Disruptive Tech Repels Customers

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2002-11-25

"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?"

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