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Digital Disruption: Which industries are affected? Part 2

By Jim Hamill - Posted on 22 October 2015

Dr Jim Hamill, class coordinator of the MBA elective Digital Leadership: Strategy and Management, shares ten more examples of industries under threat from digital disruption.

In August, I shared ten examples of industries under threat from digital disruption and promised I would be back with ten more. The case-studies below have been developed for an upcoming report, ‘Digital Disruption and Scotland’s Small Business Economy’, which will be published in autumn by the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland.

As mentioned last time, the diverse range of sectors explored demonstrates no business is immune from this threat.

Uberfy or get Uberfied

The incredible rise of Uber demonstrates digital disruption is less about technology and more about the customer value proposition. According to some observers, the service is disrupting an inefficient taxi market built on monopolistic practices and politics by allowing customers to get better value for less effort. It does this using a ‘hack’ which gets around regulations that benefit the incumbent.

Uber’s disruptive value proposition is based on delivering more information and choice so customers can act in their own best interests. Digital disruption is about market rationalization. In February 2015, Uber announced it was launching in Glasgow and Edinburgh, leading one expert observer to predict existing taxi operators could lose up to 40% of their business.

Rise of the Robots

Are we heading for a jobless future? Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, certainly thinks so.

According to a recent report by Forrester Research, 22% of 4.5million B2B sales reps in the US, equating to 1 million people, could lose their jobs by 2020 as online ordering replaces their traditional role.

Fast Food

In fast food retailing, many jobs have already been replaced by computerised kiosks which take orders without human intervention. Online services such as Just Eat are having an equally important impact on the take-away market.


In a few years, the idea of receiving medical treatment exclusively at a doctor’s office or hospital may seem quaint. Wearable technologies, implanted devices, and smartphone apps allow continuous monitoring and create a ubiquitous, 24/7, digitized picture of your health that can be accessed and analyzed in real-time, anywhere.

Language Translation

Online translation services, such as Google Translate, are becoming increasingly sophisticated and accurate. While they may never replace the need for professional translation services, especially for contracts and other legal documents, there is no doubt demand for human translators will decline significantly.

Driving/Transport Industry

In the not too distant future, driverless cars could eradicate the need for bus, lorry and taxi drivers.

Distribution and Delivery

Drone technology could revolutionise how products are delivered. Amazon, in particular, is working hard to make this a reality. Drones may also replace pilots for specialized tasks within the film, traffic monitoring, agriculture, police and military sectors.

Building Services/Tradesmen

In the same way review sites such as TripAdvisor have fundamentally changed the relationship between hospitality suppliers and customers, a similar effect is being felt by a range of industries, including building services. The last few years have seen a proliferation of customer review sites such as www.ratedpeople.com, www.trustatrader.com, and www.myhammer.com. These will fundamentally change the small tradesman/customer relationship.

Business Consultancy

Online consulting marketplaces such as www.hourlynerd.com could cause problems for traditional consultants. Founded in 2013 as part of a Harvard Business School course, over 4,500 companies have used the site including giants like GE, Microsoft and American Apparel. The site, which has raised $12.6m in three rounds of funding, features more than 10,000 consultants, all possessing MBAs.

Further and Higher Education

An issue of the Economist (2014) entitled ‘Terminal Degrees’, contained the following hard-hitting statement: ‘If universities were to face the same conditions over the next 10 to 20 years that daily newspapers faced over the last 10 to 20, then revenues would fall by more than half, employment in the industry would drop by nearly 30% and more than 700 institutions would shut their doors.’
Disruption caused by the rapid growth of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) is one of the main reasons underlying this prediction.

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