Enter the next wave of industry convergence
In 1980, MIT’s Media Lab Director Nicolas Negroponte predicted that by 2000, the industrial sectors of computing, communication and content creation would converge. One of the reasons for this convergence, which refers to the breaking down of boundaries, was an increasing reliance on digital services. He was quickly proven to be absolutely right. As companies and consumers are drawn further into the digital sphere, industry convergence has emerged as an unstoppable trend. Today, Negroponte’s categories could be replaced with manufacturing, medicine and media for example. In IBM’s 2016 Global C Suite Study, over 5,000 business leader from more than 70 countries identified industry convergence as the most high anticipated trend of the next three to five years. But what does this mean for businesses?
Industry convergence has various positive and disruptive implications, including widening the potential of technological applications. Working in collaboration with other industry sectors means that companies can address more issues on a larger scale. The ongoing theme of industry convergence represents a shift in focus from individual products and services towards cross industry experiences. This is about utilising as many resources as possible to create the highest value for customers – which, in turn, benefits the business itself. While this will certainly encourage healthy competition, it also means that challengers can arise from any industry. It will be far harder for businesses to predict where and who competition will come from.
Companies should recognise the importance of industry convergence as a business reality, and develop strategies to respond to it effectively. While removing barriers between sectors is likely to lead to improved products and services, it will also challenge companies to expect the unexpected. It could equally force them to be more open about data and intellectual property. In order to reap the benefits of industry convergence, businesses must engage with it or risk being left behind.