have the power to upend
supply chains, adding
cost and complexity.
They also can create
but only if organizations
strategically build them
into their supply chains.
DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES—innovative products or processes that supplant
existing technology—are commonly associated with leading-edge product
development and new business models. Consider the disruptive influence
mobile phones have had on the landline phone, personal computer, and music/
entertainment industries. But disruptive technologies are not just of interest
to consumers; they’re also relevant for supply chain managers. That’s because
supply chain organizations can create profitable opportunities by utilizing disruptive technologies as primary drivers of innovative supply chain strategies.
There’s danger, however, in adopting disruptive technologies simply because
they’re viewed as “the wave of the future,” or because organizations worry that
they’ll be left behind if they don’t follow the crowd. We argue that instead,
it is imperative for supply chain managers to view and implement disruptive
technologies strategically, by first considering customer needs, and then aligning
appropriate technologies with each supply chain application, avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach. Doing so, we believe, will lead to improvements in agility,
customer service, and cost—and allow you to be the disruptor, rather than the
disrupted. In this article, we offer a framework for evaluating disruptive technologies from a strategic perspective.
Data as a driver of disruptive technologies
Typically, a new, disruptive technology initially costs more and does less than
existing technologies; as a result, it often is actively ignored as a threat by rivals.
But in many cases, the disruptive technology soon evolves into a high-quality/
low-cost offering that crowds out traditional technology. The impact of disruptive technologies is often felt most clearly by the incumbent firms that are
give them the