Earlier this summer, I attended an interesting webinar hosted by Gartner called Cool Vendors 2014.  The tag line was “With Big Change, It’s Bypass or Be Bypassed.”  The presenter, Daryl C. Plummer, a VP and Gartner Fellow, kicked off the webinar with the premise that ‘Cool Vendors’ might be indicative of a coming flood of disruptive digital capabilities.  Gartner’s definition of a cool vendor, by the way, is that they are innovative, impactful, and intriguing (existing Gartner clients can go here to learn more).

Aside from the detailed discussion regarding each cool vendor’s offering(s), I was struck by the notion of a digital flood, which Plummer suggested is upon us.  Gartner’s 2014 CIO Survey reinforced his position as the results indicated  that a majority of respondents agreed their businesses and, more importantly, their IT organizations are ‘engulfed’ by a torrent of digital opportunities.  As a result, they ‘cannot respond in a timely fashion,’ threatening the success of their businesses and the credibility of their IT groups.

Plummer’s comparison of the speed and magnitude of digital change to a flood was followed by examples of just how ‘fluid’ those changes are becoming.  , –As new digital capabilities are introduced and easily adopted, they cannot help but effect change, just like water does over time as it flows around, over, under, or through whatever was there before.  One example Plummer gave was digital currencies like Bitcoin and the way they are ‘wearing away’ at more traditional monetary systems.  Another was the so-called transit assistants like Uber and Hail-O whose models have begun to supplant the practice of third parties managing queues for people seeking a ride from Point A to Point B.

In hindsight, it’s clear that many of the trends I’ve written about over the last couple of years are now key factors influencing the speed at which our businesses, technologies, and behaviors are changing. The cool vendors discussed in the webinar almost all included some use of Cloud Computing, the Internet of Things, Business Intelligence and Analytics, Mobile Apps, Digital Marketing – and most took advantage of more than one.

What’s the biggest difference between the impact of all of these forces and one far more familiar to us?  Well, it took water an estimated 17 million years to carve out the Grand Canyon.  Changes from digital fluidity trend are carving out potentially large swaths of new opportunity in only weeks and months.  Furthermore, with the latest trend toward Hackathons, who’s to say that they next big thing isn’t just days or hours away?