Prioritizing customers with emerging technologies

  • Posted on January 7, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes

This article was originally published in Forbes.

As businesses look to stay competitive through innovation, they are exploring emerging technologies to gain advantage. Blockchain, AI, quantum computing, IoT, immersive experiences and security/privacy technology are all part of this emerging technology spectrum, which can have a huge impact on organizations. However, there are a lot of reasons businesses should not be prioritizing these things right now, especially if they have basic technology infrastructure and organizational factors they really need to solve first.

Avanade recently polled 1,200 technology executives around the world about adopting the “most talked-about technologies.” A key global finding was that executives understand the increased pace of technology change, and over 90% of these execs plan to integrate emerging technologies into their business. More than 50% plan do so in the next three years.

The lag for many of these executives is that they are uncertain how to master the coming together of all the new technologies. And more importantly, they are wondering whether they have the right people and technologies in place to do so. Further complicating the slow technology evolution is the fact that many of these technologies are interdependent and therefore more challenging to adopt. For example, 54% of organizations see blockchain being used in combination with IoT and AI, and 47% are conducting trials for immersive experiences.

Plan before the plunge
So, if executives know they need to embrace emerging technologies, what should they consider when preparing to implement? Here are some principles:

Responsibility: Most emerging technologies are rooted in data, and every organization will need to figure out how it will integrate ethics by design into building its products and services. In our survey, 81% lack complete confidence that their organizations are adequately prepared to address ethical issues related to AI and automation. Taking a hard look at digital cultures and implementing digital ethics protocols and processes for protection will be of paramount importance. According to Jim Hare, research vice president at Gartner, “Data literacy, digital ethics, privacy, enterprise and vendor data-for-good initiatives encompass digital culture.”

Companies can begin implementing digital ethics into their organizations by establishing a cross-company task force with a variety of roles to work toward this together. Organizations can also look to other companies for collaboration and inspiration. There are digital ethics groups assembling globally to discuss the impact on company values, technology and client offerings.

Talent: Implementing emerging technology means you need the right talent to evaluate and onboard the technology. For some leaders, looking inside your organization is where you begin. The other option is recruiting and hiring outside talent or partners. One example of one of our customers that focused on onboarding talent internally was DBS Bank in Singapore. It cultivated its people internally to embrace entrepreneurial qualities — customer focus, continual learning and data-driven decision making — to facilitate the company’s digital transformation.

When recruiting external talent, McKinsey estimates that "top engineering talent can ... be anywhere from three to 10 times more productive than average engineers [and] can yield double-digit investment savings by accelerating the transformation process by even 20-30%."

Test and learn: MIT Center for Information Systems Research recommends creating a portfolio of experiments to maximize learning. You need to understand which technologies help solve customer problems and what solutions customers will be willing to pay for, and continuously experiment and engage with customers to find that right intersection.

The best place to start with continual experimentation is with the right team, determining which customer problems seem ripe to solve and developing a complete strategy around change management, technology and experimentation. The other piece of the equation is setting a process and timeline for piloting experiments where feedback and success are gauged along the way so approach and technology can be calibrated accordingly. It also helps to see quickly if something is failing so that you can adjust in real time or kill the experiment if need be to avoid burning precious time.

The bottom line is this: Emerging technologies may bring you a competitive edge, but only if their adoption is tied to how they may potentially impact the design, innovation and technology choices of your organization. Good luck out there!

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