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ON DIGITAL-First Fridays: It is Disrupt or Die

It was true for Cortés, and it is true for Business Leaders today. There is only one path forward. Today’s choice is Digital or Die. This is not hyperbole, it is reality. Let me explain.

There is a nexus of forces that are converging to create the greatest business disruption of modern times. New winners and new losers will be defined. In my view, five of out ten incumbents will be dethroned because of their lack of ability to adapt.

What is this nexus of forces?

Three billion citizens of the world are attached to a global high-speed, real-time network: the Internet. I would go further than to say attached. We live on it. You turn off the Internet, there is global chaos: ATMs stop working, senior citizens cannot cash checks, trains stop running, armies cannot fight, modern life stops.

Mobility is ubiquitous and the experience is as good as or better than being tethered. There are over 7.5 billion mobile connections worldwide.

There are NO barriers to entry for new ideas, except the idea itself. No barriers. Hardware can be rented and will soon be free. Software stacks are free. And the technical requirements of “coding”, a curriculum once opined on by the dark-arts professor of Hogwarts, is now democratized. The development of new products and services, from idea to product to global distribution, has never been faster, easier, or cheaper.

The workplace has changed. Over the next few years, Millennials will make up 50% of the workforce. Millennials do not follow traditional social structures. They expect highly personalized products and services, they want immediacy, and they are omnichannel. They learned computing using one finger. They want it now and will go to the provider or employer who can deliver it now.

Mindsets have changed. Massive capital is flowing to businesses that are unproven and do not generate a profit. The theory being, of course, scale insanely fast, capture massive subscriber bases, and do not run out of cash (do not worry about profits). Profit is a four-letter word for disruptors. For incumbents, it is the golden mean.

Business models are changing: from products to services, from one-time transactions to subscription fees, from delivery on-premises to delivery in the Cloud. It is fair to say we have entered the Subscription Economy.

Digitalization changes everything. The way we think, who we compete against, how we innovate, how we experiment, the customer journey, our supply chains, the workplace, our pace and cadence.

We can learn a lot from those companies who are emerging as Digital Leaders, but one differentiator that stands out for me is Hyperscale. Could you ever imagine having a billion subscribers? Google, Facebook, Netflix, Apple, Alibaba, Tencent, Uber, and Airbnb—what they all have in common is the ability to scale insanely fast and effectively. I’ll explore the implications of hyperscale in my next post in this series.

These posts are based on my latest book, ON DIGITAL, which will be featured at our upcoming user conference, Enterprise World. Join us from November 8 to 13 at the legendary MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where together, we’ll focus on “Enabling the Digital World”.

For more thoughts ON DIGITAL, download the book.

Mark Barrenechea

Mark J. Barrenechea is OpenText's Vice Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer. A prominent thought leader, he has extensive experience in information technology and his vision is to enable the digital world to help transform organizations.

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