Leading edge technology can provide a significant advantage for business, but must be implemented well to avoid becoming ‘bleeding’ edge.
Technology is evolving at an ever-increasing rate and the promise of significant advantages over your competitors raises a fundamental question about adoption: when should an organisation embrace leading-edge technology?
Whether it is swapping physical data centres for cloud infrastructure, transitioning from traditional LAN-based networks to fully wireless office environments to support activity-based working (ABW) or turning social media into a CRM strategy, the prospect of a simplified and more efficient work environment that also provides a competitive edge is a tempting one.
But is it prudent to adopt the latest and greatest technologies so quickly? And how do you avoid “leading edge” becoming “bleeding edge” where the new technology actually hinders your business growth and effectiveness?
There are a few critical considerations if leading-edge technology is to be adopted successfully.
What can the Market Tell Us?
For more than 20 years, Gartner Inc has provided the IT industry with the latest research on new technologies and where they sit on the Hyper Cycle map, a graphic representation of the maturity and adoption for technologies and applications. The Hype Cycle measures the technology’s journey from ‘need’ to ‘hype’ to general industry acceptance.
This measure, among others derived by Gartner, provides insights into where specific technology is on its lifecycle journey from bleeding edge to market acceptance.
Tapping into industry studies can assist organisations to better understand where a specific technology is on the maturity curve and in turn help them assess the risk profile of pursuing the technology.
People and Process First
New technology will not be the silver bullet; it can never fix flawed ways of working. To get the most out of technology organisations should view it as a mechanism to change the way an organisation works for the better.
The hype cycle aside, there is a reliable order in which all technology transformation decisions should be weighed:
Without people and process, it cannot work. The focus should be on the jobs people will do, the business processes they will undertake and the improved outcomes both will generate.
Identifying the processes that need improving and then matching the technology that will best fit cultural and future processes is a good formula for success.
Do the Rewards Outweigh the Risks?
When organisations look to embrace new technology the critical question is “will the rewards outweigh the risks?”
The first step is to identify the core benefits and the business drivers. Without a clear understanding of what success will look like and what the benefits will be, any new technology initiative risks failure. Drivers can include:
- Commercial advantage
- Increased productivity
- Cost reduction
- Improved efficiency
When the benefits and drivers are identified, they should be assessed against the potential risks of adopting new technology using a risk analysis framework as well as executive intuition to arrive at the decision on whether to adopt it or not.
No technology can be introduced without disruption to the business and teething problems. This is doubly the case for leading edge technology.
The key to successful delivery of new technology is to ensure the project the team taps into organisation’s delivery DNA. An organisations ability to deliver effectively is assessed by:
- Successful project delivery history
- Current capability and capacity
- Change culture and leadership
The better an organisation is at project delivery the more adept they will be at implementing leading edge technologies.
If the project is likely to stretch the project delivery capability and capacity beyond what your organisation can typically execute, and/or there is not appropriate supportive leadership, then executing a leading edge project can quickly change into a bleeding edge project.
This is the point at which outside expertise may be required to assist or the technology reconsidered.
Whenever a new way of working and new technology is introduced, it is imperative to bring along those likely to be impacted for the journey.
You will catch more flies with honey, so it is vital to articulate the WIIFM or “what’s in it for me”. Clearly defined benefits need to be effectively communicated across all levels of the organisation alongside the benefits each individual can look forward to in their daily work.
It is important to lead by example to counter any natural resistance. Cultivating enthusiasm for the change without over-hyping it allows leaders to be early adopters and champion the change.
Technically Sound Approach
Nothing works against IT more than when you have everything aligned (the staff are engaged, the leadership are focused) and then the technology fails.
Early disappointments can kill a project or at best be difficult to recover from.
The project needs to be set up for success. Solid architecture, the right business capability, good project management, sound testing cycles etc.
Even though the technology may be very new all leading edge projects still should be delivered in a rigorous and methodical way. This is not the place to cut corners or you may find it comes back to bite.
It’s an Endurance Run
Leading edge technology can be a phenomenal advantage for business, but if it is not implemented well and for the right reasons, it can quickly become ‘bleeding edge’ and cost opportunities for the business.
Adopting leading edge technology successfully can take time, which is something the business will need to understand before embarking on a leading edge technology journey.
Once adopted to get the most out of the new technologies processes need to be in place to evolve, learn and enhance the technology as it becomes a part of the organisations new way of working.
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