Business history is littered with remnants of established companies whose one small misstep put them behind some startup and forced them to play a pointless game of catch up.
In the current business climate, this scenario plays out on a constant loop due to a seemingly endless array of new and disruptive technologies. Some entrenched companies like Sears never manage to pull even with the pack. Legacy names like Walmart, however, are fighting back by reimagining their customer experience with the help of digital partners.
For good reason, the possibility of falling behind puts many business leaders on edge. Unfortunately, the responses to this fear are often knee-jerk attempts to keep up with the latest tech trends without any thought into how those innovations might actually better serve your company and its customers.
The result is often a hodgepodge of aborted projects and poorly implemented technology that not only fails to address the issue at hand, but also leaves the company behind schedule, which is what it wanted to avoid the whole time. No matter what emerging technology is being experimented with – be it automation, AI, or blockchain – it often causes businesses to stumble when they should soar. And it doesn't have to be that way.
What keeps technology and business off the same page
Investing in technology isn't solely the domain of tech companies. Look at Goldman Sachs, an investment bank and financial services company that employs more engineers than tech-focused brands companies like Facebook and Twitter.
However, when companies whose services don't center on tech attempt to implement it into their operations, many face the same two barriers: They either recognize the challenges that come with adoption or realize they don't know how to deal with said issues. Every company encounters its own unique challenges, but these four are common for organizations struggling to integrate emerging tech into their business models:
1.C-suite leaders don't have the time or resources to sufficiently explore emerging tech. 2. Business leaders can't define an actual application for the tech they're attempting to implement.
3.Internal innovations teams are too small or lack the necessary knowledge to properly evaluate and recommend the right tech for the problem.
4. Leadership is overly cautious or unwilling to commit to unknown and unproven.
Any sort of innovation needs buy-in from leadership, especially technology. C-suite members can't just tolerate the adoption of new technology. They have to be the driving force behind why it's useful and what good it will ultimately do for the company and the people it serves.
Visit Innovation Enterprise's Chief Technology Officer Summit in San Francisco on November 28–29, 2018
Determine what needs to be solved
When struggling with tech adoption, it almost always comes down to what companies say instead of what they do. Specifically, many companies stumble in adopting new tech because they're not asking the right questions. Rather than asking "should we embrace this emerging technology?" leaders need to pose this question: "How are we using this technology to solve our business problems?"
When working with blockchain, for example, my company didn't view it as some cool technology to test. Instead, we identified specific use cases for it, augmenting it with legacy technology like enterprise resource planning to create specific and usable products. As a result, we've built more than five successful enterprise blockchains and plan to work on more.
Embracing tech for tech's sake – quite frankly – is bad business. Too many companies latch onto the latest trend without actually asking the question of whether it's useful to them.
A business needs to understand the problems it's facing and then look into how emerging innovations can possibly solve it in a better way. Will blockchain, for instance, save you time or money? Will it drive new revenue? If the answer to either question is no, then maybe it's not worth your company's time or effort.
Many challenges come with integrating new technologies, but the deal-breaking ones usually come from the same source: The failure to link a specific technology to a specific business solution. If you know what you're putting your efforts toward, you're more likely to be successful and lead the competition – instead of playing from behind – for years to come.