Digital Business Strategy

Traditional industry disruption – how to stay relevant as CI/MI professional

by Kristina Rylova, Business Strategy Analyst at Agfa Healthcare

During CiMiCon 2019 Kristina Rylova has hosted an interactive session with the intelligence community about the traditional industry disruption by emerging startups and large tech companies (Google, Amazon, FB) entering new domains. The participants brainstormed about the ways how CI/MI business professionals can be proactive & prepare for it in advance including the new alternative ways to bring more value as a CI/MI professional, defending incumbents’ “right to play” and crucial question of “competition VS collaboration”. In this article by Kristina Rylova you find a summary of the key lessons learnt.

1. Adopt an ecosystem approach to Intelligence

    • Be a strong part of a larger ecosystem

Building a strong external network and being an active part of the innovation ecosystem is the only way to keep up with the rapid speed of new developments. While collaboration with universities and close contacts with academic researchers have already been a widely used source of industry technological innovation for a while, there is an increased need of identifying and working with industry thought leaders, visionaries and leading experts. It could be a diverse set of people and organizations: high-profile futuristic organizations like Club of Rome, regional and industry associations (e.g. UK Bioindustry Association), startup communities – incl. FB groups / meetups / incubators (e.g. BeTech in Belgium; EIT Health), social media influencers and bloggers (e.g. The medical futurist by Bertalan Mesko / Kevin Pho).
Finding relevant people and organizations might not be easy – many intelligence professionals tend to rely on external references and recommendations or use special expert search services (e.g. Alphasights, GLG or justanswer).
Attending the specific innovation-focused events can be also a good source to build right connections. If you already participate at the large industry conferences, make sure not to miss a startup corner or startup competitions that are often organized as a part of the show. More and more intelligence professionals prefer to attend specific innovation and disruption-focused congresses to get inspired by the emerging technology and business models (e.g. The New Web (TNW); VivaTech; WebSummit). Large tech companies also organize a lot of futuristic events where they share additional insights about their vision of the industry transformation (open days/ user days /conferences – e.g. Microsoft Ignite, AWS re.invent, Dreamforce by Salesforce).

    • Create your own Ecosystem 

The fastest and the most strategic way to become a valuable part of the larger innovation network is to become a centre of it and create the knowledge ecosystem around your company. Traditionally companies start with organizing one-off events to test the waters (company innovation days with external startup demos, investors and opinion-leaders sharing their vision, hackathons open to public, startup competitions / challenge prizes). The next step is sharing the resources (offering free tools to provide soft support for startups or providing co–working spaces on company campus to facilitate the knowledge exchange) and providing a larger business support (business incubators and accelerator programs) that allows the incumbents to establish favorable terms with the potential disruptors. Bayer G4A initiative and approach to startup collaboration is a top industry use-case worth a deep-dive for those who are interested in the topic.

2. Look beyond the usual suspects

    • Look for the early signs

While everyone agrees that monitoring weak signals is crucial to forecast potential threats, a well-known CI/MI tool such as an early-warning system is still not fully adopted by the industry. Apart from traditional metrics like political and economic situation, technological and market trends, it might be interesting to add more industry disruption indicators in the scope of the analysis. For example, monitor the hiring activity (tracking the large tech vendors job openings in your sector gives you a good idea about their intentions), the new patent emergence in a specific industry or signs of startup ecosystem improvement.

    • Monitor non-traditional research sources

To be proactive, first we need to be curious looking well beyond the research sources we normally use. Most of the corporates work with the same research providers for years and they might miss the new emerging players that could be much more advanced in terms of disruption-based analytical capabilities.  Some useful research pieces include CB insights industry maps and large tech strategy tear downs, Pitchbook emerging tech report, Startup ecosystem report by Genome startup, Kleiner Perkins internet trends report by Mary Meeker etc.

    • Learn from other industries

Cross-industry learning is gaining a significant traction within the intelligence community. Drawing analogies and transferring approaches to different problems beyond the borders of your own industry, sector a or domain can be helpful not only to predict the moves of the disruptors but even to take the right strategic choices and innovate in a smarter way. If you want to learn more about the topic, @Ramon Vullings is a must-know contact – you can check 15 cross-industry innovation examples from his book “Innovate by learning from other sectors!”.

