In this blog series, I’ve highlighted a few disruptive technologies shared by Salim Ismael and shared some of the opportunities they could create for A/E and consulting firms. But, Roger McNamee at Elevation Partners took the story of disruptive technologies one step further. In his view, every decade there is one game changing technology — in the 1970s and 1980s it was the PC, in the 1990s and 2000s it was the Internet, and in the 2010s and 2020s it is the smart phone.
This post is a part of a series on disruptive technology. To see the other posts in the series, jump to the end of the article.
The Pattern of Disruptive Technologies
One of Roger’s great insights was this — every game changer follows a similar pattern. Essentially, the technology has two defining periods.
#1 — Adoption
During the period of adoption (usually 5-10 years), the technology starts as a small solution that doesn’t really change things all that much. During this period, the technology is simply being adopted by the market. Whatever economic gains are created tend to be captured by a small subset of the overall economy — the folks who brought the technology to life. While smart phones were being adopted, the majority of the economic gains went to the phone and wireless companies.
#2 – Adaption
It’s not until the technology is widely adopted that it really starts to foster meaningful change in society and culture. This is the period of adaption when we start to identify and find new and powerful uses for the technology. This is the period when the application of the technology opens up the market to a much wider section of the economy. It’s the time when subject matter experts apply the technology to solve big, important challenges in a better, more productive or more efficient way.
Smart Phones are Entering Phase 2
As it turns out, we are at the beginning of this second period for the smart phone. There are very few technology products ever with as broad an adoption as smart phones. Up until now, the smart phone has been a useful and interesting technology, but it hasn’t substantively changed our lives. Sure, it’s nice to have your email, your songs, and your contacts in your pocket in a single device. But, that doesn’t really transform your life. It’s the application of the technology to the big and important parts of our life that will make it more useful — things like health and well-being, security, entertainment. And, as Roger points out, most of the gains during the period of adaption go to the subject matter experts — folks who already have deep knowledge about a problem who can bring perspective on how to apply the new technology to solve that problem better.
Ultimately, the smart phone might be the most important technology of the next decade for most professional services firms because it’s the one technology (among those shared in this series) that is actually at the period of adaption where they can get involved in a meaningful way.
Implications on the Professional Services Firm
Here’s what the period of smart phone adaption could mean to professional services firms:
For A/E Firms
There are so many operational and process improvement opportunities for A/E/C firms when it comes to mobility — opportunities to connect people and teaming partners together in a better way, to streamline processes, to enable staff in the field to be more effective and productive — it’s hard to know where to begin. For A/E firms, this period of adaption will likely be primarily about making their firms much more productive, efficient and effective.
For Consulting Firms
While these same operational gains will be relevant to many consulting firms, the opportunity to help clients identify and pursue new business ventures and new market opportunities will continue to be a more compelling and lucrative path for consulting firms.
Our 5 Part Series on Disruptive Technologies
The inspiration for the series was a handful of speakers (Salim Ismael, Roger McNamee and Jeff Immelt) at the 2014 Middle Market Summit hosted by GE Capital and the National Center for the Middle Market. Here is a list of all 5 articles in this series: