Lest we forget – it is the use and development of advanced technologies that have always delivered decisive advantage to nations, organisations and individuals. This applies of course to the use of information technology within the organisation, and the seemingly endless uptake of new technologies is part of this ongoing effort to realise some form of advantage. There is however a right way and a wrong way to approach the uptake of new technology, and the dynamics in many organisations create a bias that is less than optimal.
The dynamics of the competitive use of technology are well understood and are illustrated in the diagram below:
Whenever a new technology comes on the scene every organisation has the choice to adopt or ignore. The pressure to adopt mainly comes from fear of otherwise of being disadvantaged, and as such there is always the pressure to take on yet more technology. This means adoption is a dominant strategy – at a minimum we level the playing field with competitors. To not adopt means there is the risk of losing out.
But this is a fairly unrewarding game, spending more and more on technology just to maintain the status quo. There are two things an organisation can do to realise an advantage from its technology spend, rather than simply maintain equilibrium with competitors. Being early and/or being different are the keys. Both these options go against the conservatism that drives technology procurement in many organisations, but they are the only ways of getting a positive advantage from technology spend. The evidence that organisations do not act in this way is well demonstrated by the dominance of a few very large suppliers in any technology area. Most managers will choose a large supplier because of the somewhat fallacious notion that they are somehow safer. One only has to consider the stream of litigations against large suppliers to see this is not the case (SAP and Waste Management, Oracle and AIB).
The technology arms race is a fact of life, but by being different and/or early technology can deliver a real advantage instead of merely being the price paid to maintain competitiveness.