At the Center of the Digital Vortex: Chaos, Disruption, and Opportunity

June 24, 2015 - 4 Comments

The only thing that remains constant is change.

It’s an old adage. While it has always been true, it’s especially relevant now. Today’s pace of technology change is akin to a vortex, relentlessly and chaotically sweeping everything into its spiral path, demanding digitization. As with a real vortex, the force of this change is too strong to ignore and those objects (or business models) that fail to adapt will break apart and fall away.

Indeed, digital disruption has the potential to overturn incumbents and reshape markets faster than perhaps any force in history. Organizations that do not drive their own digital business transformation will be left behind. Those that do will be pulled toward a “digital center” in which business models, offerings, and value chains are digitized driving new revenue streams and substantive business outcomes.


The driver behind this pace of disruption is the Internet of Everything (IoE), the networked connection of people, process, data, and things. Cisco projects these connections to surge from 15 billion today to some 50 billion by the end of the decade. IoE is sowing disruption, certainly — but it is a force for disruption and creation. With a total Value at Stake of $19 trillion from 2013 to 2022, IoE represents a profound market transition — and opportunity.

Digital Transformation has now become synonymous with IoE. How can business leaders leverage IoE, better understand our challenging times and gain new insights into how to transform themselves digitally?

Today, I’m helping inaugurate a first-of-its kind initiative between Cisco and IMD: the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation (DBT Center). Based at IMD’s campus in Lausanne, Switzerland, the DBT Center is a global research hub at the forefront of digital business transformation, where executives will engage to solve the challenges created by massive market transitions. It combines Cisco’s leadership in the Internet of Everything with IMD’s expertise in developing global leaders, focusing on the organizational change required for digital transformation.

DBT Center research will focus on digital disruption, competitive change, business model innovation, and transformation-oriented themes involving people, process, and technology change.

The first of many thought leadership reports from the DBT Center has just been issued. To learn more about the current state of digital disruption and the outlook for industries, the Center surveyed 941 business leaders around the world in 12 industries, resulting in a comprehensive global study titled “Digital Vortex: How Digital Disruption Is Redefining Industries.”

Among the key findings:

  • Four of today’s top 10 incumbents (in terms of market share) in each industry will be displaced by digital disruption in the next five years. The threat extends not only to displacement of big companies, but also to the very existence of entire industries.
  • Despite that, digital disruption has not received board-level attention in about 45 percent of companies (on average across industries). In addition, 43 percent of companies either do not acknowledge the risk of digital disruption, or have not addressed it sufficiently. Nearly a third are taking a “wait and see” approach. Only 25 percent describe their response to digital disruption as proactive.
  • The industry that will experience the most digital disruption between now and 2020 is technology products and services. Pharmaceuticals, meanwhile, is likely to experience the least amount of digital disruption. However, the clock is ticking, and the vortex is swirling: across all industries, the average time to disruption is just 3.1 years.

As industries or organizations move toward the center of the Digital Vortex, physical components that inhibit competitive advantage (such as manual, paper-based processes) are shed. Whatever can be digitized is digitized.

Business leaders will need to be prepared.

Executives who come to the DBT Center will build their digital transformation strategies and develop the innovative business models that will drive IoE value. In short, they will learn how to most effectively adapt on the journey to the center of the vortex, and continue to thrive once there.

After all, the center of the Digital Vortex is not an end state. Remember, the only thing that remains constant is change. At the center of the Digital Vortex, change is truly never-ending.

However, business leaders who learn, and learn quickly, to combine, adapt, and innovate at the same unrelenting pace of the Digital Vortex are in for one exciting ride. I am confident that the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation will be pivotal to help lead the way.

In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. Thank you for sharing your well articulated blog post.
    I found it realy inspiring and very much inline with my understanding of the opportunities that abound with digital technology from both a B2B as well as B2C perspective.

    One “broken” industry that stands to benefit significantly from digital distruption is the US Healthcare Industry, that has been so fragmented, wih extremely valauble information kept in localized ‘pockets’ around the country. We now have the ability share data, EHRs, lab results, diagnoses and teh ability to evaluate which therapies work for which patient groups.

    But I question that Pharma will experience the least amount of digital disruption, especially now that technology helped us to ‘crack’ the human genome and recently the human microbiome; we also have advanced stem cell technoligies, invitro as well as cryogenics, and a myriad individual medical devices to diagnose, track, and evaluate our conditions.

    We can’t forget that digital technologies are enabling healthcare providers to evaluate more patient dynamics and more information – in fact, many integrative HCPs are now looking at the patient as a whole person as opposed to just treating their symtoms – and as such they are already engaging “Functional Medicine” therby getting to the Root Cause of the issue.

    The future is not one-size-fits-all but a system that offers personalized solutions.

    Society is finally embracing the Hypocratic philosophy; “Let food be thy medicine” so with the shift to healthier whole foods, active-lifestyles and stress reduction, we will see much less infammation – the root cause of most chronic disease.

    So while it could be correct that the Pharma industry might have the least to worry about from digital distruption from within its industry, I believe that digital technloiges have helped alternative solutions to pharmaceuticals thrive – and consumers are demanding this better alternative.

  2. Thanks for the info and very thanks for share.

  3. You said “How can business leaders leverage IoE, better understand our challenging times and gain new insights into how to transform themselves digitally?”

    I’ve just downloaded a copy of the full market study. Thank you for sharing this insight. I look forward to additional market insights from your ongoing collaboration with IMD.