Go Beyond the Hype to Capitalize on Disruptive Tech

Although full impact is uncertain, investing now will position you for long-term success.

It's easy to dismiss disruptive technologies as a lot of hype. After all, most of the conversation today is around what they could possibly do tomorrow. But if you wait too long to invest in understanding the potential impact, you may miss out on many of the returns. The time it takes for a new idea to become embedded in our businesses has significantly compressed over the last three decades, and that means business leaders who want to stay industry leaders need to be ready to jump.

For example, look at e-commerce. In our 2017 State of E-Commerce in Distribution survey, Dean Mueller and Jonathan Bein looked at how long it took distributors to reach maturity with their e-commerce initiatives. (Maturity is defined as e-commerce generating at least 10 percent of overall revenue.) In general, their research showed it takes at least five years from the initial efforts to achieve maturity.

So even if your sector isn't quite as e-commerce savvy as another sector, you might want to consider making those initial investments and changes – because it's likely on the path to broader adoption and you need to give your company time to build an effective platform.

Another example is machine learning. Gartner recently identified machine learning (or the ability of machines to adapt their own programming to improve productivity and efficiency) as at the "peak of inflated expectations" on its annual Hype Cycle. It's still a buzzword, but with high potential attached to it.

That said, Gartner expects it to become a more normalized technology in businesses within two to five years. Do you know how it could impact your operations? Are you already thinking about how to adapt to the new environment? Will you need to hire or train for a new set of needed skills?

Many disruptive technologies are indeed further down the line. As sales pick up, it's easy to lose sight of the potential impact while focusing on how to capitalize on the now. But if you want to be in a strong position to get the most out of the new technologies when they do arrive, make sure you're thinking about them now and building a strategy for how to adapt.

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