Forrester Advises CIOs on How to Disrupt their Companies

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Most sectors are facing disruption as a result of new technologies and digitalisation. In a new report, Forrester examines how leaders can take a blue-sky approach to digital innovation in order to re-invent their businesses.

“Your customers’ expectations are not set by your competitors. Your customers’ expectations of what’s possible are raised every day through the experiences they get from the best companies in the world. As a digital business leader, you know your company is no longer competing just within your industry for customers’ attention and money,” write Forrester vice presidents and principal analysts, Ted Schadler and Nigel Fenwick, who co-authored the report Disrupt your Business from the Outside In. “If you want to grow revenue, you must become a digital innovator and continuously improve the quality of your experience and value delivery in order to stay ahead of these rising expectations.”

According to the report, born-digital companies like Amazon and Tesla are natural digital innovators. These customer-obsessed companies digitise customer engagement and then work iteratively to improve, delivering what their customers want, when they want it. These companies have the ability disrupt entire industries.

However even older companies that focused on innovation, like General Electric, have been able to re-invent themselves because they are willing to reimagine future revenue streams by reinventing themselves from the outside-in.

Forrester warn that companies that don’t take action will soon not be in a position to deliver to customer expectations and will ultimately lose their support – and revenue.

The report goes on to say that to meet rapidly-evolving customer expectations, leaders should redesign the very core of their business, suggesting they start by applying the outside-in principles.  

To achieve this, leaders should:

  • Use both quantitative and qualitative insights, like ethnographic research, journey mapping, and analytics to view their business from their customer’s perspective
  • Connect insights to action. Leaders can optimise outcomes by continuously measuring and testing based on digital insights to drive continuous improvements.
  • Build minimum viable products (MVPs) to test and quickly improve customer experiences.  This will accelerate innovation and also helps reduce the risks and cost of failure
  • Remove historical organisational barriers, and leverage partner capabilities to quickly bring more value to customers. This includes working across functional boundaries and even building a cloud ecosystem of partners that can help build innovative products

Forrester’s Schadler and Fenwick suggest blue-sky thinking in digital innovation workshops to kickstart the reinvention process. These should bring together leaders from marketing, technology, products, sales, channels, finance, and operations to examine four fundamental questions:

1. What do our customers really value?

Successful entrepreneurs know what their customers want and adjust their delivery based on customer feedback. By identifying customer outcomes and how your business fits into these, leaders can also identify opportunities for disruption.

2. How would we serve customers if we could start our business today?

By thinking like an entrepreneur with no baggage, leaders can explore how new technology can undercut and improve their existing business model.

3. What resources would we need to achieve this result?

Once the opportunities have been identified, leaders should determine what resources are needed and implement a proper planning process to achieve success.

4. What are our first steps on the path to continuous improvement?

Digital disruption allows companies to start small without necessarily knowing the end-game. As more knowledge of the customers’ expectations become clearer, they can rapidly adapt to meet them.

Finally, Forrester advises digital leaders to embrace the power of the collective. Identifying partners that can walk the innovation journey with your company allows for exponential opportunities and delivery speed. Digital service providers that your customers already use are prime candidates for ecosystem partnerships. Looking internally, setting up innovation labs within your company not only gives the correct resources and capacity to digital innovation, but also institutionalises an innovation culture within your organisation.

For more information, contact Joan Osterloh at

Sources: “Disrupt Your Business From The Outside In.” Authors Ted Schadler and Nigel Fenwick.

About The Analysts

Ted Schadler. Ted is a vice president and principal analyst, serving Digital Business Professionals. He has 29 years of experience in the technology industry, analyzing the effects of disruptive technologies on people and on businesses. His research agenda focuses on digital transformation, digital innovation, digital experience platforms, and digital experience service providers. His current interests and collaborations include digital experience architectures, rebuilding the web for our mobile world, personalization, digital customer experience, and digital insights.

Nigel Fenwick. As vice president and principal analyst, Nigel supports CIOs working across the C-suite to provide insight and guidance in a world disrupted by technology. A leader in digital business and strategy, Nigel can be seen speaking at events around the world and he's frequently quoted in both trade and mainstream media. Recognized as a visionary with insight into emerging trends, he has published leading research on digital business, social media, business strategy, innovation, retail, and marketing. His latest research on digital business examines customer value and the fundamental business changes needed in the age of the customer to win, serve, and retain customers.


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