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8 min read

Disrupt or be disrupted: Navigating disruptive technology

Understanding disruptive technology helps you identify innovations that serve your interests and reap the benefits of early adoption.
From Team '23

Tempo Team

Walkmans supplanted transistor radios, Netflix ousted Blockbuster, and Uber is pushing taxis to the brink. Throughout history, once-popular products and services have been rendered obsolete as trailblazing new technologies burst onto the scene, revolutionizing industry and society. It’s been happening since the invention of the wheel. 

These developments in emerging technologies led to the conception of disruptive innovation theory, one of the most influential modern business constructs. In his 1997 book The Innovator's Dilemma, Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen coined the term “disruptive innovation.” Clayton uses the term to describe cutting-edge tech’s entrance into the bottom of a market before rising to preeminence, displacing well-established products, companies, and allegiances.

However, market shifts aren’t the disruptor’s only impact. According to disruption theory, these types of innovations change business models, alter how people work, and drastically realign society.

As a project manager, keeping an eye on the future and staying ahead of the technological curve lets you quickly and seamlessly integrate disruptive technologies into your practice. By recognizing ground-breaking new tools, you’ll continuously grow capacity and improve processes, leading to better outcomes for your team and clients.

What is considered disruptive technology?

Tech experts use the terms “disruptive technology” or “disruptive innovation” to describe any device, service, or concept that irreversibly changes its respective industry. Disruptions affect how consumers, businesses, and industries operate. Despite their initial risk, emerging technological advances often beget new markets and value networks.

Disruptive technological advances oust incumbents in an established market. Due to their accessibility, revolutionary benefits, and superior performance, disruptive products and services entirely eclipse their predecessors, relegating competition to the scrap heap. 

The impacts aren't limited to industry. They ripple outward, affecting economies and social mores and prompting regulatory changes and ethical discussions. 

Top 5 examples of disruptive technology

From the compass to the assembly line to space flight, history provides an exhaustive record of disruptive technology’s effect on humanity. Here are a few examples straight from today’s headlines:

1. Generative artificial intelligence 

Generative AI is leading the charge of new and innovative technology. This form of artificial intelligence scrapes the internet, collecting massive amounts of data and applying complex algorithms and neural networks to identify trends or patterns. AI then leverages machine learning to analyze these insights, generating a novel response to inputted user prompts. AI is used to create new art, perform administrative tasks, and complete time-consuming, menial work. 

Generative AI can produce unprecedented amounts of personalized content, overwhelming traditional creative processes. Skirting human contributions and leaving source material uncited has prompted ethical concerns regarding authorship and originality. In the meantime, technology evangelists continue to lobby for AI’s expansion, using it to innovate various industries, including

  • Healthcare

  • Banking

  • Fashion 

  • Marketing

  • Human resources

  • Supply chain

  • Legal

2. Internet of Things (IoT)

In the past, people could only connect to the World Wide Web through a computer interface. Thanks to the advent of smart technology, users can now access the internet via their phones, watches, or television sets. Even refrigerators come equipped with sensors, software, and connectivity, allowing appliances to collect and exchange data online. This digital connectivity creates a network of devices known as the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT led to the big data revolution, granting industry unprecedented access to user information and enabling them to predict and analyze trends with unparalleled accuracy. Any organization relying on data collection and analysis can benefit from this. For example:

  • Agriculture: Smart sensors monitor soil conditions, weather, and crop health, leading to more sustainable and profitable farming practices.

  • Urban planning: Connected cities allow planners to efficiently manage municipal resources and improve public services, reducing waste and minimizing environmental footprint. 

  • Healthcare: New wearable devices allow for remote monitoring of vital signs like blood sugar levels and heart rate, enabling patients to take ownership of their health with fewer interventions and lower costs. 

3. 3D printing

3D printing is another disruptive technology that’s making waves in every industry. A 3D printer uses specialized equipment and materials to transform a digital file into a tangible, physical object, one thin layer at a time. 

The technology reduces the cost of prototyping, letting engineers and designers rapidly develop, test, and iterate their concepts. Inventors move from the drawing board to the production line far faster than with traditional methods. 

