How can you legitimately adopt emerging tech and find true business value as a result?

Industry-leading companies and new start-ups alike are in a technological race like never seen before, each trying to understand, embrace, implement and master emerging tech as soon as it becomes available. In some cases, however, those new tech areas are tossed around more as a buzzword than an integral addition to an organization’s IT functionalities. Innovation in the tech realm is extremely important as companies vie for customers and strive to remain relevant in a crowded marketplace. Here's how organizations can legitimately adopt emerging tech and find true business value as a result.

Blockchain or roadblock?

One of the loudest buzzwords right now is blockchain. Originally a technology that grew in public popularity out of the bitcoin craze, blockchain is now a disruptor that will change how companies conduct business in the future. Many businesses, especially legacy organizations that tend to accept new technology more reluctantly, view blockchain as a financial transaction technology. But that's shortsighted and throws up artificial, unnecessary roadblocks to the success that blockchain technology can enable.

That sounds nice but finding the applicable area for any given company is a difficult challenge. In many cases, companies are reluctant to be the first one to try to apply the technology in a new area. While the promise is great, so is the hype, so it is hard to separate out what’s real and what’s the real timeline on more pervasive adoption. So, think about how to approach blockchain experimentally as the answer to questions your business hasn’t even figured out to ask yet. For instance, think about all of the big name companies whose customer databases have been hacked in recent years. Those hacks have cost businesses millions of dollars in profits to recover from the damage of supposedly private data being exploited. Now think about the response to those hackings. Companies are spending many more millions to better lock down their old database technologies that already welcomed in rogue players.

Meanwhile, blockchain technology itself is rooted in security concepts and, while not a panacea, can help avert the hacking crisis because how data is distributed, stored and controlled. At the same time, because blockchain hosts data virtually everywhere, the data that needs to be available is always accessible and not subject to static hosting downtime. Given those realities, it’s worth thinking creatively about how blockchain could change the way your organization treats data.

Internet of Things

Plotting the path

The Internet of Things has become nearly as buzzy a buzzword as blockchain, but many businesses haven’t figured out how to incorporate it into their existing products and services. IoT has the possibility to have as large an impact on the future of technology as the introduction of the internet had to regular individuals in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Businesses and their tech-savvy customers already know how impactful internet connectivity is for smart tech devices, but when the Internet of Things makes it possible for “dumb” tech to network, it’s an enormous paradigm shift.

What products and services do you offer to your clients and customers? How could enabling automation, tracking, controlling and monitoring to non-smart devices enable you to reach next-level success through those products and services? Consider the way some major players have already embraced the IoT:

  • Patient monitoring
  • Smart shelving
  • Doorbells that incorporate video imaging
  • Thermostats that can be controlled remotely
  • Slow cookers that can be turned on and off from your cell phone

Those products offer levels of convenience, cost savings, advanced logistical planning and security that are many steps ahead of prior developmental tech leaps.

To begin embracing IoT as an organization:

  • Ask yourself how you could elevate the customer experience to the next level by adding opportunities for convenience, communication or security to the items you already sell.
  • Then consider whether that advanced offering would drive enough additional sales to offset the cost of building in internet-ready chips and software to communicate with devices that wouldn’t traditionally connect to a network.
  • Gather the strongest supporters in your customer base and survey them for need and expectations. Remember that you’ll gain the most value by solving for an identified problem or gap versus creating innovation that addresses a non-issue.

Scaling to the enterprise

Enterprises often struggle with change. According to principal consultant Sunil Mundra of ThoughtWorks in a recent Economic Times piece, this is often because "people end up treating organizations like machines, when in fact, they are living systems." If enterprises implement new processes and technology but don't address the critical role of corporate culture, any agile shift is doomed to fail.

Effective culture shifts start with clarity of purpose and transparent conversation. Bring in front-line staff, mid-level managers and C-suite executives and talk about the need for agile implementation. Discuss the reason for the change, the desired outcomes and acknowledge the embedded processes and behaviors that need to materially change to improve workflow. Wherever possible, make the change in an iterative manner, giving employees the experience before full deployment so they have the chance to ask questions and discover potential pitfalls.

Also critical are agile lines of communication. Embracing a responsive, adaptive business model is impossible if staff can't easily connect with managers or C-suite executives when problems arise. Culture shifts must be both top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top for any long-term gains.

Experimenting, then scaling

Plotting the path

New technology has the ability to cause two issues as companies seek to envelop them into their organizational practice. First, new tech can cause such an enthusiastic emotional reaction that a company rushes to institute it as soon as possible without first learning everything about it and drawing up measured plans to incorporate it. Second, companies can feel frenzied in embracing tech ahead of their competitors or the big names in their industries. In both cases, that tech may be brought on board haphazardly and run by employees who only vaguely understand what it is and what it does. Results can be disappointing when new tech isn’t fully fleshed out before companies begin to rely on it. Then, that tech gets abandoned with the mistaken belief that it’s not worthwhile.

Instead, when your organization looks at how to embrace tech like the Internet of Things or blockchain, begin by thoroughly researching what it is, what it does and how to manage it. Next, experiment with blockchain data storage or incorporating IoT tech in non-smart products on a very small scale, rolling it out to just a portion of your customer base or even limiting it to in-house testing only.

Finally, once you're confident that this innovative technology is ready, introduce it to your population of clients and customers. Then, you can work to scale to take on new data capabilities with blockchain or reach new customers with IoT-enabled devices. Being on the forefront of technology doesn’t mean being the first to roll out but rather having the best, most comprehensive roll out.

Further reading

Building a better business

Building a better business

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Transforming to digital

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