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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Strategic Technology Adoption Framework

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Strategic adoption of technologies, especially bringing in new ones as they become viable, is key to the success of every organization whether it’s delivering pizzas or launching a spaceship. It’s important to have a framework that enables the CTO or chief technologist to monitor and guide, what I call, the “technology intake” -- how new technology is identified, piloted, and brought into operational use in a slow, but steady manner. I call it a strategic framework for technology adoption.

To give you a concrete example of such a framework, let’s go with the pizza delivery business.  I am not an expert on pizza delivery, but I’d start by laying out a high-level view of the pizza ordering --> cooking --> delivery --> driver management processes, as you can see in the figure -- (if you stop and think about it, you can draw such a high-level process diagram for whatever happens to be the core business of your organization and it’s scalable from mom-and-pop operations to huge, multinational chains (just that the number of process areas may be more in a bigger organization).

Next I jot down the key technologies currently in operational use -- there is usually the information technology (IT) back-end systems and databases that span all process areas and then there are other technologies that are specific to the tasks being performed in each area. Most of these technologies also integrate with the back-end IT.

Finally, I lay out a technology timeline that goes through the sequence from (1) identifying new technologies, (2) exploring their use, (3) piloting the promising ones, and (4) putting into operation the ones that work.

As you may have guessed by now, the idea is to keep an eye on the technology landscape, relevant to your business, pick promising ones for piloting and implement those that are successfully piloted.

You can use the framework for allocating and managing the technology budget as well. You can look at budget allocated to each of the process areas.

On the “technology intake” side, you’d expect bulk of the overall budget to be dedicated to running current operations. Identifying and exploring relevant technologies should be a continuous, low-cost effort. Piloting will need some funds, and putting a new technology into operational use would cost even more.

Although it’s a simple framework, it can help you with the never-ending process of refreshing the technologies, including IT, that help run your business and keep it competitive.