Technology and Innovation report

Disruption, disruptive technologies and organisational stages of growth

Finn de Brí, Chief Information Officer, Houses of the Oireachtas argues that market disruption should be less about the focus on technology and more about an organisation’s stage of development.

In the era of disruption, it’s important to recognise that conditions have to be right for change, argues Oireachtas CIO Finn de Brí. de Brí speaks in the context of a global push for the adoption of disruptive technologies such as that of AI, robotics or big data, in both public and private sector organisations.

Market disruption, he states, is possible at various stages of an organisation’s development and does not necessarily require the need to adopt the latest technological innovation. Instead, the CIO stresses the importance of an understanding of an organisation’s standings and its potential for disruption before the integration of disruptive technology.

“Sometimes disruptive technology doesn’t work. That can be for many reasons such as the technology itself not being mature enough or because your organisation isn’t ready for it,” he says. Adding: “Rather than feel bad about failure, we need to accept it.”

de Brí equates the adoption of disruptive technology within an organisation that is not yet ready as to that of sending a five-year-old to university and points to big data as an example of a technology that, while compelling to many organisations, has not lived up fully to expectations.

“Organisations need to be at a certain stage of development before they can adopt certain technologies,” he states.

Outlining his understanding of organisational development, de Brí points to similarities in the human growth process and the various stages of cognitive development. Each stage is learned and used repeatedly but also forms the basis on which to build later stages upon.

“These are competencies and capabilities that you use over and over again as you continue to develop as a human and organisations go through a similar process, jumping through very vertical stages of growth. Vertical learning allows for an increase in capability but horizontal learning is about applying capability to many organisational situations.”

de Brí highlights the strikingly similar eight stages of development for public and private sector organisations with the only difference being at stage one. For a private organisation, this usually occurs through product development, compared to a public organisation whereby stage one usually relates to legislative capability.

Outlining the eight stage of growth, he says: “Each stage, when learned, can be used over and over and each has the potential to bring about disruption. Depending on the stage an organisation is at will determine if a disruptive technology can be adopted. It would be wrong to assume that every organisation needs to strive towards or reach the final stage.”

Stage one (legislative capability or product development), de Brí highlights, can bring about market disruption on its own. “This is happening all of the time. Organisations have been doing it with product differentiation, service differentiation, price etc. This disrupts the market and it’s not done through technology.”

Stage two centres on the organisation structure and business process capability. Organisations can capitalise on market disruption through doing this well. Ryanair, for example, have optimised this process to present as a low-cost airline. “We’re not even talking about IT here,” he says, emphasising an organisation’s capability to disrupt without that disruption being driven by technology.

ICT and business process engineering capability is stage three and a stage pinpointed by de Brí as one where many organisations, especially within the public sector, currently find themselves. This stage centres on automation of services, such as government services being available online or the services offered by the likes of Amazon, Uber or Spotify. “This isn’t a disruptive measure. There’s no disruptive technology such as AI or big data involved in the automation process. It’s just automation, but automation can be really disruptive,” he states.

“Technology shouldn’t be the driving force for organisational development but should be used in conjunction with capability and growth ambition.”

de Brí outlines the need to understand the opportunities for individual organisations within each stage and to utilise their abilities for maximum outcome. “Technology shouldn’t be the driving force for organisational development but should be used in conjunction with capability and growth ambition.”

Stage four of development, master data management and customer data integration capability, represents a move to “significantly drag down silos within an organisation”. de Brí believes that this is the point at where real value in analytics is optimised.

Analytics and business intelligence capability, which is stage five, is built upon this integrated data. Using the likes of Paddy Power, YouTube and Netflix as examples, de Brí says that the ability to build business processes around analytical opportunities is majorly advantageous for organisations who hold such capability.

Stage six, flexible case management and business process capability is about taking stage five capability and targeting mass sections of the economy. “Not many organisations are doing this but it is possible through real analytics.” This also forms the basis for the later stages of large scale operational project and portfolio capability (stage seven) and capability dynamics and coordination (stage eight).

Highlighting once more that most organisations will not need to reach these later stages, at least not while the disruptive technologies currently available do not suit their development process. de Brí says: “Disruptive technologies are not always appropriate for an organisation and an organisation’s stage of development will determine if certain technologies are appropriate for adoption.

“There are many opportunities for organisations to disrupt, with each stage of development offering many unique opportunities. Disruption is less about the technologies and more about the organisation and its stage of development, alongside its ability to create new disruptive changes.”

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