Harnessing Analytics' Disruptive Power

There are two things that distinguish companies: what they say and what they do. Business theoreticians, marketers, and even research firms use buzzwords to sell books, products, and reports, respectively. Whenever a particular buzzword such as "disrupter" becomes popular, a lot of companies choose to use it whether it actually applies or not.

There are many ways to be disruptive, not all of which change the world like computers, smartphones, social networks, and self-driving cars do. Sometimes being disruptive isn't just about being innovative, it's a matter of opportunity and timing.

(Image: Pixabay)

(Image: Pixabay)

Disrupter or Disrupted?

Digital natives continue to impact the business models of companies in a growing number of industries as more things in the physical world are replicated or reimagined using ones and zeros. Who would have imagined that the largest bookseller would have no physical stores or that the largest taxi company would own no cars?

Today's disruptions tend to be technology-enabled, and often a confluence of technologies is necessary for the business model to succeed. For example, connected cars and even fitness trackers require a combination of sensors, computing power, adequate bandwidth, and cloud agility. As history has demonstrated, a game-changing idea has a better chance of succeeding if there's a practical way to implement it at scale.

For example, mobile advertising was expected to explode at the beginning of the millennium, but the cellular networks were comparatively slow, certainly not fast enough to support rich media. People carried cellphones back then, not smartphones, and there was a much smaller installed base of users. Sometimes, great ideas fail because the timing is wrong.

Meanwhile, Amazon has expanded from books to all sorts of product categories, threatening the viability of many types of storefronts. However, it has failed at several me-too initiatives that were similar to disruptive offerings from Apple, PayPal, Groupon, and others. Disrupters are not immune from disruption, nor are disrupted companies incapable of disruption.

For example, GE successfully reinvented itself and is innovating in the industrial IoT space. monitor and manage the units they've installed at residences and small businesses.

A number of large, established companies including Wells Fargo and Disney now have incubator or accelerator programs so they have direct insight into start-up innovation. Acquisition is another means big companies use to become disruptive or sustain a disruptive track record.

Some businesses adapt a disruptive idea, such as Etsy's ecommerce marketplace for handmade crafts. Other organizations including Travelocity, Hotels.com, and Zillow disrupted entire industries by eliminating the need for a middleman.

What Does Analytics Suggest?

What would happen if your company digitized a product or service in a way that provided more value to the customer and new sources of revenue for you? How could a disruptive trend in another industry apply to your industry? What insight might third-party data sources give you that would make a material difference to your customers and your company? How might your business model change if data and analytics were considered the core competency of your organization? We'd love to ponder the possibilities with you in the comments section below.

Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer

Lisa Morgan is a freelance writer who covers big data and BI for InformationWeek. She has contributed articles, reports, and other types of content to various publications and sites ranging from SD Times to the Economist Intelligent Unit. Frequent areas of coverage include big data, mobility, enterprise software, the cloud, software development, and emerging cultural issues affecting the C-suite.

New Year's Resolutions of the Data Team

As you look back on 2017, we're sure there are improvements you would want to make. Now, as we head into 2018, what changes are you planning?

Deloitte: 5 Trends That Will Drive Machine Learning Adoption

Machine learning isn't as widely adopted as some may think, mainly because there are serious barriers to adoption. Researchers are making progress in reducing those barriers.

Re: Digital vs. Traditional
  • 1/30/2017 11:29:30 PM

magneticnorth, very good advice! Alas, most people do not, or cannot, follow it, either because of lack of ambition, education, marketable skills, etc. And many people simply don't have money to invest. So when disruption happens, they have nothing but minimum wage employment to look forward to.

Re: Digital vs. Traditional
  • 1/30/2017 3:10:57 PM

Yes, there'a always two sides to any idea, and just how we look at the benefits and disadvantages that are known is a starting place. But, unfortunately there's not always a clear picture of just what may be disruptivve success and what might be going down a road of just wasted time and funding. How to guess the success rate and the benefits is always easier said than done in lots of trials.

