Behind The Buzzword: Disruptive Technology

Innovative Or Underused?

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Steven Lerner

Digital Transformation professionals are often inundated with a barrage of new business buzzwords. Does a particular buzzword refer to meaningful technology, or is it just another example of meaningless terminology? Each week, Enterprise Mobility Exchange publishes Behind The Buzzword, a quick overview of new technology jargon and how professionals view it.

Many enterprises keep an eye out for the newest disruptive technologies that can help with digital transformation. On the surface, it makes sense to study the latest solutions and trends in the industry. However, the problem with seeking a disruptive technology might be with the actual jargon. To some IT professionals, disruptive technology is just another buzzword that has been watered down and lost its original meaning. Is it right to dismiss disruptive technology as a mere buzzword, or is there more meaning to it?

In order to dissect this potential buzzword, we must first look at its definition. At its core, the phrase ‘disruptive technology’ derives its meaning from another phrase that it is often interchangeable with — disruptive innovation. In 1995, Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen defined the phrase a valuable innovation that rattles an existing market by displacing legacy firms and spawning a whole new market. This is considered to be one of the most influential business concepts of all time. Although this definition could be applicable across many industries, it is normally attributed to the technology industry.

The case for showing the meaning in disruptive technology is simple: there are new solutions that change the way that businesses — or entire markets — operate. The innovations are so valuable that it pressures other companies to alter their approach or risk going out of business. The real value isn’t in the improved quality of the product or service, but rather in the simplicity and affordability, says the Christensen Institute. In the enterprise, an obvious example would be cloud computing, which forever changed the way that businesses store data and support users. In this sense, the cloud is a disruptive technology.

However, disruptive technology is also regarded as one of the most nonsensical buzzwords that are overused today. The problem is that some people use the phrase ‘disruptive technology’ to describe literally any type of technological breakthrough. In particular, solutions providers will use this phrase to embellish their latest offerings to both clients and investors. Upon further review, not all new technologies are disruptive.

In conclusion, while it is appropriate to use the phrase ‘disruptive technology’ for certain solutions, it is not applicable in all situations. Thus, only use the phrase for those select technologies that truly disrupt the entire market.

Are there any technology buzzwords or phrases that you are tired of hearing? Share them with Editor Steven Lerner by emailing