”Uberization” and the threat of digital invasion

Today’s business leader is bracing for a sucker punch.

In the second annual IBM Global C-Suite Study, more than 5,000 sitting executives shared insights on the competitive landscape. After analyzing the data we now know, with statistical assurance, that top business leaders are unnerved.

Why? Uber. Not by the transportation company itself, but by the threat of industry upheaval foreshadowed by the Uber story. Empowered by mobile technology, an unheralded rival emerges and casts the taxi industry toward the scrap heap of irrelevance. A case study on disruption unfolding before our fingertips, the  “Uberization” of the taxi industry is a high-flying signal to established markets: Prepare for change or be blindsided.

So-called digital invaders, epitomized by Uber, are new competitors that prey on complacency and technological stagnation. Uber’s outright success telegraphed the digital invader strategy and showcased how established industries can be promptly derailed. An outcome of conflating market segments and fading competitive boundaries, digital invaders now are nothing but natural competition.


The report, “Redefining Boundaries: The Global C-suite Study,” is centered on the key premise that whether you realize it or not, digital invaders are of primary concern to your business.

“A few years ago, you could see the competition coming,” the report states. “Not anymore. Digital invaders can come from anywhere, anytime, before you even know they’ve arrived.”

Digital invaders are bringing unmitigated cross-industry change no business leader can afford to ignore. The IBM Center for Applied Insights recently took a closer look at what these findings specifically mean for chief finance officers (CFOs), chief information officers (CIOs) and chief marketing officers (CMOs).

While the matter of disruption is by no means relegated to these roles alone, they are critical in helping businesses manage this change.


In a recent blog post, Spencer Lin offers three recommendations for CFOs:

  1. Drive enterprise agility. They must design an operating model that responds with speed and agility, and integrate data and processes end-to-end across the enterprise.
  1. Help the business make better decisions. They must leverage new data sources and apply advanced analytics to create valuable insights. 
  1. Drive profitable growth. They must evaluate new strategic mandates to help maximize profit opportunities and manage investments in customer engagement.


Zeynep Tolon took a deeper look into what these findings mean for CMOs:
  1. Prepare for the “always-on” campaign. There is no separation between digital and traditional anymore – we have to be relevant to the customer in the context of her life.
  1. Look to customers. Torchbearer CMOs are paying 22% more attention to their customers for insight.
  1. Leverage cognitive technologies to understand not only the “what” but also the “why” of customer actions. Cognitive computing will enable CMOs to create personalized interactions and optimize marketing operations.


Michelle Wycoff had a chance to dive into what we can learn from the more than 1,800 CIOs interviewed for the study:

  1. Prepare for digital invaders. Technology is a game-changer that will transform the competitive landscape.
  1. Create a panoramic perspective. Don’t discount the importance of cloud computing, mobile solutions, the Internet of Things or data analytics.
  1. Be first, be best or be nowhere. Pioneering CIOs prefer to reach the market first and are deploying future-oriented business models.

Read more C-Suite posts on the IBMCAI blog.


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