Jeff Eiben is the Founder and Owner of River Point Technology, a digital service provider in business since 2011.
As we all know, the last two years have brought about change on multiple fronts that will have both long-term positive and negative effects. One such change can be seen in the rapid pace at which companies have adopted digital transformation. This pace has had a significant impact on companies of all sizes. Having run a company for ten-plus years that focuses on delivering emerging technology solutions to companies, I’ve seen my share of early adopters, laggards and everything in between. The pandemic forced all of us to adopt new technologies, whether we were prepared or not.
Even prior to the pandemic, a driving factor behind the accelerated adoption of innovative technology was the support of digital transformation initiatives. The sad reality is that too often these initiatives did not succeed. Whether this resonates with you or you’re just now considering digital transformation within your company and want to avoid becoming a statistic, there are approaches to reduce this risk.
In my years of focusing on emerging technology, I’ve refined a framework that yields consistent results. It’s a framework l developed over the course of many failures and successes. I’ve even written a forthcoming book titled Minimize Risk, Maximize Return on Emerging Technology on this topic. Here, let’s hit the high points of the framework to get you thinking about your initiative.
Across industries, technologists spend the majority of their time focused on the existing (or “brownfield”) technologies that keep the business running. This is the reality when priority must be placed on ensuring a business’ main revenue streams are functioning. Unfortunately, this does not provide much of a window for them to explore emerging innovations, which could greatly support new revenue models or operational efficiencies.
Digital transformation fails for a variety of reasons beyond limited time to innovate, and I’m not looking to dissect that here. There are plenty of writings on the topic, and it’s important to acknowledge that innovating with technology isn’t for the faint of heart. But my own model seeks to boil down the complexities into a simple, consumable framework. Technical minds love to overcomplicate things, which can create barriers to innovation. My goal is to keep things simple and executable.
I’ve consolidated my framework into three segments: Choose, Incubate and Scale. It works because it considers all the aspects needed to successfully adopt new technology. The framework should not be considered a silver bullet to success, but rather a guide to systematically covering all the bases. Experience tells me that most don’t consider or have the discipline to cover all these bases. This results in failure or a limited return on the value of a new technology.
To begin, the Choose phase is designed to quickly ascertain whether or not it is worth it to spend time introducing a given technology. Working with a limited window in which to innovate, you just don’t have time to go down dead ends. The Choose phase also functions as a mechanism to throttle your curiosity, as technologists (myself included) are prone to chase every shiny new object. The reality is there are plenty of buzzworthy emerging technologies with oversold value propositions that can get us into trouble.
Within the Choose phase, I break it down to a few key questions that determine if we should proceed. Is the technology solution a feature or foundational? Can we quantify business impact that aligns with the core strategy? Is the technology consumable for our company?
Foundational technology is anything that will be a platform for future company growth. By contrast, feature technology is peripheral, offering minimal impact to the business.
The quantifiable business impact is often skipped or not measured. But this consideration should in fact be the main driver, as it will impact the entire solution stack. I’m not simply talking about some half-hearted vendor ROI spreadsheet, but a complex consideration of all factors that will impact your true total cost of ownership.
Understanding if the technology is consumable by the company is also critical in the Choose phase. Plenty of great solutions die on the vine and become shelfware because they weren’t able to be consumed by the masses.
Once we’ve identified a technology worth investing in, it’s time to move to the Incubate phase. Here, businesses should pinpoint a business-driven outcome around which to build a proof of value (POV). In my experience, technologists need to stop wasting time on proofs of concept (POCs) to see if a technology works or not; typically, those are nothing more than science projects.
By contrast, detailing a thorough POV allows you to gain a quick win or failure. Since you are looking to maximize your time, either outcome is a desired result. Within the Incubate phase, you should also be looking to align with stakeholders to start breaking down silos. Gaining quick wins across multiple business outcomes can help get some cultural buy-in and build momentum around the solution.
Taking that momentum forward helps set the stage for the Scale phase. This is typically a tough one for companies as all four legs of the stool need to be operating in concert: people, process, technology and culture. Without attention to all four legs, the risk increases. You may have success in pockets but not across the organization.
The focus in the Scale phase should be ongoing engagement and enablement. Early momentum can wane if other priorities and our day-to-day tasks steal the focus. At a minimum, you should consider setting what I term our Quarterly Fixed Agenda meeting. This is how we track progress and hold everyone accountable. It also provides all the stakeholders a seat at the table, making sure everyone is on the same page.
This framework is designed to be simple but effective. At the end of the day, however, successful adoption comes down to discipline and persistence. As I said earlier, there is no silver bullet, but this framework is proven to produce results with consumable, executable actions.
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