This Is What Businesses Need to Know About Digital Disruption in 2017

Keith Krach
December 14, 2016

As 2016 approached, business professionals from every industry began to speculate about how digital transformation would impact companies that year. Firms of all sizes, in all sectors, were expected to focus on operational aspects like the development of a digital marketing plan, an increased need for reliance on data, and the necessity of bringing digital into the core of company operations - rather than leveraging digital predominantly as a branding tool to evoke modernity.

With 2017 looming, many of the trends that were expected to play a crucial role in operations within the last year will carry into the coming one. Some trends that began to gain ground in 2016 will truly hit their stride. Businesses that failed to take digital disruption seriously could begin to feel the first real consequences.

Listed below are three digitally disruptive business trends from 2016 that are slated to have an even greater influence in 2017.

Adaptability Will Be Essential

At its core, digital disruption is about two things - technology and people. The right technology, for obvious reasons, is a crucial component of any business that wants to maintain its relevance in a future affected by digital disruption.

The vital role that the human touch plays in a digitally disrupted future may be less obvious, but it is equally important. Your employees must be provided with the tools and management support to make your business adaptable in the face of fast and frequent change.

Adaptability was a crucial component of digital disruption in 2016. However, expect its effects to be amplified by the increased presence and reach of forces like the Internet of Things and big data in 2017.

To be competitive, businesses will need the ability to rapidly execute changes made necessary by sudden shifts in markets and customer expectations. The key to developing this ability lies in the creation of a company culture that provides employees with the tools necessary to move quickly. Additionally, company culture must also encourage staff to let go of traditional, risk-averse views that lead to a fear of failure and ultimately slow the pace of change.

Successful companies in the coming year will not be those that attempt to increase business velocity through the blanket adaptation of new technologies. Instead, they will be those that research and selectively provide the best-suited technological tools to teams that will use them to react swiftly and strategically to change.

The Remote Workforce Will Rise

Workforce norms are likely to deviate farther from tradition in 2017. Businesses are expected to see more technological capability and financial benefit in the employment of remote workers, along with increased demand for the flexibility that these positions offer. This growth in demand for remote positions is natural in light of the fact that the Pew Research Center estimates approximately one-third of the American labor force is now from the tech-savvy Millennial generation.

Digitally disruptive capabilities grant the modern employee the ability to operate outside of the traditional office setting. They also give today's businesses the opportunity to hire outside of traditional parameters.

Remote work will give companies an even greater ability to strengthen their staff with diverse and capable people living outside of the local area. This means deepening their talent pools and equipping themselves with the employees needed to successfully operate in the digital age.

Studies also show that the majority of remote workers already feel more content and more productive within their professional roles than the average traditional worker in the United States. Happier employees equate to more satisfying customer experiences, which is one of the key goals of companies looking to thrive in the digitally-disrupted business market.

Big Data Will Have a Bigger Influence Than Ever

Big data has been a buzzword for professionals across all industries in recent years, yet reports appear to show that companies are still struggling to understand how to use it to an advantage. One study from late 2015 showed that of companies pursuing the use of big data, more than three-quarters saw few or no tangible benefits.

As little as 4 percent of respondents were able to claim true success in gaining a competitive edge through their use of big data. These effects were mirrored in big data usage during 2016, when many company leaders invested heavily in big data only to discover that they lacked the resources to utilize it fully.

Big data has played a significant role in the advancement of digital disruption and is only expected to grow increasingly more important in 2017. Within two years, the market for big data is expected to reach an astonishing $187 billion.

Any company that has yet to prepare itself by utilizing the digitally disruptive technology will face the consequences, sooner or later. The ability to harness the power of big data will be one of the major differentiators between industry leaders and those who begin to lose market position to more digital disruption-savvy competitors.

Keith Krach

Keith Krach is Chairman of DocuSign, The Global Standard for Digital Transaction Management.