3D printing’s impact is felt most in the manufacturing sector, where it fosters a decentralized and on-demand production process that reduces waste, lowers costs, and recalibrates traditional supply chain systems. 

4. 5G

5G, the fifth-generation wireless technology, updates mobile communication and connectivity standards. It offers dramatically improved data speed, latency, network capacity, and connectivity compared to the 4G technology. 5G is 100 times faster, with a top speed of 200 gigabits per second.

5G transmits data almost instantaneously, letting more devices connect to the network simultaneously without errors. This innovation makes smart technology, IoT, and AI possible. Other information technology applications include:

  • Telemedicine: 5G’s stable connections allow doctors to view real-time medical data, enabling lifesaving procedures such as remote surgery.

  • Driverless vehicles: With low latency and greater bandwidth, 5G facilitates split-second communication between guidance systems and automobiles, allowing a driverless car to respond to unsafe conditions or unpredictable circumstances while maintaining passenger safety.

5. Blockchain

Blockchain is a cyber-security technology that creates a public, tamper-proof digital record of transactions, ensuring safety and transparency. The ledger operates on a decentralized, peer-to-peer network that removes intermediaries like financial institutions, enabling direct transactions. Blockchain disrupts how data is stored, verified, and transferred, piquing interest from numerous industries.

Banks are most dramatically affected by the implications of blockchain adoption. For innovators, it facilitates fast, cheap, and secure international payments while reducing the risk of fraud. Early blockchain adopters within the supply chain industry enjoy validated purchases and product tracking, while healthcare providers use it for secure medical record encryption and transfer. 

The benefits of adopting disruptive technology

When the Project Management Institute surveyed the industry to determine the impact of disruptor technology on the project management field, they found significant benefits for innovators ( i.e., organizations that have adopted the technology) compared to laggards – companies that haven’t prioritized adoption. 

Here’s what you can expect if you incorporate disruptive innovation into your project management practice:

1. Automation

The PMI study found that adopting disruptive technology to automate routine tasks encourages greater efficiency among innovative project managers. PMs who spend less time on mundane project elements can take on a more significant leadership role. Innovative project managers use their extra time to develop soft skills, such as negotiation and critical thinking – disciplines where disruptive technologies fall short. 

2. Competitive advantage

Disruptors’ effects reach beyond their market segment. Companies and professionals that integrate emerging technologies also get a jump on innovation, launching the development of new products or services within their industry. They outpace competitors who stick to more mainstream tools. 

3. New market opportunities

When a company updates its methodologies, it positions itself to help existing clients incorporate disruptive technology into their processes, sustaining its revenue stream while attracting new customers. 

4. Better results

Innovators who incorporate disruptive technology into their project management processes free the PM to hone and refine processes. These organizations see a 71% success rate when working toward original goals or business intent. Companies that lag behind experience successful outcomes only 60% of the time.

5. Affordability

Disruptors entering a new market may offer their goods at a competitively low price point to attract customers. The gambit banks on widespread adoption that promises massive future returns. These smaller companies often have lower overhead or aim to attract customers with limited funds from underserved market segments. Whatever the reason, early adopters can purchase a quality tool from a responsive company at a fraction of the price of an upmarket tech vendor’s product. 

Final considerations

Project managers often lead the adoption of emerging and disruptive technology. It’s a natural fit, given their focus on streamlining processes and improving productivity. Despite this, new tech can be intimidating, especially when team members hesitate to give up tried and true tools.

Resistance to change shouldn’t stop you from betting on disruption. Tempo has numerous solutions that integrate with existing project management tools, like Jira, while leveraging exciting software advances.

Tempo Timesheets incorporates artificial intelligence to simplify time tracking. Since launching the software’s AI capacity in January 2023, 75% of users have begun using prompts to reduce time logging hours by 50% or more.

Take the heavy lifting and tedious project management tasks off your plate by leveraging the power of Portfolio Manager. Predictive scheduling harnesses AI to establish realistic deadlines, removing the guesswork from your project timelines. The software also identifies capacity risks, rebalancing workloads automatically so you can focus on tasks only you can do. 

With Tempo by your side, you have everything you need to build an innovation roadmap and cause some disruptions of your own. 

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