.  Once they know technology, they look for ways to leverage it to solve business problems. Companies that are waiting to be disrupted, live with a business problem until they can no longer tolerate it, then they look for a technology magic bullet to solve the problem.  The ultimate differentiation with these two models comes down to time.  When a company is technology first, they have already researched something and then they are able to plan a strategic usage of a said technology in applying it to a business problem. When a company waits until the problem is no longer tolerable they often in their urgency to solve the problem make bad choices as cleverly stated in the quote:

Some people, when confronted with a problem, think “I know, I’ll use XML.” Now they have two problems.

Technology Is NOT Magic

Technology companies understand this simple principle. Technology companies are not Cargo Cult users of things they don’t quite understand. As such, they use technology for what it is very good at, simple repetitive actions that need to be predictable and repeatable at scale. Often times companies will have the exact inverse relationship with their technology. In this bizarro world, programmers work tirelessly to build rules engines and program fuzzy logic to do every complex operation within their company.  The simple and mundane actions are then left to the employees to implement.  I have seen companies employ teams of temporary workers to key in user data and then spend hundreds of thousands to try and do merge purge processes with fuzzy logic to clean the data in a hands off process.  A technology company would automate the import of the data and most likely build a tool that a user would be presented with only the troubled records and let a human make the final decision.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. ~ Arthur C. Clarke

Technology First Companies Buy Lots of Technology

Another aspect of technology companies is they know that they should only customize technology if it is part of their competitive advantage. If a technology company is faced with a problem or process that is not part of their competitive advantage, they analyze the problem and change the process to fit within the confines of an existing technology. Their counterparts, waiting for disruption, often spend man years developing custom software to map to their process that ads little or nothing to their competitive advantage.  The formula about build verses buy for these companies seems to be based entirely on emotion and not fiscal or technical needs.  This emotional process for a build verses buy consideration leads to arbitrary, tactical solutions to problems.  Tech first companies use better criterion when deciding Buy Vs Build.

In Closing

There are several things listed above that are glimpses to how technology companies operate and view the world.  They do know their technology, they do look for places to use their technology, they do know what they are good at and what they should buy.   These reasons all point to why a tech first company will be the next disruptor in your market space.

I have chosen not to discuss the most obvious thing that technology companies do as it was itself an article I have already written. You can read about it in the article How Can we Disrupt? We Can’t Even Communicate!

Companies that are disruptive think differently than the disrupted. Changing your companies mindset is the first step to becoming disruptive.~Tal McMahon

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