As new as many of the disruptive technologies are, they still centre on the same age-old company ambitions: reduce product-to-market times; increase productivity; improve marketing tactics to grow sales; optimise the supply chain; generate cost efficiencies; improve products; etcetera. Today’s ambitions build on the learnings from past disruptions, giving emphasis to greater stakeholder cooperation e.g. deeper integration with manufacturing joint venture partners and closer communication with customers for new product development.

However, a more radical change in how collaboration works is underway, and new business models are being redesigned, as technology — especially software — becomes more affordable and easier to integrate into products, processes and services we use in our daily lives. Fast-moving and highly competitive players understand this very well and are now placing software engineers and creative designers at the same meetings with people from the whole corporate spectrum; even with yesteryear improbable stakeholders, such as government and competitors.

Flat structures of co-creation

Hierarchies and silos are breaking apart, giving way to flat structures of co-creation, an evolved form of collaboration that places people and resources together at the early ideation and design phases of creative cycle in areas as diverse as compliance, strategy, innovation, marketing, IT security and operations development.

Co-investment is then added to the equation to give way to what has recently become known as an ecosystem. In addition to making companies more efficient and competitive, such ecosystems are frameworks for ongoing, expedient and technology-aware corporate development, which can operate at staggering speed.

Consider the case of one of the above giants: Cisco. The ambition to remain the world’s largest player in the networking technology field in a rapidly changing environment inspired the leadership to become even more assertive and agile. Between 2013 and 2015, the company replaced a third of its leadership team; oversaw the departure of one of each four long-serving senior engineers; ousted forty one per cent of its client-interfacing executives; and changed a number of its long-standing strategic partnerships for new, more relevant market-player alliances.

A best practise example

But that is the top of an iceberg that further down shows a much more ambitious corporate realignment process, driven by the enhanced capabilities of newer technologies. Two examples:

  • New-generation industrial connectivity platforms that until recently took Cisco five to seven years and four thousand employees to set up, can now be built by a few hundred in-house and third party specialists within 18 months
  • A city wireless networking infrastructure that required hundreds of staff over several years to construct, can be developed today by a dozen Cisco experts, in collaboration with strategic partners, in less than two years

One does not need to speculate too much about what happened to the thousands of people across the organisation whose positions were rendered irrelevant as a result.

Not to mention the domino effect on the company’s large third party procurement and logistics base. And yet Cisco is not an isolated case.

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