Don’t get Uber’d! - How to successfully compete with “born digital” companies

August 11, 2016

Many industries are facing increasing competition from “born digital” market entrants, disrupting established business models by changing the way they engage with consumers.

For example: Many traditional taxi companies have ignored customer expectations for more flexibility and mobile services and were consequently overwhelmed by the success of the taxi-hailing service Uber. This allowed Uber to gain market share at incredible speed and set the new standard for any taxi company to succeed in this space. In terms of industries that have been disrupted by born digital companies, Uber is just one example. There are countless others in travel and hospitality, retail, telecoms, media and entertainment, financial services, and real estate.

Don’t get Uber’d!

One reason for born digital companies to be so successful is that they don’t face the same problem of technical debt. By technical debt we mean the negative consequences caused by technology choices made years ago, for example specialised hardware and software which is costly to operate and change to adapt to new business demands. Born digital companies aren’t held back by such issues. They don’t just use technology to support their business, technology is their business. And they use that technology to gain quick entry into an established market and then out-innovate the incumbents.

They employ agile development methodologies to build modern applications that harness the web, mobile platforms, and increasingly sensor-enabled IoT networks. And they run everything in the cloud to be ultimately flexible to meet the demand in their target markets and provide an excellent customer experience. But what really sets them apart is that they are built around data and analytics, employing smart algorithms to better understand their customers, and react to their needs in real time. This requires a fundamentally different approach to how data is managed.

Established companies find it very difficult to fight back against these new market entrants by simply continuing to do what they have been doing for the past years or decades. After all, this is what allowed the competition to challenge them in the first place! Instead of trying to evolve slowly and seeing their market share being chopped away, they need to revolutionise their way of doing business and make some bold decisions to avoid being Uber’d.

You may or may not have experienced this already yourself. Either way, your best chance to avoid a disruption in your own business is to get ahead of the game and adopt some of the methods and technologies that have enabled challengers in the first place, and use them to your own advantage. Combined with an established customer base and a (hopefully) strong brand, this provides you with an incredible opportunity to defend and even expand your market share and set the new standard for product quality and customer experience in your industry.

Flexibility, scalability and shorter time to market are key capabilities your business and IT teams will need to power your own Digital Transformation initiatives. While developer communities have already broadly adopted those principles (think “Agile Development”), IT teams often have disregarded modernization the underlying data layer in a compatible way. Engineers are expected to use legacy data technology like relational databases and traditional schema design to power the backend for their modern applications.

Relational Databases aren’t the best fit for modern applications

Relational databases have a long-standing position in most organizations, and for good reason. They underpin existing applications that meet current business needs; they are supported by an extensive ecosystem of tools; and there is a large pool of labor qualified to implement and maintain these systems.

But organizations are increasingly considering alternatives to legacy relational infrastructure, driven by challenges presented in building modern applications:

  • Developers are working with applications that create massive volumes of new, rapidly changing data types — structured, semi-structured, unstructured and polymorphic data.
  • Long gone is the twelve-to-eighteen month waterfall development cycle. Today small teams work in agile sprints, iterating quickly and pushing code into production systems every week or two, some even multiple times per day.
  • Applications that once served a finite audience are now delivered as services that must be always-on, accessible from many different devices and scaled globally to millions of users.
  • Organizations are now turning to scale-out architectures using open source software, commodity servers, and cloud computing instead of large monolithic servers and storage infrastructure.

A modern architecture requires a modern data platform

MongoDB’s design philosophy is focused on combining the critical capabilities of relational databases with the innovations of NoSQL technologies. Our vision is to leverage the work that Oracle and others have done over the last 40 years to make relational databases what they are today. Rather than discard decades of proven database maturity, MongoDB combines key relational database capabilities with the work that Internet pioneers have done to address the requirements of modern applications.

This makes us much better suited to support the needs of modern applications. Our flexible schema allows your engineers to iterate and develop faster and more efficiently. Designed with scalability and performance in mind, we can support “always on” solutions on a global scale through state-of-the art replication and data partitioning technology.

If you were to trust legacy technology to drive a digital change initiative, it will be very difficult for you to succeed and your position might continue to weaken while “born digital” companies are taking your market share. But by using MongoDB, you can gain a considerable competitive advantage through the use of data and modern technologies while at the same time dramatically lowering your TCO to run the new services. You can find even more information about the business benefits of running MongoDB in our whitepaper on Quantifying Business Advantage.

Leader in the Gartner 2015 Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems

MongoDB, the database for giant ideas, is the fastest growing database on the planet, with over 30k downloads daily and with customers in more than 50% of the Fortune 100. We have been recognized as a Leader in the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems report. We are powering mission critical applications for some of the biggest organisations worldwide like Adobe, AXA, Bosch, The GAP, RBS, MetLife, as well as born digital companies like eBay, Baidu, Facebook and BuzzFeed.

If you would like to hear more about how MongoDB has enabled dozens of successful digital initiatives and how we can help you and your team achieve your goals faster and be more successful, please get in touch with me via LinkedIn or Email and I can arrange a complimentary workshop with key business and technology stakeholders in your organization. You can also find the latest customer success stories from our annual MongoDB World conference on our website, together with a comprehensive list of additional whitepaper and webinars.

Download the Value of Database Selection Guide


About the Author - Roman Gruhn

Roman recently joined MongoDB as Director of Information Strategy. He has previously worked for a global consultancy, where he was advising corporate clients on Digital Transformation strategies and helped introduce Emerging Technologies into legacy systems and business architectures.

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