Businesses today increasingly see technologies like big data as being disruptive in the sense that they force organisations to look at new routes to market and new business models. Rather than having negative connotations, disruptive in this context means making an impact through an alternative way of thinking about business issues, rather the traditional dictionary definition of ‘throwing into confusion or disorder’.

This new interpretation of the word ‘disruptive’ is positive and focuses on developing new ways of working, ultimately leading to new revenue streams and enhanced competitive edge. In line with this fresh new approach, we are starting to see the emergence of a new member of the board: the chief disruption officer, who can act as a channel and a focus for this bold new approach to business decision-making.

Today, a growing number of companies are promoting individuals to the role specifically to challenge the existing status quo, to identify traditional business models that have become ineffective within the business and to promote innovation. For the time being, however, while the incidence of chief disruption officers should continue to grow steadily, they will remain the exception rather than the rule.

So for this vision to become reality in today’s business environment, CIOs and IT directors, in particular, need to be feeding disruptive ideas to the board to help ensure that an organisation is not just playing a ‘me too’ role in the marketplace but is instead constantly evolving, effectively transforming itself into a high performance organisation.

This together with the rapid emergence of a raft of new technology models that effectively change the IT game for businesses, has led to an opportunity for CIOs and IT directors to step into the breach and effectively take on the mantle of chief disruption officer – in spirit at least, even if not in name.

Age of disruption

The emergence of disruptive technologies in itself makes this new role of the CIO or IT director viable. A recent study by the Security for Business Innovation Council (SBIC) put the continued growth of cloud computing service options at the top of this list. The report notes that the majority of companies have already engaged some aspect of cloud-based services, led by Software-as-a-Service options at 82%, followed by Infrastructure-as-a-Service (51%) and Platform-as-a-Service (40%).

Yet, migrating to the cloud is just one part of this story. For many organisations, it is just the first stage in a process of business transformation, a step-by-step approach that ultimately leads to a complete change to their prevailing business model. Big data analytics is another well-known disruptive technology, giving organisations the chance to transform themselves and their future prospects by revealing insights and value in their data that they previously had neither the time, money nor the resources to explore.

These examples are part of a wider move to more disruptive technology. A recent report from the Economist Intelligence Unit finds that technology disruption in business is likely to accelerate throughout the rest of the decade. Only 28% of executives in a survey conducted for the report felt that technology’s positive impact on enterprise productivity had plateaued. The vast majority believed there was much more room for improving operating efficiency, which in turn will help sustain the impetus for business model change.

Driving through dynamic change

Awareness of these changes together with growing expectations from CEOs and senior directors that they can embrace disruptive technology and harness it for the benefit of the business is effectively forcing the hand of CIOs and IT directors. Increasingly, they appreciate that to become chief disruption officers, they need to focus more on using technology to deliver disruptive services or approaches that effectively transform the business’ strategy. This might, for example, be around product or service innovation or finding ways to outthink the competition and deliver competitive edge by adopting different business approaches.

Taking their place

So, as we look to the future, we are likely to see many more chief disruption officers take their seat at the boardroom table, who even if they are not officially given the title, perform the function associated with it. In a business context, disruption will increasingly be seen positively.

As Maher Kaddoura, then chief disruption officer at the Jordanian company Meydan, put it in 2012: “I am the chief disruption officer… I like to disrupt things. I do not like it when they stay the same because they become tired. The only sign of life is growth, and growth comes from change, not from standing still… and so, everything I do is about change, it is about, what I call, disruptive innovation.”

It is a positive philosophy that is likely to have growing traction in the brave new future world of disruptive technologies delivered by chief disruption officers or their boardroom equivalents.