Surfing the Digital Tsunami – A book review

I never would have guessed. It wasn’t a disruptive company, a killer technology or application, but a virus called “Covid 19” that sparked, or at least accelerated, a digital tsunami. The lock-down in almost all countries made it necessary to work from home and digital applications for collaboration with customers, colleagues and the network suddenly became very popular. Whereas before there were many supposedly good reasons why digital collaboration did not work, now there were suddenly no excuses anymore. Those companies that had been strong digitally for a long time were able to quickly shift the lever and thus drive the business forward. Other companies were completely overwhelmed by the new situation. One thing is clear, there will be no turning back after the Corona crisis. We must learn levering digital opportunities and thus achieve a “new normal”.

In this respect the new book “Surfing the Digital Tsunami” authored by Timo Savolainen, Kati Lehmuskoski and Tuomo Koskenvaara comes at a perfect time. It clearly shows what triggers the digital tsunami, what challenges this tsunami brings with it and how we can all deal with it. They impressively demonstrate the force of the changes for our business, that after a first wave there are more waves and that the course of events cannot be stopped. Insights into the effects of the tsunami are given from the perspective of various companies and leaders. This is not about cooking recipes, but rather about demonstrating that we all simply need to embark on a journey that will take us to unfamiliar places and that we should be courageous and actively shaping the change. In face of a tsunami, it’s only going forward, it’s only going with the people and it takes perseverance to survive the last wave.

The authors’ messages are crashing, but it doesn’t help to beat around the bushes: “In the hyper-connected, always online business, the speed of change seems to accelerate. From business leaders’ point of view, it feels as though digital tsunamis came without a warning. In this book, we use the digital tsunami as a metaphor and framework for ubiquitous technological development that is constantly re-shaping the business environment, life and society in general.” They describe the first and second wave as a radical transformation to digital business, meaning that digital forerunners and innovators challenge the former market dominators, disrupt traditional business models and thus strengthen the impact of the digital tsunami that fiercely crashes laggards who are not prepared.

The third wave represents the development from the age of computing to the age of data. One example is Amazon. The company is known for e-commerce, but Amazon Web Services (AWS) is growing fast and affecting the whole software business. The AWS platform was launched in 2002. Now AWS is the leading cloud platform including a wide range of services in addition to traditional computer calculating power and analytics. Amazon AWS is a true cash cow. In 2018, Amazon was the fifth biggest enterprise software company after Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and SAP. And in the same year Amazon became the second trillion-dollar company after Apple. Subsequently, the emergence of cloud computing in the last decade has revolutionised not only the software industry but is  currently changing the status quo in all other businesses and industries. The next big wave will be fuelled by artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotics process automation, intelligent automation and 5G networks. And we have only recently started to work and utilise cloud and data. The fourth wave is already affecting many companies and industries. Some businesses are too busy to notice that they are also in the digital tsunami risk zone. The next wave is approaching fast and the sea level is rising. It´s not yet clear how the next wave will affect human behaviour both online and offline. At the same time it´s pretty clear that the gap between digital leaders and laggards has widened when the fourth wave of the digital tsunami has passed. This is a clear call for action.

In the second part of the book several case studies are presented. Through their lenses a deep insight into continuous business transformation is provided. Most of the case studies are based on interviews with thought leaders already experienced in surfing the waves. The third part of the book provides a step-by-step approach in dealing with the digital tsunami. For beginner it seems to be easy following the six steps provided, and it might help to get started. However, surfing the waves and surviving the underwater turbulences is an art and requires mastery and endurance.

The last part of the book investigates the future, beyond the horizon and the fourth wave of the digital tsunami. The authors of the book reflect on the current decade but focus on the 2030s, trying to see what could be coming. They picture two images of the future: digital renaissance and digital revolution. “After all, we can’t stop the waves from coming, but we can choose which ones we surf.”

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Author: Reinhard Wagner, CEO of Tiba Managementberatung



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