7 Disruptions You Might Not See Coming

CIOs need to establish themselves as "disruptor CIOs" and willfully disrupt their organizations and industries.

It’s not unheard of for someone watching a particular TV series, who likes the outfit of a main character, to hop on a favorite shopping site and order clothes with a similar cut or color. But what if biometrics tracked the exact moment you were particularly engaged in an emotional reaction, noted which character was on screen, and then found and recommended outfit options based on that data?

Emotional experiences are just one of seven digital disruptions that CIOs might not see coming. The key to surviving (and thriving) through these disruptions is knowing they’re going to happen and knowing how to respond to them.

Disruption does not stop. It stays disruptive until something else disrupts it

 “If you can be aware, you can be flexible, and you can be adaptable if you can future-proof what you’re going to do,” says Daryl Plummer, Distinguished VP Analyst and Gartner Fellow. “Those are good ways to protect yourself against things that are going to be disruptive. The secret is to always be prepared for change — because that’s your job.”

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There are many triggers for disruption, Plummer says. They can be business, technology or societal, but there is one guarantee: Once disruption starts it will deliver continuous shocks to the status quo. 

Disruption does not stop. It stays disruptive until something else disrupts it,” he says. “We have to be willful about acting on it. If you wait for disruption to happen, you’re going to get pushed aside.”

Types of willful disruption 

Be on the lookout for these five types of willful disruption:

  • Offense (innovation): Pushing others out of the way. For example, Google pushed competitors Alta Vista and Ask Jeeves out of the way to be the top search engine.
  • Defense (competition): Counteracting the disruption in response to a missed opportunity. For example, Google bought Android to compete with Apple’s iPhone and iOS.
  • Serendipity (chance): Discovering things you didn’t know would be of value to you. It might be something organizations see as useless initially but is something that offers value once it has found its purpose. For example, the cigarette lighter app seemed useless until it replaced real lighters waving over heads to celebrate anthems during concerts.
  • Destruction (anarchistic): Not reacting to disruption at all, ending in destruction. For example, Netflix had a destructive impact over time on Blockbuster’s business. 
  • Self-disruption (reinvention): Disrupting yourself before someone else does it to you. For example, Apple created the iPhone, which cannibalized, to a large degree, its iPod market, but paved the way for better, more wide-ranging market opportunities like photography, personal navigation and even augmented reality.

7 digital disruptions

 What’s coming next? Gartner identified seven potential disruptions CIOs should consider.

  1. Emotional experiences. Mood-oriented computing, which tracks biometrics to create hyperpersonalized digital experiences, are on the horizon.  At the same time, artificial emotional intelligence (AEI) uses voice, inflection, time and words to create human emotions to influence buying decisions and advertisements. CIOs can identify emotional trigger-based opportunities with employees and customers.
  2. AI decency, trust and ethics. AI will have a lot of knowledge, but will we be able to trust it? When it comes to AI, it is still unclear who is responsible for the ethical decisions and repercussions. AI needs to become transparent and explainable as it becomes increasingly vital to technology. CIOs should establish an AI trust framework for developers and users.
  3. Distributed cloud. Distributed cloud is the distribution of public cloud services to different physical locations, with the cloud provider remaining responsible for all parts (ownership, operation, etc.). This can reduce latency and legal issues with data residency. CIOs should look for packaged hybrid services and identify latency-sensitive use cases.
  4. Democratization of space. The reality is that companies and countries are now competing for space in space. With increasing numbers of organizations launching satellites and shuttles into low orbit comes concerns about access and economics. As space becomes more crowded, challenging questions emerge with regard to laws and data residency, and who deals with crimes committed in space. CIOs should explore potential new connectivity and compute options.
  5. Augmented humans. Technology now enables a direct link from the human brain to computers. In this disruption, disabilities become superabilities as the ability to use thoughts to control computers emerges. Eventually, the technology will be able to pull thoughts directly from the brain. CIOs should enhance access to technology for employees with disabilities and establish policies to address employees with augmentations.
  6. Technological biohacking. Implanted devices open up a new world of threats and risk. Technically, it would be possible to imitate someone’s voice and “hack” implanted devices, setting a potentially dangerous precedent for control. CIOs should consider potential security issues as well as new data ownership policies. The first “counterfeit reality” deep-fake heist has already occurred as a result of someone mimicking the voice of another.
  7. DNA data storage. Encoding data in DNA strands could offer large increases in storage opportunities. This would rapidly disrupt digital and analog storage, as well as data volumes and data replication and error management. CIOs should consider DNA storage adoption and trials, and consider DNA storage adoption as part of their future cost optimization efforts.

This article has been updated from the original, published on November 16, 2017, to reflect new events, conditions or research.

Gartner clients who are IT leaders can read the full report Six Steps for Dealing With Digital Disruption: Intentionally Versus Accidentally by Helen Huntley. 

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