3 steps to identifying emerging technologies that create business value
- Posted on March 10, 2022
- Estimated reading time 5 minutes
In a world of continual change, it is necessary to explore and filter, assess, and then invest in emerging technologies to be resilient and adaptive. As Research Lead for Emerging Technologies at Avanade I take a deeply human-centered approach to strategic foresight, asking and answering questions to help organizations develop a picture of what their future can be, and what they can do to make that future real. Our research has shown there are real payoffs to testing and adopting technologies early in their development. However, there are so many to choose from and not knowing where to start is a concern that can make it difficult to even begin the process. Here’s how we at Avanade identify the emerging technologies that help clients drive business value:
1. Explore and filter
Find signals in the noise
Finding the emerging technologies to evolve or revolutionize your business can be like searching for the fabled needle in the haystack. Here’s a pro-tip: Follow people on the fringes of technologies to watch real takes happen in real-time. Social media and conversations with those in the know can prove fruitful. These weak signals build into waves over time; by catching them early, you’re better able to ride them out. Take whatever opportunity you can to connect and ask questions such as, “What’s a technology you’ve heard a lot about, but you don’t really get". The frank discussion that follows will help you expand your thinking about what the technology can do and where it might fall flat.
Filter signals by using strategic foresight
Strategic foresight is an approach we utilize to make sense of those signals. Rather than trying to predict the future, foresight tools ground you in the data of what’s happening now and help you extrapolate and explore possible futures. For more detail, we highly recommend checking out the Future Today Institute, or the Institute for the Future. Envisioning a variety of scenarios enables you to work through potential unintended consequences before they happen; it can also help you define clear goals to work towards, allowing you to build the future you want to see.
Signals of change in the present with the potential to impact your business are everywhere. In addition to one-on-one conversations with people in the thick of things, quantitative futurists like Amy Webb of the Future Today Institute and analysts like Ben Thompson of Stratechery publish smart newsletters and podcasts with their thoughts. Technical publications such as the ACM and MIT Tech Review can also provide further insight and advice you can use to filter your research.
Ask the key questions
As cool as emerging technologies are, at the heart of any testing is a key business question: How might this technology be useful in helping achieve our strategic goals?
It’s important to keep two things in mind as you determine whether the emerging technology you have researched is useful to your business:
1. Knowing that emerging technologies are not immediately scalable, what action can we take now? Are there immediate use cases we can prove out, or are there skills or capabilities we can build in anticipation of the maturation of the technology?
2. Consider what other technologies or strategies the technology might enable for you. For example, increasing network availability or decreasing latency can also enable more compelling IoT or Extended Reality (VR, AR, MR) applications.
Our client, ABB Turbocharging, partnered with us to test drive a solution for employee collaboration using Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 mixed reality technology. By combining cloud and AI services, the HoloLens optimized both training and collaboration. Now, ABB Turbocharging is well down the onramp to the emerging “metaverse” - they’ll receive returns on their investment in both the short and long term.
Get in the game
The important thing to remember is that to garner that long-term ROI, you need to stay in the game. The best way we’ve found to do this is by continually making small bets now to de-risk larger bets later. Give yourself the time and space to test, learn, test, and learn again. There will always be risk but being willing to play means you’re more likely to win. That doesn’t mean you never walk away from the table. Don’t be afraid to stop testing when you have pretty clear indications that the tech isn’t working.
Investing in emerging technologies drives value back to your business in sometimes unexpected ways. For example, we’ve found that even testing technologies that are early in their development can help improve both your customer and your employee experience. Conversational AI tools like chatbots engage with customers, allowing you to scale your response time and hone answers to customer needs. Customers aren’t the only ones who benefit. The very act of exploring engages your employees, upskills them, and helps inspire creativity. In one interview we conducted with a pharmaceutical company, the interviewee noted that simply working through quantum algorithms inspired his team to think differently about all their other work. These very valuable, intangible benefits are important to keep in mind because it takes time and investment to develop emerging technologies to the point where they are delivering more tangible ROI. The companies that performed the best in our research invested 30% of their budget on emerging technologies for the past two years.