Classic disruptive strategy illustration from Google


I love this chart from Google on their Google Docs strategy. Whether or not a true representation of their strategy, it is an appealing illustration of moving a product toward a set of product characteristics that exploits emerging customer needs, and does so in an area where the incumbent will struggle to follow given the inertia of a massive (and profitable) existing customer base. (Popular books on these strategies include ‘Innovators Dilemma’ and ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’, but these are not new ideas.)

Today’s improvements include GoogleWave-like instant collaboration, and radically improved formatting. For more details, see

Open questions:

  • Is this disruption in action?
  • Do these changes make Google Docs more viable for the small business? (I think yes)
  • Is live collaboration of this type a sufficiently large need?

The counter view

  • Is this just a matter of Google Docs putting a pretty picture on a very slow catch up with Microsoft functionality?

Interesting times.

6 thoughts on “Classic disruptive strategy illustration from Google

  1. It also assumes that the incumbent will stick to a monolithic release cycle and discounts the platform collaboration approach they are taking. Granted the platform approach is very enterprise focussed compared to Google’s current broad base consumer and SMB market.Though I can’t see Microsoft moving completely to a release early, release often development strategy they have started to reduce the times between releases. I wouldn’t be surprised if they start introducing more feature packs, add-ons or R* versions out of cycle as well.One interesting thing to see is how organisations will deal with the change management issues of a release early, release often development cycle.

  2. Good point. The Google graphic no way precludes a clever response from Microsoft. And indeed, as you note, we are seeing dramatic shifts from Microsoft that include moving toward online collaborative document editing. That said, culture and existing business practice/margin has a nasty way of trumping the best of intent.I’m not convinced that the release early, release often, strategy is that critical. Can you enlighten? That is, do you see development cycle rate as critical for customer relevance?

  3. I think customers have been trained to expect new shiny things at a faster rate which has turned into a demand for new shiny things.This started with the consumer electronics industry and has really been brought home with mobile phones. The software industry I believe is starting to adopt this approach more as they see an opportunity to move to a model of impulse/discretionary purchases, e.g. app stores and subscription models of revenue.With respect to MS Office it is also vital for MS to ensure that the Software Assurance customers feel they are getting value for money, hence more features/releases more often.I think the release early, release often cycle is critical for the perception of customer relevance, as a marketing tool as much as anything. Should it be a key consideration of customer relevance? No, but I guess that really depends on what you are buying and more importantly why you are buying it.

  4. Good points all – certainly with a subscription model today, it’s become critical to give a sense of continually rising functionality. Flip side is that the release early release can have a stability cost. The hype today emphasizes features over stability. This is partially due to the rate of innovation/competition in certain markets today. I suspect that there’s a good size market segment (the majority?) for whom continual change is less appealing.

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