    • Learn from other geographies

Learning from the rest of the world is another way to change your perspective. For EU-based company well familiar with relevant startups in their field in EU it might be eye-opening to do an in-depth analysis of startup ecosystems in emerging countries like Russia, Africa and China.  Very often it can lead to a discovery of the inspiring use-cases, technological applications and business-models that are not internationally adopted yet. It can be a source of inspiration, identification of a potential threat or even a great business development opportunity.

    • Get familiar with the venture capital (VC) world

Unfortunately, not all the corporates at the moment have a well-established view and understanding of the VC world.  Monitoring VC market for your domain can provide a lot of valuable insights about the ongoing industry disruption at the early stage.
First, incumbents need to get familiar with key investors in their domain and start monitoring their activity. If possible, it is even better to build a personal connection with them to establish regular interactions: understanding the thinking process behind the investments and the numerous options these investors passed on could be very insightful.
Think about a regular CI/MI deliverable about VC deal activity in your domain to keep management up to date with the transformation. There are quite a few off-the-shelf reports available focused on the VC deal activity in different sectors (e.g. CB insights about AI in Healthcare) or it could be a result of your own analysis based on the public sources. You can analyze funding dynamics analysis overall (total funding, N of deals, average size), funding of the particular activity by applications / by regions, VC exit activity – acquisition / IPO / buyout.

3. Know yourself and know your in(direct) competition to decide your best response

How do we react to the disruption? When should we compete with the disruptors and when is it better to collaborate? The most important insight to answer these questions is to have an in-depth and objective understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses VS the strengths and weaknesses of the potential disruptor and take the “competition VS collaboration” decision based on the competences overlap analysis.

    • Competition

If competition is a preferred scenario, your safest play is to leverage your existing industry expertise, reputation and already being a part of an ongoing ecosystem, which means strengthening the current relationships with actors on different sides of the ecosystem—customers, suppliers and government.
However, it is often not enough. To compete with new emerging competitors, incumbents should focus on fully leveraging the power of digital developing new business models that are able to create and act on dynamic, personalized customer insights and pursuing a digital strategy embracing all modes of tech learning—including sensors, platforms, algorithms, data and automated decision making. Check out a recent BCG article about a new approach to competition in a post-disruption world.

    • Collaboration 

If your preferred approach is collaboration with a potential disruptor, then you have several strategic options: partnership (product co-development or procurement); investments (corporate venturing / investment in the external startup incubators). Check out the following guide to successful corporate – startup collaboration from EU to understand when and how each option can be realized.
Collaboration with potential disruptors is not easy as most of the time there is a tremendous difference in culture, values and approach to work. Therefore, setting the right realistic expectations from the beginning and closely managing it is essential to avoid collaboration pitfalls.
Giving more flexibility to the teams / divisions working with the innovation partners would help reduce the culture gap and eventually realize the value faster.  Some companies even experiment with creating completely separated autonomous units within a corporation for the same purpose.

To sum everything up, while technology and market demands are rapidly changing, the traditional industry transformation is inevitable. The only way to get ready for it from CI/MI & strategy perspective is:

  • to adopt the ecosystem approach to your company intelligence and innovation strategy
  • increase the scope of your intelligence activities well beyond the traditional sources, industries and geographies
  • strategically approach competition/collaboration opportunities with potential disruptors working towards a more flexible, digitally enabled organization

Keep in mind that to achieve these 3 points your organization should take diversity seriously. Forming diverse teams and keeping a good mix of people from different generations, while making them all work together in an open culture of lifelong learning and knowledge sharing is a first step to get ready for the industry disruption.

Über den Autor

Krystina Rylova

Kristina Rylova is a Business Analyst at AGFA HealthCare. Her biggest passion is knowledge sharing.  Learn more about Kristina Rylova.

About the Event

Pharma CiMi.CON is an annual international knowledge & project exchange platform bringing together 150+ competitive and market intelligence professionals for networking and exchange, to discuss key industry topics and to create new partnerships.

July 02 – 03, 2020 | The Palace Hotel Berlin