What is your focus as the Director of Emerging Technologies?
My focus is to help clients understand and prepare for the next wave of technologies. This involves working with clients to identify the opportunities and threats posed by advancing technology, both in the short-term and long-term. We focus on answering questions like “what can we do with existing technology now” and “what newer technologies do we need to be evaluating to implement in the next two to five years?”
Why is it important for companies to start preparing for and embracing changing technology?
Technology is advancing at a pace that we’ve never seen before. Unlike the incremental change that’s driven the market in the past – this radical change will fundamentally alter the way companies interact with their customers, suppliers, employees and stakeholders. In the past, you could potentially wait for the industry to bring you a solution, adopt it once it was proven and not fall too far behind your competitors. However, this strategy won’t work today with the compounding technological innovation we’re seeing in the market.
Organizations that don’t prepare now risk waking up one day to a major disruption in the market from a competitor’s innovation. You wouldn’t want to invest millions of dollars into New York City taxi medallions, for instance, only to have Uber pop up six months later and render that investment almost worthless.
Companies need to be focused on learning more and be looking for new opportunities to do things differently now, because the reality is that your competitors are already doing it.
What do Emerging Technologies look like now, and in the future?
In the short-term, there’s actually a great deal that can be done today to innovate. There are new ways of applying proven technologies now that haven’t been done in the past. Uber is a great example of this. They took common technologies – GPS and mobile applications – and applied them in new, innovative ways to disrupt the market. We help clients identify where their opportunities lie to use existing technology in creative ways.
Thinking long-term, there’s a host of more mature technologies that will start coming out in the next two to five years and beyond. Businesses need to start thinking about how they’d apply these technologies today. This is another area where we help clients by identifying potential applications to begin evaluating now.
Why are companies hesitant to do so?
First, many companies have outsourced IT. They’re left with bare-bones staff, and there’s no innovation budget. While innovation is a cost, it’s an opportunity cost, and if you don’t invest now, you may get caught behind later.
In the enterprise, there may also be a lack of understanding around how disruptive this next wave of technology will be to their market. Organizations that understand this not only have budgets set aside for innovation, but they also have an innovation process.
What’s an innovation process?
An innovation process is a formal governance for exploring and testing new ideas.
Similar to the way companies invest in product development, the first stage of innovation is about investing to learn how new technologies can potentially change your processes and business models by looking both inside and outside the business for opportunities to add value. From there, take the best ideas, pilot them and continue to carry forward and scale any pilots that are successful.
Keep in mind – it’s not about ROI today – it’s insurance for the future.
In what areas do you see the biggest opportunities for organizations?
In terms of technology, it’s the combination of a few things.
Cloud computing allows applications to be on-demand and to grow. Organizations that can merge the Cloud, The Internet of Things (IoT) and applications to extend the enterprise into the real world will be poised for success. There are also opportunities to automate and speed up processes with Robotic Process Automation, leading to Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. These technologies together, combined with structured and unstructured data, are the key innovations companies need to be watching.
Depending on your business model, these technologies can be applied differently. Because Netflix is a subscription service, for example, they rely on data to determine what type of content to create. By combining data with machine learning, IoT and additional technologies, they’re disrupting their industry and creating unique customer experiences based on viewer preferences and habits. This is different for Facebook, who uses machine learning for facial recognition to enable auto-tagging and collects user data to market to an advertiser. Both companies are looking at newer technologies and applying them to their business models.
What are the biggest mistakes you see companies make?
The biggest mistake is ignoring the coming advancements or writing them off as hype. Other mistakes are not partnering IT with the business or not putting any money behind innovation. We also see companies that feel compelled to fix everything from a legacy standpoint first before adding anything new. The danger here is that you could wake up one day, realize your competitor is really far ahead of you and have no idea how to catch up.
What are the top three things a CIO who wanted to take the next step in readying their organization should consider?
Any final thoughts?
This next wave of technology is not about going to the Cloud version of SAP or Oracle, and it’s not just about automating your existing transactions. It’s about radical transformation that can come from taking the new technologies that are just now coming out and applying them to your business. Companies that don’t invest in learning more will be left behind, but if you can think creatively now and embrace innovation, you’ll set your business up for success into the future.