Richard Rumelt, a professor at the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, is one of the world's most influential thinkers on strategy and management. Remelt came to the controversial conclusion that for a business to survive it must either invent its way there, or exploit some sort of change in its environment.
"In technology, consumer tastes, laws, resource prices, or competitive behavior is the second way that companies actually succeed," he's said. While Rumelt was writing for McKinsey Quarterly in 1998, he interviewed Steve Jobs, who had just successfully turned Apple around. When he asked Jobs what his long-term strategy was, Rumelt stated that Jobs "just smiled and said, 'I am going to wait for the next big thing.'" That next big thing? The iPod. Rumelt believed that this "predatory approach ... is what distinguishes a real entrepreneurial strategy."
The problem, as Thornton May points out in Computerworld, is that "Back then, technology market leaders were companies that, upon identifying an inflection point, were able to jump in full force and with full focus." May adds, "Two decades ago, 'next big things' came along at a leisurely pace. Today, they surround us."
So, that leaves business owners and managers left with one big question - should we adapt or wait for the next big thing?
To help answer that question, here are a couple of tips on knowing when to determine whether it's time to add new technology or wait.
"If we are surrounded by next big things, it's important to be open to every possible source of innovation," May says. He adds, "Everybody innovates," so you should welcome employees "to come forward with an idea." Whether it's a recent hire, your maintenance crew, or a seasoned manager, recognizing that everyone on your team is a potential "source of the next big thing for the enterprise" will give you the opportunity to be an innovative business. It also prevents you from missing out on the "next big thing."
Focus on Business Goals and Objectives
Phil Manfredi, co-founder of Zuggand and former chief strategy officer and deputy state chief information officer for Arizona, tells Christopher Null on TechBeacon that you need "to make sure that the technology initiatives align to the business goals and leadership's vision."
"At the state, I used what's called a management by objectives (MBO) approach. I first read the governor's policy agenda to see what her objectives were. Then, I created three high-level objectives that helped support her strategy. From there, each objective cascaded out to multiple 'winning priorities'--that's what we called them--and then those cascaded out to individual initiatives and projects. We then reviewed them with the governor's office so that they could prioritize the initiatives. From there, you have buy-in and support."
Manfredi opted to chase business goals instead of the hottest gadget or technology. Think of it this way. You may be contemplating purchasing a smartwatch, such as the the Apple Watch. But, before you invest in that piece of tech, wouldn't you ask, "what's the purpose of the watch and is it worth purchasing?"
Consider the Cost
Speaking of cost, you can also conduct a Cost-Benefit Analysis to help you determine whether you should go forward or not with a new piece of technology. The steps of a CBA would include;
While a CBA isn't perfect, it's a straightforward tool that can provide a better understanding of the costs and benefits involved with technology. If financially feasible, you may consider moving forward.
Even without performing a CBA, you could also find out if there is a free or low-cost version of the item that you can start out with. If it's effective, you may then consider bumping up to the full-price version.
Seek An Outside Opinion
Whenever we're approached with new technology that we're not familiar with, our first instinct is to visit the IT department. While that may be a good place to start, Jon Huberman, current CEO of Syncplicity, tells Null, "A lot of new tech is driven by someone other than IT." He adds, "How many times has a CEO said to a CIO, 'I read about this in the Wall Street Journal,' or, 'My friend's company does this. Why don't we do that too?' The CIO has to come up with an answer--either run with the idea, or shoot it down."
Gayle Norton suggests on Ere Media that this is why it's important "get an external perspective from someone with no sentimental or political attachment to what was done in the past." Norton adds, "Get the advice of an outsider who is impartial and knowledgeable on current technologies--and can guide you on your way to a good fit."
"A key question that will be asked of CIOs is how their investments in technology measures up" says Kevin C. Desouza, Associate dean for research in Arizona State University's College of Public Service & Community Solutions. In fact, Desouza that there was a "general lack of metrics to capture innovations associated with IT."
Norton recommends that you ask questions like "what metrics do you really need to impact? What metrics are you achieving using your old technology/old processes and what impact on them should the new technology have? How will you accurately measure them so you get the "real picture" on how they are working?" before making any decisions.