One small application, one giant social change: how digital apps are disrupting societies

SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) or ‘third platform’ technologies are aligning to necessitate bigger changes than initially anticipated. The mantra “adapt or die” is quickly becoming a reality for organisations whose business models and industries are being threatened by new digital players. Increasingly, however, it’s not just businesses and industries that are disrupted, but societies as a whole.

Societal disruption

In December of last year, Uber released its car sharing app, UberPool, in London after successful launches in New York and Paris. Many doubted it would succeed on account of Londoners being notorious for their ‘antisocial’ behaviour on public transport. Rarely, if ever, do commuters interact. An article in The Debrief posed the question, “Are us uptight Brits really ready for this level of social awkwardness?”. Apparently so, because within the first week, 45,000 trips had been shared, meaning at least 90,000 Londoners ditched the train, bus or comfort of their own car in favour of sharing a ride with a stranger. As such, UberPool didn’t just disrupt the taxi industry, but it dramatically changed social behaviours, all in a very short period of time.

This kind of societal disruption is what threatens incumbent organisations the most. While many can survive or adapt to disruption at an asset level, once consumers adopt a learned behaviour, their perception about a particular product or service changes, and they are likely to favour the new method of consumption instead of returning to their old ways. A Wired article explains the implications of behavioural change for existing businesses: “The real threat and opportunity in technology’s disruption lies in the evolution of customer and employee behaviour, values, and expectations. Companies are faced with a quandary as they invest resources and budgets in current technology and business strategies (business as usual) versus that of the unknown in how those investments align, or don’t, with market and behaviour shifts.”

App economy

It’s apps like UberPool that are disrupting markets, societies, and changing the way consumers behave around the world. They make up the ‘app economy’, which consists of anyone making money off or employed because of mobile apps, Apple being the most notable. As Logicalis Europe Chief Digital Officer, Chris Gabriel, said in a recent presentation, “If you look at most digital companies and most digital disruption that’s happened so far, it’s because of the emergence of smart tech, and the winners in smart tech are Apple. Why? Because they have the most apps, ranging from Angry Birds to apps in every industry.” And the app economy is only going to get bigger. As VentureBeat reports, the global mobile app market is expected to reach $51 billion in gross revenue this year, and $101 billion by 2020.

This digital application ecosystem is in turn driving digital transformation, and the flagship companies are the ones that have grasped the fact that digital is power, of which the aforementioned Uber is an example. Amazon is another key digital player who recognised this early. It essentially acts as a digital platform upon which other businesses sell their products. To use a ‘real world’ analogy, Amazon is a shopfront as opposed to a retailer.

The new business currency

A key component of success in the app – and wider digital – economy is the need to understand the value of data as a business currency; it’s a commodity that can be bought, sold and shared. And it’s not just a matter of storing it, but analysing it and leveraging it. Nowadays, organisations sit on data goldmines, but very few use it to their advantage. While IT leaders who have been working with data for years may be nonchalant about this new trend, for business leaders, data is the next revenue stream, value offering, or way to strengthen relationships with customers, and CIOs had better be prepared to implement a big data strategy.

McKinsey & Co have said that “Radical customisation, constant experimentation, and novel business models will be new hallmarks of competition as companies capture and analyse huge volumes of data.” Download our complimentary whitepaper to learn how your organisation needs to change to suit the evolving digital landscape: Why every CEO wants to lead a service defined enterprise – and why the CIO needs to make it happen.

Tags big data, Digital Transformation, CIOs, IT leaders, Amazon, SMAC, third platform, Uber


Align your business strategies with the business goals