Digital Transformation • September 7, 2021

Are You a Digital Disruptor or a Follower?

Rob Stevens

Are You a Digital Disruptor or a Follower?

Digital transformation is disrupting industries around the world. Not only is that what all the research and experts tell us, but you can see it in your everyday life. Fortunately, you get to choose if you are a digital disruptor or a follower with how you respond – lean into it or run for cover?

Here are five suggestions to help you take charge of the digital transformation now underway in manufacturing, helping you become the digital disruptor.

  1. Carpe Diem. Disruption frightens some people. It makes the future look uncertain (which it is). This can lead to an attitude of “Let’s wait and see how it plays out.” The problem is that the pace of change is accelerating. Taking it slow is no longer a viable strategy. Today, far greater risk exists from waiting and getting left behind. Entire industries are up for grabs in the next few years. The winners will be those enterprises that commit to digital leadership. Now is the perfect time to seize the opportunity and be the digital disruptor, rather than the disrupted. 
  2. Look for game changers. You can’t throw technology at every business problem. Instead, look for something that’s really breakthrough in your industry. Ask, “What opportunity is there in my market where we can make a difference?” Some old-line, traditional industries are behind the curve technologically. If that’s the case for you, there may be a game-changing opportunity that lets you pull away from the pack.

    For example, by providing faster service through a synchronized supply chain, or by creating a better employee experience that enables service deliver from anywhere – to customers anywhere.

    But even in a technology-competitive market, opportunity for breakthroughs still exist. You might have to take a bigger risk as an early adapter, but the potential reward will grow with the risk. Why do you think Amazon is investing millions in automated delivery technology? 

  1. Find partners. There’s a lot of digital technology strategies out there making it hard to know which way to go, so it’s important to look at the company behind the technology. You don’t need a vendor, you need partners. Manufacturers in particular, because of the complexity of your business, need to find partners that share their vision of digital transformation and that can offer robust solutions for their industry that can help pave a path to your organization becoming a digital disruptor.

    Here are three factors to consider when seeking new partners:

  • Does the vendor/partner’s product roadmap match where you want to go? You’ll be living with their platform for years, so make sure it can carry you forward.
  • Can they support a smooth implementation and rollout? The first efforts and results will have a major effect on the ultimate success of your digital transformation, so getting off to a good start is crucial.
  • Do they have the resources to support future deployments and training, wherever needed? If you plan to expand and open new plants in other parts of the world, you’ll need your vendors to be there too. 
  1. Stay agile. Don’t think of digital transformation as one technology, one project, or even one goal. The whole point of digital transformation is to make your enterprise nimble, aware, smart, and responsive. In other words, always changing. This applies to the technology itself. Whatever specific choices you make, whether it’s an enterprise platform like MES or a simple time tracking application, make sure it’s agile.

    This means that your digital solution must be able to work with multiple devices and share information easily with other systems. Further, the platforms themselves need to be agile. For example, a modern manufacturing execution system based on a microservices architecture provides a huge amount of future agility with regards to future upgrades, feature additions, and overall systems interoperability. This way you are not locked into a single platform or operating system, which gives you lots of flexibility for changing when you need to.

  1. Be open. The one-vendor-for-everything approach may seem safe, especially if that vendor is a major player. But digital transformation is changing the rules. Modern enterprise applications are open and easily connected, allowing manufacturers to choose best-of-breed solutions for each type of application and then build a unified digital ecosystem. 


Read this article on identifying the right number of systems providers, 3 Reasons Why the Single Vendor Model is Losing Ground to the Digital Ecosystem


A decade or more ago, this would have been the challenging path to take. But today, choosing best-of-breed can be easier than trying to extend one vendor’s products across the whole enterprise. Plus, in the long run, it puts you in control of what path you take, not the technology or the vendor.

I wish I had a magic formula for success in this new world, but I am sure that those who embrace digital transformation have a better chance of coming out ahead than those who wait for change to be inflicted on them. You need to be the digital disruptor, not the disrupted, and that will depend as much on the people making the decisions as on the technologies they choose.

becoming a digital enterprise starts with a digital thread