WordPress: Simpler + Cheaper = Disruptive

WordPress as a digital platform
by Martin Dower.

It seems that “disruptive” is the new marketing buzzword, but what does it actually mean and how does it apply to WordPress, digital services and the new breed of web-services.

In this context, the true meaning of a disruption is the creation of an innovative service or product that initially disrupts and then displaces an earlier technology. It is more typically used to define a product or service that makes this change in a way the market did not expect.

Good examples include:

  • Email displacing letters
  • Tablets displacing PC and laptops
  • Digital photography, and then smartphones, displacing physical film
  • iTunes, Netflix and Amazon killing the video rental market
  • Cloud computing and SaaS displacing IT departments and physical hardware with expensive software licenses
  • and, of course, WordPress displacing hand-built web-sites and digital services

It’s important to understand that to be disruptive innovation must be widely available, and that usually means the disruptor must be come in at a lower cost and at greater convenience. A cheaper price is not disruptive in it’s own right.

What gives the innovation the opportunity to be disruptive?

There really is very little new under the sun, most innovations are evolutions of existing technologies and as a result companies are usually aware of the innovations. However, pre-existing business environments frequently restricts them from pursuing them when they first arise, because they are not profitable enough and because development takes away scarce resources from sustaining existing products sets.

The best innovations are the simplest, frequently consisting of off-the-shelf components put together in a product architecture that was often simpler than prior approaches. As existing markets tend to be mature, they also tend to suffer from product development bloat – the natural tendency for a product or service to encompass more features in a drive to appeal to a wider range of users.

This is weakness, as over time the relevance of the whole service or product offering declines in the eyes of the single subscriber and he/she become susceptible to a disruptive innovation. This shift can go unseen for many years and is nicely illustrated by the general distain employees have for internal systems. Because of the false internal market that exists within an organisation, poor tools become the norm and that impacts the longer-term profitability of an organisation as it struggles to compete.

Classically, newly disruptive products and services are bought by established players once they reach a critical mass, sometimes to incorporate into existing products but as often just to be closed down and taken out of the market. In both cases, the existing players are seeking to stay relevant and avoid doing a Microsoft.

What makes WordPress disruptive

It nicely ticks the simpler and cheaper boxes, but it doesn’t really stop there. The explosive adoption of WordPress is the confluence of a number of important disruptive technologies, a super-storm of disruption, if you will.

  • The growth of mobile. Despite is being on the radar for a number of years, organisations and agencies were poorly prepared for the explosion during 2013. For many organisations, that means re-thinking their whole digital strategy and re-building digital services from scratch. Very few have the opportunity to migrate their existing web platforms.
  • Death of IT and Programming Departments. Over the years, these traditional gate-keepers of all-things-technology have restricted the adoption of new technology and that has had a knock-on effect of keeping technology out of the hands of the people who need it. Those days are over, tablets, the app store, 3/4G networks, content management systems and Software as a Service have collectively undermined this historic control.
  • Rise of agile operations. Long, slow projects with old-fashioned project control methodologies centred around risk management are dead. They restricted innovation and damped competition. The new mantra of “trial and error”, based around active collaboration and rapid delivery iterations, means digital platforms have to be supremely flexible and very simple to adapt.
  • Everyone can code. These new super-platforms, such as WordPress and many other SaaS, enable marketers and operational staff to create and improve the functions required to supply digital services. Without long development times and approval processes.

The established concept of creating large technical project teams to create digital services in isolation are over – we’ll look back at the 90s and 00s and talk in awkward tones of how technical teams ruled the digital world, and marketers and operational staff took a back seat.

If you work in the digital world, then you’ll have heard of WordPress – and there’s a good chance you’ll be using it within a year. Until something comes along and disrupts WordPress.

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