Digitalisation: Big bang or incremental?

May 1, 2019 Jim Sadler

In September 2018, SSP Chief Operating Officer, Jim Sadler, held a webinar which discussed just how we can survive ‘digitalisation’ as an industry — as well as what it means on a business and individual level. Following great feedback, we turned the webinar content into an article containing some interesting tips around preparing yourself for future change.

A working hypothesis

Our industry will be swept away and replaced with a ‘digitally remastered’ equivalent. Both the change and the new industry will be powered by the disruptive force of Things. Most people and businesses won’t see it coming and won’t be prepared.

What does this mean?

Many are calling the time we live in the 4th Industrial revolution. This is the digital remastering of industry, through technology. The 4th revolution promises to be the most severe and uncompromising of any that have gone before.

We are currently operating as analogue businesses, where we ‘digitise’ — using technology to improve current business models.

However, those who move forward successfully are digital businesses who ‘digitalise’ — using technology to create brand new business models and value chains.

Analogue to digital business — remastering

Why these?

Connected Things bring, for the first time, a disruptive and exponential force into a historically linear business world. Digital businesses are based on business models developed from the connection between businesses, people and Things. If growth trends are tracked, there is a clear explosion in Things compared to people and businesses.

Things are powered by Moore’s Law, which has held true for over 50 years. Plotting advancements in computing technology has been incredibly predictable, but if we use the doubling effect and just extrapolate the maths, there is an exponential increase in the Internet of Things, deep learning and genetic algorithms.

Why won't many see it coming?

If we know this, then why won’t we see it coming? In a nutshell, our brains just can’t cope with the doubling effect. Evolution has taught us to recognise and operate with linear patterns. To visualise this exponential change, read these examples below:

A single water lily is planted in a pond and will duplicate every day, if the pond will be covered by day 30, on what day is it only half covered?

Answer: day 29

In the year prior to their downfall, Blockbuster Video posted their best ever results. The Board decided that the current strategy was clearly working.

Their business model was ‘remastered’ by the ‘final doubling’ of storage, bandwidth and CPU power combining to allow accessible VoD for the first time.

This explosion in Things can be seen in our daily lives too — how many humans are there in your household and how many Things? I guarantee the ratio has changed considerably when compared to just 5 years ago.


No one knows for sure. However, if we follow the doubling effect laid out on a chessboard, we know that our industry entered the first square in 1984, with the advent of computing in insurance. In 2018, we entered the second half of the board – and this is where the doubling makes huge

Whilst analogue businesses still feature heavily today, their rate of decline will rapidly accelerate and the new digital insurance market and businesses will take over.

What will this be like?

More unpredictable, transient, unstable, rapid and ruthless, unlike anything we’ve seen before.

  • Boundaries will be blurred between businesses, industries and markets
  • Peer-to-peer exchange will become the norm
  • Platforms will rule
  • All aspects will be viewed in increasing HD
  • New concepts of IP
  • Changes in security

Value will now be created through the economy of connections made between people, business and Things.

What can you do?

Ask yourself: Is your industry within clear and present threat of being digitally remastered?

  1. What business will you be in, in 5 years time?
  2. Will your industry still exist in the same way it does now?
  3. How will you create value?

Have you started your digital journey? What % of the following is geared towards digital business?

  1. Capital investment
  2. Turnover
  3. Profit

Remember, you cannot count IT investments that are merely digitising the analogue model.

To succeed in this digital world, you need to be willing to change direction in the blink of an eye. Only those who are prepared to reimagine their entire business model and incorporate connected Things will survive.

This article is an extract from SSP eye issue 12

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