Digital is what the 90’s promised

In a previous blog, Paul Connolly wrote about how digital has finally enabled a host of business ideals. He’s right but it has taken an awfully long time.

Towards the end of the 90s when we were experiencing the beginning of what we are now calling digital disruption “The Cluetrain Manifesto was published. Written by four professionals working in the IT industry, it predicted that the world was about to change; “the end of business as usual” as the authors put it. Yet it took until the book’s 10th anniversary for most of their predictions to come to true. Why?

The 90s was the birth of the commercial Internet, as we know it. Everyone wanted a piece of it, whatever it was. Nonetheless the initial hyperbole wasn’t to be fully realised for some time:

  • No one knew what to do with it and it was hard to use
  • Access was limited and expensive
  • It was really really slow

Fast-forward 25 years from the birth of the modern Internet and this “new” thing called digital is finally starting to come good on those early promises. Gartner calls it a Nexus of forces.

Mobile technology, cloud computing, social media and analytical information have all become so much cheaper and so much more accessible that they are practically ubiquitous. Internet speeds have improved drastically and technology is finally getting into the hands of the masses, not just the techies. With this speed and accessibility comes exciting and disruptive change to almost every part of our lives from the enterprise to politics and our relationships;

  • Basic apps can now be worth more than entire phone companies.
  • The last US election was won, in part at least, because Barack Obama had a better social media campaign.
  • My 3-year niece is talking to her grandmother through Skype on a tablet whilst she’s in a different country and she’s playing on her phone to keep herself amused at the same time

Digital is changing what’s possible and the pace of change is only going to increase. It’s not enough to make a pretty website and a mobile app, organisations need to understand that digital requires fundamental changes in how they run their business and engage with customers.


With the 90’s promises finally being realised we are in an exciting period of disruption that is impacting almost every industry and disruption always presents opportunity for those who are paying attention.

Written by Joe Wilde, Consultant at Accenture, for the MCA Year of Digital.