Disruptive technologies are a double-edged sword. On one hand, successfully implementing the right disruptive technology can lead to significant competitive advantages through innovation. On the other, emerging technologies present potentially unforeseen risks that can lead to high implementation failure rates. Let's look at how businesses can avoid major pitfalls when selecting the right disruptive technology and how to more accurately time the deployment of high risk, high reward tech projects.
What are disruptive technologies?
The list of disruptive technologies is seemingly without limit. Machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and edge computing are three popular examples many companies are considering today. While any technology has the potential to be “disruptive”, some stand out from the others. Truly disruptive technologies are considered innovative and have the potential to dramatically change how a business operates, interacts with customers, or completes the sale of a product or service. These are major evolutions to a business that can create brand-new revenue streams -- or help streamline current processes that save time and/or money.
Of course, the catch is that disruptive technologies are known to be both expensive and difficult to implement. If this weren’t the case, everyone would do it. Therefore, it's important to remember that disruptive technologies are not for the faint of heart. Yet, if properly planned, a successful implementation can be a true game changer.
Find the right technical expertise
One key to a successful disruptive technology implementation is to anticipate potential problems that are likely to emerge during the implementation process. It cannot be stressed enough that you have the right skillset from an IT architecture perspective when planning to integrate disruptive technologies into your infrastructure. This is often where failures happen because the right people aren't involved at this stage of the game. Two incorrect decisions often occur during the architecture phase. One is to lean on in-house architects to learn the new technology, then come up with an implementation plan to integrate it into an infrastructure they're very familiar with. The other is to bring in external technical consultants that have a deeper knowledge of the disruptive technology -- yet do not have intimate insight into the business’s existing infrastructure architecture.
As you can imagine, a healthy understanding of how technology is used to facilitate current processes combined with a technical background of the emerging technology is beneficial. Thus, implementations are usually more successful when internal and external resources work in tandem to accomplish the same goal. As many of you are probably aware, this is easier said than done. That means it may take some time to find the right external technical resources that mesh well with in-house architecture staff.
Timing the implementation is key
Correctly timing the implementation of a disruptive technology is another critical deployment aspect that often gets overlooked. When dealing with cutting-edge digital tools, there's a finite timeframe between implementing a technology that's not quite ready for production and one that's matured enough to the point where it’s no longer disruptive from a competitive advantage perspective. Unfortunately, there’s no magic ball that can be used to predict the absolute perfect moment to implement these types of technologies. This instead is where a significant amount of research must be put in ahead of time to verify the technology can accomplish exactly what the business requires within the guidelines of a well-established IT roadmap.
IT leadership must also be able to gauge the attitudes of their technical staffers that are tasked with determining when the time is right to strike. Be wary of excessively eager IT architects that try to push for budget approval for a cutting-edge technology. They might simply be looking for a “shiny new toy” to play with.
To fix this issue, it’s imperative that architects be held accountable in some way for the success or failure of a project. Be certain they understand the gravity of the situation and give them plenty of time to deeply consider their opinion prior to seeking full buy-in. This is also another great example of how external technical opinion can be used to help make a final decision. Input from third-party consultants can be a great way to identify potential problems that internal staff may not have fully considered.
Risk can never be fully eliminated
The final point about eliminating risk from disruptive technologies is that it’s impossible to avoid all risk. What can be done, however, is trying to remove as much as humanly possible. By focusing on ensuring you have the right technical skills to evaluate technologies combined with unbiased sources that can accurately judge the readiness capabilities of disruptive tech can go a long way toward a successful implementation.
For more about emerging technologies and innovation, check out these InformationWeek articles.