How disruptive is the current technology-driven transformation of business? When you consider that one of the world’s most valuable lodging company (Airbnb) manages no buildings, the biggest ride sharing service (Uber) owns no vehicles, the most influential media company (Facebook) creates no original content, and one of the leading retailers (Alibaba) controls no inventory, it’s clear that technology is overturning traditional business models and familiar tactics that create a competitive advantage.
The potential for disruption is so far-reaching that some are calling it the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent,” according to Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. “When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rate rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country.”
At the heart of these changes is a new generation of networks and platforms that connect businesses to workers, customers, suppliers and markets quicker than ever before and with greater efficiency. These technologies also make it possible to collect and analyze data on an unprecedented scale in order to drive innovation and decision-making at an ever-accelerating pace.
Are businesses ready for the rapid changes that are underway, and the profound disruption that almost certainly lies ahead?
To find out, Juniper Networks worked with Wakefield Research to survey more than 2,700 IT and business decision-makers around the world from healthcare companies to retailers, financial services enterprises and service provider organizations.
Respondents across all industries expect that significant disruption is coming, and agree that advanced networking capabilities are essential to current and future competitiveness. The research also uncovered barriers that may prevent many companies from adapting to technology change quickly enough to maintain their existing competitive edge or take advantage of future opportunities.
How likely is it that most companies will experience significant change in the near feature?
Nearly one-third of business decision-makers anticipate that their company will be confronted by significant disruption within the next 12 months, and more than half of those surveyed expect a new disruptive technology, product or service to emerge in their industry within the next two years.
Unfortunately, many companies aren’t ready to respond.
46 percent of IT decision-makers and half of business decision-makers surveyed say that if a competitor suddenly introduced a dramatically superior product or service, it would take their company at least a year to develop and deliver an answer.
Disconnected with IT
The research suggests that the reason so many companies are unprepared for the disruption that they know is probably just around the corner can be found in the C-Suite.
One of the survey’s most surprising findings is the nearly universal belief that senior leaders lack sufficient knowledge of technology advances to keep their organizations at the leading edge of innovation and progress.
The study also suggests a correlation between the lack of technology awareness and a tendency to underinvest in advanced networking capabilities. Most of those surveyed report that budgetary constraints are the primary obstacles preventing them from upgrading technology systems to keep pace with change and disruption.
The result? Outdated infrastructure that slows innovation, increases costs and hampers business growth.
Automation is Imperative
The technology answer, according to the vast majority of those surveyed, is network and IT automation.
Over 70 percent of decision-makers across all four industries say they are excited by the opportunities that network and IT automation can create for their organizations.
An even greater percentage believe that network and IT automation will be essential to their company’s future competitiveness.
The research also found that, specifically, network automation plays a key role in driving improvements that translate to tangible value and bottom line business benefits. Today, more than 90 percent of respondents who are IT decision-makers at companies using software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) believe they have gained a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace.
They also report that the benefits of SDN and NFV exceed their expectations in capabilities ranging from virtual data center operations to security automation, network visibility, workflow automation, virtual security, virtual routing and more.
Whether we truly stand on the brink of a Fourth Industrial Revolution is uncertain, but there’s no doubt that we are in the midst of sweeping disruption and change that promises to affect every industry and touch every business.
How well companies prepare and respond will depend on how quickly they adopt advanced networking capabilities that speed decision-making and accelerate innovation.