Digital disruption: expanding our horizons

We’re in the midst of a digital revolution. The line between business units, competitors and partners is more blurred than ever due to the pace of technological innovation.

It’s been over a decade since this digital disruption started.  Prior to this, executives used to keep their rivals in plain sight. This meant regularly checking in on what they were doing, their market performance and developments in their daily work. Back then, it was normal to be familiar with our shared competitive scenery and its persistent attributes, its common trends, and constant R&D efforts. This is why it was possible to always be remain one step ahead.

These days, all companies are faced with major changes. The task is to capitalise them and not to get dazzled. New technologies, demographic changes, new competitors, new provisions, and other ecological alterations that seem to come from nowhere are only some examples for these changes. In most cases the challenges begin as weak signals at the periphery, which are difficult to see and to interpret. To notice these tiny pointers can be vital to triumph or survival.

Gaining a new perspective

Today, as industry incumbents, we all must widen our view, allowing for a “healthy paranoia” of what’s happening in other industries. Now, it’s about waking up every morning and looking beyond obvious competitors, as well as scrutinising what’s happening on the fringes of one’s “business as usual.” Are new entrants unbundling legacy monolithic business models into new digital service offers built to address customer needs quickly? Are new ways of solving customer problems responsively powered by — or built around — technology (such as voice, vision, mobile, AR, etc.)?

We know how it goes: to a hammer, all problems look like a nail. Likewise, new digital technologies allow us both to envision existing problems through a new lens and to see solutions that never were envisioned before. And, as Clayton Christensen stated, “When attractive profits disappear at one stage in the value chain because a product becomes modular and commoditised, the opportunity to earn attractive profits with proprietary products will usually emerge at an adjacent stage.”

Most companies are proficient at tracking developments in existing technologies that could affect their business. But this focus can deflect attention from emerging technologies and lateral disruptors’ and incumbents’ movements that could be important in the future. This approach has been a fundamental driver for Schneider Electric’s digital transformation innovation.

It’s also a way to wrest ourselves from the complacency that success often brings. Our commitment to customer-centric innovation drives us every day. So, indeed, we must be open to some level of healthy paranoia to continually pay attention well beyond our industry at what potentially may change the competitive landscape — even on a moment’s notice.

An expanded ecosystem

Our IoT-enabled architecture EcoStruxure™ is the lens through which we see — and bring about — the digital future.

What’s happening in another industry may end up having a strong impact on your own company after a while. An expanded ecosystem of digital players is key to being able to act fast. Ecosystem partners can bring a higher level of agility and a much broader base of technology expertise than any one player, they can act as a virtual network of sensors enabling the early detection of disruption weak signals in adjacent industries.

Combined with decades of domain expertise from a company such as Schneider, a thriving ecosystem sets you on a stable path for successfully navigating today’s accelerated digital economy.

For Schneider, leading the digital transformation of energy management and automation is not just about energy. We also need to move information together with energy, i.e., moving bits with electrons. And that’s really where the world of energy and the world of information technology are blending together thanks to widespread connectivity and IoT. What’s more, this digital world of energy is not just about digitising. It’s also about becoming digital. Offering a frictionless customer experience requires one to become Digital and to Digitise at the same time.

An empowered ecosystem

It’s key, that such an ecosystem naturally flourishes on a mentality of authorisation, especially in the digital world. As Bill Gates famously said: “As we look ahead […], leaders will be those who empower others.” You need to be paying attention to doing this, whether employees, customers, partners, associates, and/or technology partners, to respond innovatively in order to release latest customer issues. This mentality inspires the whole organisation and its ecosystem to stride forward — beyond historical, clear sector borders — to seize the remuneration of developing pertinent solutions that improve efficacy, productivity, security, and sustainability.

Healthy paranoia and empowerment are actually complementary, not contradictory. This might be surprising but it’s true.

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