Emerging Technology Tradeoffs
Emerging Technology Risk Mitigation
I worked for a well-known ISP that invested millions of dollars in a half-baked CRM solution that was never implemented because the technology was not mature enough to support the business needs any better than the existing legacy systems. You have all heard the horror stories of companies that have implemented a technology before it was robust enough to support real operations. However for every Hershey Foods or Value America story, there are dozens of Capital Ones, Fidelityâ€™s, State Streetâ€™s and other industry giants who were able to take advantage of advanced IT technology to leapfrog their companies into the forefront of their respective industries.
Often management finds itself investigating a new technology that has the potential to enhance the companyâ€™s competitive advantage, yet is understandably nervous about the potential risks inherent in change. Is it possible for business to benefit from the integration of promising emerging technologies as they become available, while avoiding the mistakes of deploying dead-end or immature technologies? Let us look at the tradeoffs of implementing emerging rather than established technology solutions for your business with the objective of mitigating risk.
New technology certainly has the potential to allow you to deliver on your business goals, but there are tradeoffs and pitfalls to watch for. The good news is that identifying, targeting, and implementing promising technologies for your company and industry may be more of an art, but understanding the tradeoffs and issues involved can improve your success rate considerably.
Implementing untried technology into your company takes a large dose of common sense and a solid understanding of the business problems that you are attempting to solve. Before you consider such a project, first you need to take the time to stay abreast of the current emerging trends by reading trade journals and emerging technology columns. The next step is to understand both your business and industry needs and how emerging technologies can be tools to achieve your goals. Focus on each of the critical issues listed below in the decision process.
Is your industry and business culture supportive of adapting emerging technology? If you are in a very conservative industry, insurance for example, it would be more advantageous to deploy only mature proven technologies. On the other hand, if you are in E-trading you need to rapidly implement new technology just to stay competitive.
Do you have access to the resources that you will need to implement something new and different? Is your staff comfortable with working with emerging technology? Again that question gets back to cultural issues within your company and industry that only you can answer. Remember the majority of new technology implementations fail at the user level. If your users are not trained and able to use it, then even the best systems will fail. Do you have the processes in place to take advantage of the benefits? Implementing a CRM system without changing your procedures to take advantage of the efficiencies is a waste of resources.
Does the proposed technology address your business issues? Does this technology have the potential to improve your ROI in a reasonable amount of time? Wireless networking is an example of a recent technological innovation that can quickly pay for itself as long as you accept the security risks involved. Some other new technologies like ERP and CRM are both highly complex and require major changes to your business model and processes. The case for an ERP implementation might not be so clear cut. Unless a major customer is requiring it, the tradeoffs of an expensive and difficult deployment cycle might well make it unattractive until it is proven in the marketplace.
Emerging technology is by its very nature immature and unstable. Will you gain enough benefit to offset the inevitable technological setbacks and glitches that you will encounter? On the flip side, you do not wait too long or you will be stuck with an aging and unsupportable infrastructure. Ask any company that still has a critical application that runs under OS/2 or VMS!
Checklist of things to consider when reviewing emerging technology solutions for your business:
- Do you have a significant business problem that new technology has the potential to solve?
- Does you company and industry culture support the use of emerging technology?
- Do you have a clear and full understanding of how the emerging technology will work in your company?
- Do you have the staff resources to plan and implement the project?
- Do you have access to the training and skills required or can you obtain them easily?
- What is your tolerance for failure and rapid change?
If you answer yes to most of these questions, then you probably should be on the lookout for promising technologies that can give your company a competitive edge. If not, maybe you should stick with the mature and proven technologies that fit better with your business model.
Beth Cohen is president of Luth Computer Specialists, Inc., a consulting practice specializing in helping companies achieve competitive advantage using appropriate information technology infrastructure. She has been in the trenches supporting small and large company IT infrastructure for over 20 years in a number of different fields including manufacturing, architecture, construction, engineering, software, telecommunications, professional services, and research. Having worked as a technologist for BBN the company that literally invented the Internet, she not only knows where technology is today but where it is heading in the future. Information Technology is the new heart of business. Let her help you can take advantage of promising emerging technologies, while avoiding dead-end or immature systems.