Re: Digital vs. Traditional
  • 1/29/2017 11:46:53 AM

@Broadway which is why it's important for anyone to understand basic economics. Personally, with the rate at which disruption happens these days, the way I see that one could have secure income is to be highly employable (i.e. have a specific career path), be capable of running a business, and be capable of doing freelance work. And if one can invest, then one should as well. It's like having a diverse portfolio in markets that you could work in.

Re: Digital vs. Traditional
  • 1/29/2017 8:16:58 AM

Disruption is always posited as a force for good. The positive desctruction of capitalism. But tell the people who lose their towns, the communities that lose their factories. The result is what we're seeing now in a disruptive political tide that a majority of the population is not enjoying.

Re: Digital vs. Traditional
  • 1/28/2017 10:08:15 AM


Jim writes

When I covered the startup market a few years back, one thing I noticed was how many of the digital native companies were led by people who had worked in companies that had been disrupted a few years earlier. Sort of a circle of entreprenurial life.


Seems to me it's more like a circle of entreprenurial disruption.

Also, not just the entrepreneurs are getting disrupted. What about the consumers, the public at large? In general, technological progress is a very good thing (duh) ... but not in every case, and the demands for upgrading everyday devices and machines (as well as the skills to use them) can be pretty dispruptive as well ... 


Re: Digital vs. Traditional
  • 1/27/2017 1:10:30 PM

@Jamescon Somebody had to say it:  the disrupters will find themselves disrupted.  :)

A disruption in the fitness industry
  • 1/27/2017 4:43:27 AM

Earlier today, I internally lamented about my lack of physical activity. I used to do a lot of sports when I was a student. And after some years as a professional, I got a gym membership and worked out around my office hours. But now that I take care of two young kids and run a business from wherever I am, I've found myself missing a good game of basketball. Or even having personalized workouts from my gym trainer.

But then I thought, there should be an app for that.

I searched, and there are apps for that. I waded through a lot at the Play Store and the most promising one I found was Sworkit (sworkit.com). It walks a user through a workout customized to his goal, preferred level of difficulty, and the amount of time he has on hand. The reviews are all raves. Most are from people like me who'd otherwise not be exercising.

While an app could never replace a personal trainer or a good game of basketball, if Sworkit does become mainstream, people might get used to the price of fitness that the app/service offers. There's a great, free tier for beginners and a $9.99/mo subscription that offers premium features that are well worth the money. Compare that to a gym membership, a personal trainer's services, the time and gas consumed by the trip to and from the gym, and the lack of mobility of that arrangement. The comparison is unfair but considering the many gym members who don't really use their privileges enough, Sworkit might eventually disrupt this industry. Gyms and personal trainers will need to adjust, while manufacturers may want to produce more gear for home use. Personally, I see myself using Sworkit at the beginner level, and maybe doing a video call with a personal trainer once a month so he could check if I'm doing things right.

I'd love to hear the community's thoughts about this. There's so much analytics potential in this disruption, and that could only be a good thing for both analytics professionals and the users of such a service.

Re: Changing Business Models
  • 1/25/2017 4:45:32 PM

PC, you are correct on the main point of emphasis being cost. So striving to greater efficiency means cost reduction in the final analysis. Identifying relevant technologies and applying them to the process is the innovation.

Re: Digital vs. Traditional
  • 1/25/2017 4:39:14 PM

Excellent point James. New doesn't stay new very long. Cycle is correct! The amazing factor to me is the increasing speed at which this cycle is progressing.

Re: Digital vs. Traditional
  • 1/24/2017 4:52:30 PM

@Jessica. One thing about the digital natives and the advantage they hold when it comes to not having legacy systems. At some point their systems will be five or 10 years old, and they will feel the same pain as the companies they disrupted. New digital natives will disrupt their field with new offerings based on newer technologies. When I covered the startup market a few years back, one thing I noticed was how many of the digital native companies were led by people who had worked in companies that had been disrupted a few years earlier. Sort of a circle of entreprenurial life.

Page 1 / 2   >   >>