Disruptive Tech Repels Customers

 
 
By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2002-11-25 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

"Disruptive technology should disrupt your competitors, not your customers," warned Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, in his keynote at the DCI CRM Leadership Summit last month in San Francisco.

"Disruptive technology should disrupt your competitors, not your customers," warned Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, in his keynote at the DCI CRM Leadership Summit last month in San Francisco.

Analyzing the introductions of such technologies as voice recognition and digital cameras, Christensen condemned vendors for "competing against consumption"—that is, introducing products that "offer something crummy to people who are used to something good."

Voice recognition, Christensen said, is marketed to "administrative assistants who type 80 words per minute with 99 percent accuracy," instead of "fat-fingered executives" trying to send e-mail from tiny devices.

Digital camera makers, Christensen said, have marketed devices that are becoming credible replacements for film cameras but cost too much to be considered by anyone except current owners of high-end cameras, as opposed to alternative technologies that could be marketed to entry-level buyers.

"Compete against nonconsumption," Christensen said, telling his audience to identify potential customers who are not served by whats available today and to introduce new technologies in forms that open new markets, then work toward higher quality and lower cost.

The point, Christensen said, is to follow a path that always offers potential buyers more, not less.

Christensens comments focused on technologies for the marketplace but also offer an important message to enterprise IT pros. As buyers, they should resist costly novelty without clear ROI; as implementers, they should always be able to answer a users question: "How is this better?"

 
 
 
 
Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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