Leadership Strategies

The Barbarians Are At the Gate

Recently, I’ve had conversations with an increasing number of leaders who are digitally distraught. They are distraught because they can sense their organization is wavering on digital. As the champion of digital for their organizations, they know what needs to be done, but feel a lack of empowerment to get it done.

  • They know their organization needs a reorg.
  • They see multiple strategies being deployed.
  • And they suffer under short term funding decisions.

The lack of commitment to digital may be coming from CEOs, board of directors, and investors who are not convinced digital is an imperative. They see digital disruptors in industries like retail, media, and other B2C segments; but do not believe the disruption is coming to their industry. They suffer from NIMI (Not in my Industry) syndrome.

We need to remind these stakeholders that the Barbarians really are at the gate. To help illustrate the point, we put together this MarketGlance, which lists over 375 digital disruptors across 39 industries. We used the following criteria to select which logos to include:

  • Start ups. We have not included traditional companies who are making the transition to being a tech company (e.g. Nike, GE). However, executives need to keep a watchful eye on their traditional competition. If these companies can make the digital transformation, they have a high likelihood of succeeding due to their scale.
  • Digital disruptors of the 3rd Platform. Are companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google really start ups at this point? No. But the chart would be remiss without recognizing the disruptive role they are playing. Therefore, we have expanded our time horizon to include disruptors from the 3rd platform era.
  • We include companies whose offering is a technology service, as opposed to companies purely selling software that could be used to build a disruptive offering.

It is interesting to see how one disruptor opens a path for many regional ones to enter. Take for example, the General Merchandise Stores industry. Amazon disrupted this market, creating a new digital industry for Retail Marketplaces. Now we see Alibaba (China), JD.com (China), Tokopedia (Indonesia), Big Basket (India), CoolBlue (Netherlands), Zalando (Germany) and many more participating in this new industry. It is important to note that once the disruptive path has been paved in your industry, you will be competing with all the future disruptors to come after the initial one breaks in.

Chances are your industry is listed and is already being disrupted. Show this chart to your stakeholders. And if your industry is not listed, you need only look to an adjacent industry. There are likely similar disruptive scenarios taking place in an adjacent industry. We also see disruptors move from one industry to another once they get scale (e.g. Google, Amazon, Uber).

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