Predictable Disruption

Looking to digital ecosystems for the next waves of change


Frustrated by their inability to hail a taxi on a snowy evening in 2008, two friends brainstormed an idea that would eventually become known as Uber—a digital platform that that has profoundly disrupted the taxi industry in 449 cities worldwide. With a few taps on their smartphones, passengers can now e-hail a car when and where needed, and follow the Uber driver’s journey in real time. But the story does not end there.

Just a handful of years later, Uber is using its platform and ecosystem to push disruption into a completely unrelated sector—healthcare. Last November, people across 36 US cities could tap on the UberHEALTH option on their apps for a US$10 flu care package and a house call from a registered nurse with enough flu vaccines for 10 people. In April 2016, Uber launched a similar service in five cities in South Africa. Until then, neither hospitals nor pharmacy chains had considered Uber a potential competitor. Today, the term “uberisation” has to come mean the data-driven utilisation of otherwise untapped or idling resources.


Conventional wisdom says that disruption is unexpected, upsetting and unwelcome. But as much as “Predictable Disruption” may seem a contradiction in terms, it is not.

More and more, businesses are investing in digital platforms, connecting with new partners and reimagining industries. New ecosystems are being formed. But these new ecosystems don’t emerge overnight—they start out small and develop slowly. To attract partners and build consumer demand, the companies developing them are vocal about their plans. And this gives those who are watching not just a line of sight into these digital ecosystems, but an opportunity to anticipate the trajectories and impact with a fairly high level of certainty. Smart companies map out ecosystem scenarios—and unveil disruptive opportunities.

In other words, the ecosystems that are emerging across the globe provide the foundation for the next major disruption.

As seen in the case of UberHEALTH, the disruptive nature of these new digital ecosystems is not bound by traditional industry barriers. As every industry becomes digital, an ecosystem forming in one sector can very quickly become the foundation for disruptions in another.

Some 82 percent of the 3,200 IT and business executives we surveyed for Technology Vision 2016 say industry boundaries are being erased, and new paradigms are emerging for every industry. This means that beyond looking at digital ecosystems for the next waves of change, businesses must develop ecosystem strategies to participate in entirely new markets.

The threat of unexpected new competitors seizing the advantage is balanced by the immense opportunities offered by this business model. Unlike previous technology disruptions that were often unpredictable, forward thinking leaders can get ahead of the game, develop their ecosystem strategies, and ride the results into new markets. We believe that strategy teams of the future will use gamification to play out and predict disruptions.

Ecosystem disruptions won’t happen across all industries at the same time. But they will inevitably arrive and those that watch will see them coming.


Generally, companies have not yet adopted digital technologies at scale simply because beyond technology, true digital transformation requires the entire organisation to be ready—from legal and risk management, to IP protection and having the right talent and ecosystem. We believe that mainstream adoption will take place in the next 12 to 18 months, driven by a shrinking local market and the need to innovate to compete with early adopters. In Malaysia, this has been especially so in the telecommunications and financial services industries, both of which are already feeling the impact of disruption by adjacent players.

Most major telcos here have seen Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) fall due to the arrival of digital channels and collaboration apps like WeChat, LINE and WhatsApp. The same challenges are being faced by banks, with the growth of FinTechs and, like telcos, apps like WeChat and LINE. A number of companies are experimenting or developing strategies to anticipate and be able to move quickly with change. The main challenge for Malaysian companies now is to see how they can create or plug into ecosystems that will allow them to take advantages of opportunities that come with the inevitability of disruption.



As technology companies surface new and novel ways for consumers to sidestep traditional banking practices, Malaysia’s biggest lender has boarded the innovation train. In 2015, Maybank partnered one of the country’s largest accelerators, venture capital firm 1337 Ventures, to kick off MaybankFintech, an annual boot camp to draw promising FinTech ideas from around the world. It ran a second edition earlier this year. By harnessing the start-up ecosystem, Maybank hopes to adopt and scale ideas that will allow it to break free from banking’s legacy technologies, become more nimble, and sharpen its customer focus.


By the end of this year, Samsung’s flagship mobile payment service, Samsung Pay, will be rolled out in Malaysia. The South Korean giant’s answer to Apple Pay uses proprietary technology called Magnetic Secure Transmission, as well as Near Field Communications (NFC) and bar code readers. This means it will work with virtually any payment terminal that supports physical credit cards, and that stores can use their existing machines for Samsung Pay. Samsung is still in talks with local banks to get the payment service off the ground, but the company is confident of its success. The service is currently used by some five million people in the United States and South Korea, and has also been launched in Singapore and China, among others.


Even as growth rates in the telecommunications industry hovers in the low teens, Celcom has remained ever-relevant, pivoting into areas such as digital commerce, and providing far more than just a network. In 2015, Celcom tied up with SK Telecom’s e-commerce subsidiary to launch South Korea’s largest online marketplace, 11street, in Malaysia. Celcom has been able to use the online mall to grow its digital sales and distribution, and effectively reach younger customers. This allows it to move beyond the dealer-based sales telecommunications companies traditionally rely on. Celcom hopes for digital sales to expand by 30 percent in the next three years. It has also partnered New York-based Yonder Music to bring digital music to its subscribers, and signed a deal with video-on-demand service iFlix.


  • Digital ecosystems are becoming the foundation for the next wave of enterprise disruption

  • Industry boundaries are already blurring, shifting market power to newcomers

  • Companies can gain visibility into the disruptive forces of ecosystems and take action now by developing strategies to forge new roles and new paths


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