Living on the Disruptive Edge

Get Disruptive’ is the theme of Entrepreneurs Organization’s event, EO Alchemy this year – and what a great topic for those creating new businesses! After all, new companies are usually built on the premise of disrupting an existing industry – and of course more and more of today’s disruption is enabled by advances in technology.

A window to innovation

Just think of some of the famous disruptors of recent times – Tesla in auto, Netflix in media and Uber for taxicabs. All three companies have become differentiated, based on a brave, bold vision, brought to life through tech.

Disruption is a force for good. It kills complacency, shakes things up, and provides huge customer benefits, like more choice, new or improved products and services, and better value for money. Without disruption, we would continue to do the same-old, same-old and never move the dial.

We know first-hand all about disruption at Dell Technologies. Over the years, we’ve successfully disrupted the PC, server, workstation, services and gateway markets. You could say that disruption is part of our DNA. Indeed, finding new sources of disruption is a key reason why we invest in new and interesting companies – as the President of Dell Technologies Capital, Scott Darling, says, “Our goal is to get a window on innovation.”

Things can be messy for a while

Of course, it’s not all a bed of roses. As the name implies, ‘disruption’ is usually a bit messy. Things can break. It can be unsettling or confusing for a while as things are re-arranged and old realities disappear. Long standing product lines can become less relevant and less profitable and that in itself drives angst and second thoughts about pursuing something new.

Change is challenging. And while a company might be clear eyed and positive about the need for change, in most mature organizations, change takes a bit longer to move forward. Healthy checks and balances need to take place before radical changes in products or processes are implemented


So, if it’s messy, why bother? Well, staying relevant and competitive in today’s world is not easy but companies know that it’s a case of disrupt or be disrupted.

For example, according to Professor Richard Foster from Yale University, the average lifespan of an S&P 500 index company has decreased 50 years in the last century, from an average of 67 years in the 1920s to just about 15 years today. Half of the companies listed on the Fortune 500 in the year 2000 have fallen off the list – and indeed many of those no longer exist. It used to take Fortune 500 companies an average of 20 years to reach a billion-dollar valuation; today’s digital start-ups are getting there in four. The moral of the story – disrupt or be disrupted!

Lessons learnt in disruption

Based on our own experiences and that of our customers, what pearls of wisdom can we impart? Every day, we hear customers talking about a need and desire to drive disruptive innovations – but doing so in a way that their organization can buy into and support.

Here are some lessons we’ve learned from our customers and partners while working with them to drive disruption through technology:

Top Tips for Success

1. Focus on the outcome to be improved, rather than the technology. Whether it’s new efficiencies to become more competitive, or new features to deliver more for customers, or improved safety to better protect employees, focusing on common values held within an organization helps keep teams aligned to focus on one deliverable. Remember, technology is just a means to an end.

2. Paint the vision to get the team together and communicate it loudly and consistently. Involve people at all levels. Understand that a range of stakeholders will need to work together –some of whom may not have had an opportunity to work together before.

For example, a lot of disruption is happening today at the edge, where the physical world meets the digital world. This means that IT folks will need to learn how to harvest and integrate the right data from the OT world. These worlds tend to have different cultures and ways of working so clashes can easily happen, if not acknowledged upfront and worked through.

3. Focus on your core competencies. Bring in external partners to provide critical expertise where needed. Look for partners with deep domain expertise in a given vertical – they will be able to accelerate the work as they’ll understand which levers to throw to enable the outcome dial to be turned in the right direction.

In that context, it’s interesting to see that in a global Dell customer survey, carried out earlier this year, more than 88 percent of respondents said that existing OEM partnerships are helping them overcome barriers to innovation, with close to 83 percent indicating that OEMs had helped them accelerate their own product and services initiatives.

4. We’ve already talked about the transformational role of technology in driving technology. Our customers certainly agree with 81 percent of those surveyed saying technology is critical and can make all the difference between winning and losing.

Dell Technologies offers a differentiated portfolio that is delivering hardware and software solutions that play at every level of AI and IoT implementation, from the edge, to the core, to the cloud. We can deliver all the necessary assets, including scalable, secure, manageable and open infrastructure architecture, IoT and big data expertise, the ability to customize through our OEM division, the right partners plus a sophisticated global support and supply chain.

And importantly, we understand innovation and disruption. It’s part of our heritage. Get disruptive – we’re here to support you!

I’d love to hear your comments and questions about disruption in your industry and business.

Come meet me at EO Alchemy, 11-14 September in Portland.

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