News & Events

Digital Disruption – A Business Imperative

07 Nov 2017

The conversations that I am having with business leaders about how to compete and stay ahead in a world that is increasingly uncertain has changed dramatically over the past few months. While we have often shared issues around competitiveness, productivity, recruitment and general opportunities or challenges in the business world, the role of technology as part of the solution wasn’t previously a CEO discussion point.

But that has changed.

The era of digital transformation is upon us and with it brings business disruption. This is no longer about the IT systems that are running your business, this is about the IT systems that are changing your business, improving efficiency, saving you money and ultimately providing a better service for your customers.

Data and technology are changing how we live, work, and do business. A staggering 90% of the data that currently exists was created in just the last two years. By 2020, it is estimated there will be over 50 billion smart connected devices in the world, all developed to collect, analyse and share data.

This growing volume of data and the technology that supports it is unprecedented, bringing with it disruption that impacts every business in every sector.

However, digital disruption is not simply about technologies – it requires business leaders to re-envision existing business models and embrace a different way of bringing together people, data, and processes to create value for customers.

This is most evident in the emergence of the sharing economy. By developing new and improved ways to respond to consumer needs, yesterday’s digital disruptors have become today’s global giants. The world’s largest taxi company owns no taxis whilst the largest accommodation provider globally owns no real estate.

Although disruption is inevitable, the opportunities are significant for Irish businesses that take the right steps to evolve. With the World Economic Forum estimating that the digital economy will be worth over $100trn by 2025, those that embrace technology and harness the power of data can scale-up for global success.

The level of change happening in the digital environment has been equated to the fourth industrial revolution.  These changes will drive how businesses connect with their consumers, how governments engage with citizens and how we as individuals get to do and achieve more.

Recent research conducted by Microsoft Ireland has found that businesses in Ireland have until 2020 before this unique window of opportunity closes and more agile competitors transform their sectors beyond recognition.

Despite the rapid pace of change, many business leaders have yet to grasp the seismic change that is occurring in the marketplace. Currently, fewer than half have a digital strategy in place. Moreover, 80% of Irish organisations have been found to overestimate their digital readiness, with nearly one in two struggling to keep up with customers.

Digital disruption is forcing change with new technologies and business models affecting Irish business, who are struggling to adapt.

So what advice would I give companies out there looking to progress in today’s economy?

Get ready!

Don’t ignore the transformation happening around you. No matter what industry you are in think of yourself as a digital company and forget the traditional structures you used to operate under. Embrace a digital future for your business and you’ll reap the benefits for your company, employees and your customers.


Cathriona Hallahan is Managing Director, Microsoft Ireland. Cathriona can be contacted through her Linkedin page here.


The views expressed in the posts and comments of this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute of Directors in Ireland. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. The content of this blog is for information purposes only and the Institute of Directors in Ireland is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied.