Clear choice - disrupt or be disrupted

Profile picture for user kblock By Keith Block May 19, 2015
Salesforce President Keith Block praises European innovation, but warns of disruption ahead that needs to be embraced.

keith block
Keith Block

Every time I visit Europe, I’m always struck by the historical richness contrasted with the appetite for everything new. I see a consistent hunger for innovation in every European market, and in my experience, that’s when great progress happens.

Europe’s dynamic tech scene has seen explosive growth over the past few years. Europe has the second largest number of social media users and mobile subscriptions in the world. In fact, the region houses 66%  of the world’s active mobile and social users.

Advancements in cloud, social, mobile and data science technologies have enabled new business models and a profound shift in user expectations.

New companies like Spotify and Uber have become disruptive, innovative forces in their industries, setting a new standard for customer interaction. I’m amazed how often customers say to me that they don't want to get Uber-ized.

Spotify and Uber are examples of companies that thrive in the hyper-connected, data driven world. Experts estimate that there will be 5 billion mobile phones by 2017 and 2.3 billion social users.

And while 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the past two years, this is expected to double in size every two years, and will grow 10-fold between 2013 and 2020, to 44 trillion gigabytes.

This explosion of data is impressive, and unlocking the streams of data is key for every business, because:

  • It's the currency for delivering higher levels of customer-centric engagement.
  • It's about personalized journeys, 1:1 interactions.
  • It’s about anticipating customer needs.
  • It's about establishing communities around collaboration. It's about engaging with the customer at every touchpoint.

Disrupting times

I’ve seen firsthand how many of the leading companies in Europe have leveraged these new technologies to transform their business models and deliver a new bar of customer success.

Take Philips, for example. They are connecting lamps, air purifiers, coffee machines, and other products to researchers so they can better predict customer needs and connect millions of products and retailers onto a single network.

KLM image
KLM in the clouds and in the cloud

Or how about Dutch company KLM, one of the world’s largest airlines, who is creating a competitive service advantage with their one-hour response guarantee via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Every CEO that I speak with wants a piece of this next wave. They want to understand the lifetime value of each customer and extend the value of each relationship.

They want to move from old, legacy systems of record, to systems of engagement and systems of intelligence.

We’ve had business intelligence applications for years, but advances in data science is leading to more intelligent and predictive solutions.

This is the future. And it’s right before our eyes.

Imagine unlocking and starting your car with a touch of your finger using the same biometric technology that now unlocks your iPhone.

The Fitbit or Apple Watch on your wrist connects with your car and is programmed to automatically pull over if it detects unusual patterns in your heartbeat.

Your windshield is made of active glass that displays your navigation system, which uses data science to give you the optimal route not only based on distance, but also traffic patterns and weather conditions.

Your audio system suggests songs based on the time of day and favorites it’s learned from your playlists and social networks.

And pretty soon, we’ll also see self-driving cars that analyse surroundings and automatically adjust speed and direction to avoid accidents.

These examples apply to every business of every size and industry.

It’s a new world. Now is the time for businesses to look at how they can innovate, disrupt and reinvent—regardless of industry. Those that do not will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

It’s a clear choice: disrupt or be disrupted.