Things like cyber-physical systems (aka Industry 4.0), data & analytics, digital manufacturing, automation, digital workforce, process optimization, robotization, and 3D printing are driving the next wave of industrial digitalization. These technologies are not captured by Forrester's narrow, customer-focused definition. And, after all, what businesses these days wouldn't have at least a basic level of ecommerce and CRM already in place?
That is why after a cycle lasting only five years, I declare that the "The Age of the Customer" has ended and a new era has begun – an age that I call "The Age of the Hoodie Guy."
The "Age of the Hoodie Guy" marks the beginning of new industry-shaping digital plays. Innovators from outside the traditional industry verticals – the ominous Hoodie Guys – are ripping the industry silos into pieces. While sitting in Starbucks cafes, sipping lattes and hacking code, these Hoodie Guys are designing software that attacks the traditional industry players from the flank. With the help of advanced analytics, virtualized assets (e.g. crowdsourcing, match making, and virtual inventory), and fully digital go-to-market models, these new digital entrants can operate faster, smarter, and more cost-efficiently than the incumbents ever can.
Usually, the Hoodie Guys are not after the entirety of your business, just your biggest profit pools. Yes, you probably already guessed that these Hoodie Guys are behind the success stories of Uber, AirBnb, Facebook, Google, eBay, Amazon, Alibaba, Napster, iTunes, etc. The Hoodie Guys are responsible for having driven thousands of incumbents out of business or at least forcing them to severely rethink their operations and business models.
So how do you stop these Hoodie Guys from disrupting your business? Well, you don't. You yourself become a Hoodie Guy. This requires vision, courage, new skills, and perseverance. This is a journey, not a sprint (although, in the agile framework, a series of sprints is exactly what you would want to have!). But, above all, digitalization requires a change of mindset: in the future there is no business without digital. So get your hoodie on and get started!
Chief Digital Officer