Adapting to Disruptive Technology

Platforms such as ServiceNow can be radically different than the current processes at your company.  How do you adapt to these technologies and survive this dramatic change?

What is Disruptive Technology?

Definition from Wikipedia

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology.

I like this quote in particular from Wikipedia

Technology, being a form of social relationship, always evolves. No technology remains fixed. Technology starts, develops, persists, mutates, stagnates, and declines, just like living organisms.[14] The evolutionary life cycle occurs in the use and development of any technology.

Examples of Disruptive Technology

In my lifetime, I have seen many examples of disruptive technology:

  • VHS Tapes  DVD Blu ray Digital Download
  • 5 1/4" Floppy → 3 1/2" Floppy Disc → 100MB Zip Disk → Tape Drive → External Hard Drive → Flash Drive → Cloud Storage
  • Rotary Telephone Push button Telephone Cordless Telephone Cell Phone (Nokia 5110) > Smart Phone
  • Incandescent Light Bulbs → CFL Light Bulbs → LED Light Bulbs

There are also many other examples of disruptive technologies available.  It is very exciting to think about the next 20 years.  They are even beginning to predict jobs that will be lost to robots

The Innovator's Dilemma and Survival Factors

There is a book called the The Innovator's Dilemma, which really discusses disruptive technology.  The book references that  successful companies can put too much emphasis on customers' current needs, and fail to adopt new technology or business models that will meet their customers' unstated or future needs. He argues that such companies will eventually fall behind.  Here are some survival factors relating to software innovation.

Denial and False Claims

Companies and people will tend to deny that a new technology will affect them or is better than they are currently using.  Although some people love to predict the next disruptive technology, their predictions are not always true.  This can leave an element of doubt and further impedes adoption of new technology.  

History and Change is Difficult

A few years ago, I was working on a ITSM software implementation and noticed it was difficult to get a projector, and the employees were obsessed with print layouts in the software.  Their current software they were using was difficult to use, and so they were used to printing everything.  I went to a Change Advisory Board meeting, and needed to use a moving cart to haul in the line feed printouts for the meeting.  

I suggested they get flat screen monitors or projectors in their conference rooms instead. They were wasting a lot of time and money printing out everything and plus it was a security risk. I was called a tree hugger and environmentalist.  I was laughed at.  They had always done things that way and I didn't know what I was talking about.

Three months later they were bought in a merger.  Turns out the buying company had flat screen monitors in every conference room.  They quickly installed monitors in their conference avoid being laughed at. :)

This example just showcases that change is difficult, and it may take some time (or the right motivation) for people to change.

Sunk Costs

Many of us have started working on a project and mid-way through the project realize there is a better way to do things.  However since you already invested so much money, you can't cancel the project now.  Sunk costs are good in that they provide motivation to complete projects.  The negative aspect is you feel you need to continue using an application or finish an implementation no matter what because you have already invested so much.

In the Weeds

In the weeds is phrase that means, "Immersed or entangled in details or complexities."  Many of us are so busy in our daily tasks, that we don't notice or recognize a new technology is available.  These daily tasks are so demanding that selecting new technologies may be based on the one that looks the easiest to use, not necessarily the best technically or is innovative.  Sometimes you are just so late recognizing the business change that affects the entire company.  Examples of this are the video rental business, 

How to Adapt to Disruptive Technology

Create the Bandwagon

Just like the new football fans at every Superbowl, excitement and popularity brings fans to software. 

Try to build champions of the software within your companies.  Win over important stakeholders.  Create buzz with marketing, letting people know of prior success with the software and what it can do.  The fact that ITSM software often requires licenses, creates an perceived shortage.  Use this to your advantage, everyone wants to party at the best club.

It may not always easy to form that bandwagon.  You will get naysayers, haters, and doubters.  It isn't fun sometimes, but being the one that brought the great technology to the company is a great reward.

Be Adventurous

You have to take on risk to be innovative.  Not all ideas are successful.  Try new technologies and see if they work for your company.

Sometimes it takes certain people who love new gadgets and software to show you new technology.  This innovators are a vital asset to a company and their suggestions should be considered.  Monitor the results of new technology actively to see if it is success or a failure, giving it every possibility of success.

Trust and Reliability

Reliable and solid software builds trust and people will begin to trust it more than previously used technology.  Don't let the customer/employee down, build what they want if possible, and provide a great user experience.  Word gets out that your software does what they needed.

What is ServiceNow aiming to disrupt?

So far I've talked in general about disruptive technology, but not about ServiceNow.  Here are some ways I know of that ServiceNow has attempted to disrupt certain markets.

1. ITSM Software Market

On May 11, 2011, ServiceNow disrupted my life.  After hearing about ServiceNow repeatedly, I had tried it myself and changed to being a ServiceNow developer.  ServiceNow's programming and architecture were just so far ahead, I had to ditch my previous ITSM software knowledge and switch.  ServiceNow really dominated the ITSM software market so far, it has been a great change for all us old developers.

2. Custom Application Development

Next they went PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service).  ServiceNow Share, ServiceNow Store, were created.  ServiceNow gave developers an easy way to make applications.  This opened the door to replacing many existing applications at companies.

They are going after new applications and bringing them into ServiceNow as a platform, not just IT Service Management anymore.  They are trying to expand into HR, Facilities, Finance, Marketing, etc.

3. IT Operations Management

In the last few years, they have brought and built new applications just for IT Operations

  • Discovery. Capture infrastructure configuration details quickly and accurately
  • Service Watch. Discovery map, monitor, assure enterprise business services
  • Event Management. Rapdly respond to infrastructure events
  • Cloud Provisioning. Provision public and private clouds in minutes
  • Configuration Automation. Define, automat, and govern data center infrastructure
  • Orchestration. IT process automation and business process automation for the enterprise
  • Password Reset. Reduce service requests by 20%

4. Multi-Tenant Software Providers

If you watch the K15 Day 3 Keynote, you can see how ServiceNow is going after multi-tenant platform providers.  

5. Email

The next release of ServiceNow, Geneva, is being released in the fall.  Geneva introduces more of a chat experience within the application.  They are going after email, which I agree with.  Email is not a great way to conduct business.


Adapting to disruptive technologies means that you may be winning against other companies.  Building strategies and being proactive can bring great rewards.  ServiceNow is definitely on the right track, and makes them very exciting to see their next moves.