Digital transformation has been happening for some time, but it has been undeniably accelerated by Covid. Many businesses are worried because they’ve seen digital disruption before, and this latest disruption brought on by the pandemic, is arguably bigger than anything we’ve ever seen in our lifetime.
In the earlier days, digital transformation disrupted music distribution first with digitized content, and then with subscription streaming. The same thing happened with DVD rentals and brands like Blockbuster. Hotels were impacted by Airbnb – an app with no physical assets. Newspapers and books distribution changed forever with online access to content, tablets and readers. Taxis were disrupted by Uber and other car share apps. Payments systems like Square and e-transfer have changed how money moves. This is just a handful of examples, but it represents seismic shifts and ripple impact in each of these industries. They have all taken place in less than the last 10 years.
Today in 2021 things are moving faster. Much faster. Digital transformation during Covid is actually accelerating. Selling and shopping have likely changed forever. But so too have so many of our patterns of behavior – everything from where and how we work, where and how we live, who our customers are, how we communicate with them, and who our competitors are has been shifted.
Let’s take a couple disruptive forces already steaming ahead pre-Covid, and shake them down for how they’ll impact other industries with a ripple effect:
The potential ripple impact is endless. Here are just a few thoughts.
- Auto repair – If it’s basically a computer on wheels, will we need a mechanic? Just ask anyone with a Tesla who receives a tune up via WIFI overnight in their garage. The answer is already here.
- Insurance – Will different policies required? How does fault play out if one car is automated and driverless, and the other is subject to human error?
- Parking – Will you summon your car by phone or app? Does it need to necessarily be stored close by if that’s the case?
- Car design – If you’re not actively driving it, but in essence being transported, how does that change the interior design? Perhaps a couch or seating in a social circle, or offering screen entertainment would make more sense than the default facing in direction the car is travelling.
- Ownership & licencing – If you’re not driving it, do you need to necessarily be “licensed” and over 16yrs? For that matter, if you’re a senior or someone who has lost the ability to drive themselves safely, could you still get around in your driverless car?
- Houses/condos and business real estate – How will this impact the design of houses and condos? How will it impact urban planning and downtown office building parking?
- Deliveries – This changes the game on shipping doesn’t it?
- Truck drivers, taxi drivers – Will we need them?
- Car share like Uber, Lyft – Will people rent out their driverless car to make money while they watch Netflix? Will car share companies even have a viable position? Who might their new competitors be?
- Outdoor advertising – If you’re reading and not driving, will billboards be valuable anymore? (Consider how mobile phones impacted interior bus ads, which have become less valuable as people stare down at their phones, and not up towards the ceiling)
- Healthcare – Auto accidents and injuries should go down since AI programing will reduce driver error, so how will that change emergency departments and the role of first responders?
- Ethics of AI – The decisions made by AI are only as good as the imputed data. What if inadvertent bias comes into play? How do you decide the value of a life – young versus old for example, when the car has to decide if it is better to hit a single pedestrian versus an oncoming car of four people? AI works with the data it is given. Just ask the programmers at Tesla who set their cars up to avoid a deer or moose, but didn’t consider how a kangaroo might act in a much different way.
- Police – How do you issue a ticket to nobody driving?
All of these industries will be disrupted just by one new technology. Anytime we introduce a new technology, it always has a similar ripple effect. Consider for a moment what industries could be impacted by the examples below.
Current digital innovation
These digital transformations are already out there, increasing in pace of significance.
- 5G Internet connectivity. A decade ago the average internet speed was 5MB/second. Now with 4G it is 100MB per second. As it rolls out, 5G makes it 10 times faster. If the internet up until now disrupted many things, what will 5G do?
- Artificial Intelligence (Ai) and big data. AI is already being used in our day to day lives, impacting everything from what we see online, to what is suggested we view as a movie. Expect it to touch a growing list of things.
- Voice search, and V-Commerce (online purchasing through voice search and pay) Did you know that 35% more people are ordering through speakers like Alexa during Covid? Voice search takes only the “top ranked” selection in search. How will that impact SEO, and the costs to be “the one” at the top of search?
- Robots: They’re being used for cleaning, disinfecting, and stocking shelves right now. What else might they do in the future?
- 3D printing: This has the potential to disrupt entire supply chains from manufacturing, assembly, warehousing, shipping and retail. It’s the equivalent of what digitizing content did a decade ago. Everyone in the middle will get cut out.
Covid has brought about new possible ways to have an edge. Here are just a few areas that have been realized:
- Contactless shopping
- Robotic delivery, drones
- Digital meetings – virtual work, hybrids
- Virtual education
- Teleconsulting, counselling, medicine
Are you chained to an old model?
The big question is, are you chained to an old model? It’s dangerous to not evolve. When you push yourself to think forward, it often results in innovation. When you sit back and let change happen, it’s seen as disruption – because someone else did it to you!
The Covid quandry
Right now it’s easy to get lulled into not moving forward. The pandemic has forced us to put many plans on hold, but the same cannot be said for digital transformation. It’s marching ahead forcefully. I can almost guarantee there will be new startups which will emerge from all of this, startups that saw how to bring together changing consumer behavior patterns and needs, with the aid of digital transformation. There will be other companies who will see opportunity in all of this too, and make the forward thinking shifts to realize a win. And there will be others, some long standing companies, who will be caught flat footed in it all who will fail, claiming nobody could have seen it coming. But we can – if we understand history, and what is truly being transformed beneath our noses right now. I personally find the possibilities exciting. How about you?
There’s a fascinating book I’m reading right now by Stephen M. Shapiro, called “Invisible Solutions: 25 Lenses that Reframe and Help Solve Difficult Business Problems.” Essentially it suggests in order the find better solutions, you need to ask better questions. The book contains different formulas to reframe any problem multiple ways, from different perspectives. It provokes innovative thinking, especially effective during times of disruption, and particularly important during this digital transformation. It’s worth a read as an owner, or a member of an executive team. Check it out on Amazon – here’s a link.