The digital transformation that modern businesses are going through has many vertical market leaders running scared. Everyone knows the stories around disruptors like Uber and Airbnb – companies that used software to create new customer experiences, and in the process, threaten entrenched business models. Some of those entrenched businesses believe disruption is something to be feared, and violently resisted.

Michael Frendo, CIO at Polycom, suggests a different viewpoint for senior executives. In the latest article from his recurring column in CIO Magazine, Frendo explains that demonizing disruptors distracts companies from innovating, and from understanding exactly what is holding them back in the market:

In the end, disruption doesn’t destroy businesses, but lack of innovation does. Innovation, however, should not be measured in technological terms alone. Sometimes the best technology wins on its own. More often, it’s the technology with a go-to-market strategy that pulls the early majority in … one effortless click at a time. In an attempt to survive the onslaught of a constantly changing industry, many companies do everything they can to survive, including demonizing the very organizations that could help them most.”

As an example, Frendo points to Polycom’s recent partnership with the cloud-based video and web conferencing service Zoom. At first glance this partnership doesn’t seem to make sense. Polycom is a leader in enterprise-grade meeting rooms, while Zoom delivers video services in a SaaS model. This would seem to be a zero sum gain – either one company’s approach wins or the other.

But that sort of thinking misses the bigger, strategic picture. Few would dispute the myriad advantages video offers for enterprise connectivity and collaboration. But challenges remain that hamper the ubiquity of video conferencing. There are the challenges at the end user level – what is the experience when an individual within the organization attempts to schedule, initiate, share content in, record, and/or broadcast a video conference? There are also questions to be answered at the strategic level – are the security and control of an on premises solution more important to us than the lower cost of entry and quick scalability of SaaS?

A clear understanding of these business challenges faced by Polycom customers led to embracing the apparent disruptor to drive adoption and give organizations more choices on how to integrate video into their business processes:

“Through internal research at Polycom, we’ve found that when personal devices like phones, tablets, and computers are visually connected to in-house endpoints, the overall use of those visually enabled rooms increases from 10 or 20% to 60–80%. More access to visual collaboration equals more use. And more use means greater demands… By rethinking our competition, we’re able to work with Zoom to overcome both the technological and cultural barriers that block wide-spread acceptance. Rather than trying to convince organizations to invest in a network of in-house meeting rooms with the hope that they will be used, the pervasive use of video drives demand for the rooms based on personal devices not the rooms themselves.

Of course, even when technology companies have a clear picture of their market challenges, they still need to deliver innovative products and services. Another way to embrace disruption is the periodically disrupt yourself, by constantly challenging internal assumptions and accelerating the development of new services. This is the concept behind Agile development, which allows engineering teams to respond to business unpredictability through rapid, iterative work cadences known as “sprints.”

The right collaboration technology is critical to foster agile development. Last year Frendo was interviewed by WorkSpace Today and discussed how video collaboration can accelerate and enhance Agile development processes.

It can be unsettling when the traditional way of doing things no longer translate to business success. But disruption can be put to your advantage. Embrace it internally to foster innovation, supported by collaboration technology. Embrace it externally through strategic partnerships, driven by a clear understanding of business challenges and long term market advantage.

Get out in front of disruption, or risk being left behind.