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Ready Technology

By Stephen J. Andriole

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 57 No. 2, Pages 40-42
10.1145/2556941

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In the 20th century, companies waited until their industries and competitors fully vetted technologies before investing in even the most tried-and-true ones. Technophobes believed that investing too early was indulgent and reckless. Executives wore their late technology adoption strategies as badges of corporate honor.

Today, many emerging technologies are ready for immediate deployment.a iPads are ready. Dropbox is ready. Skype is ready. ListenLogic is ready. Foursquare is ready. Ready technology is accessible and cost-effective. It also often arrives at companies without the participation of the corporate IT team, especially in federated or decentralized companies where business units and employees are encouraged to solve their own problems. The accompanying figure summarizes defined and ready technology adoptionand the implications of ready technology adoption. It also provides some examples of ready technology.

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Technology Adoption

Defined Adoption. The 20th-century technology adoption models were predicated on the diagnosticity of business requirements and technology maturity. The assumption was that technology and business requirements evolve at a pace that justifies phased adoption. Early deployments were assumed to be risky, costly, and therefore unnecessary.

Defined and validated business requirements were prized. An enormous industry was created around requirements analysis, requirements modeling, and requirements validation. Books, articles, conferences, and workshops were everywhere. The prevailing wisdom was that business requirements modeling and validation were prerequisites to technology adoption, and that structured pilot demonstrations with compelling TCO and ROI results were necessary to justify deployment. Technology also had to integrate and interoperate with existing technology infrastructures and architectures. If it failed to cost-effectively integrate, adoption was often halted. If it did integrate, then a structured transition period was defined to test and deploy the new technology before the technology went into production. Finally, new technologyjust like old technologyrequired continuous support and expensive refreshes.

Ready Adoption. Technology adoption is different today.b Requirements are often undefined and driven by employees-consumers who adopt technologies to solve a variety of problems with technologies that are acquiredand sometimes even supportedway outside the corporate firewall. Consumer-driven requirements analysis, exploration, and discovery is the mainstay of ready technology adoption. Note also that what was previously described as controlled pilots are largely ad hoc opportunistic experiments that often quickly turn into technology deploymentswith or without the approval of corporate IT departments.

Examples. The figure here lists a variety of ready technologies already at work solving a variety of problems across multiple vertical industries. The new governance process is significant because it often bypasses corporate IT and the policies and procedures aligned to specific vertical industries, like manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and financial services. In fact, every industry is readythough must keep compliance and security in mind as it officiallyor unofficiallyadopts new technology.


Ready technology adoption unleashes the power of emerging technology as early as possible.


The list of ready technologies includes the followingbut note this is not an exhaustive list and is representative of the growing number of ready technologies companies are quickly adopting:

  • BYO: Devices, applications, data, and so forth.
  • Tablets (such as iPads).
  • Smartphones (such as iPhones).
  • Content Sharing (such as with Dropbox).
  • Mobile and Other Applications (from App Stores).
  • Social Networking (with, for example, ListenLogic).
  • Video-Teleconferencing (with Facetime, Skype).
  • Video Sharing and Marketing (with YouTube).
  • Location Awareness (with Foursquare).

At Shire Pharmaceuticals, for example, ready technology found its way into the trenches through the C-suite: Shire professionals adopted iPhones, iPads, Skype, ListenLogic, and Dropbox before corporate IT could assess their reliability, security, or TCO/ROI. Hundreds of iPads were deployed at Shire before corporate IT declared them "non-standard" and unsecure. Corporate IT chased them around, but everyone got to keep their iPads (and other devices) when IT ultimately declared them "safe"well after their deployment.c Similar events occurred at Balfour Beatty, Luxottica, and RehabCare.d The same process is playing out in banks, consultancies, and retailers. In fact, there is no way to stop the processas many companies discovered when they tried to ban social networks.e

The deployment of iPads, social media, file sharing, and video-teleconferencing (among other technologies) at Shire and other companies demonstrates just how fast technology can be adopted. (In fact, 93% of Fortune 100 companies adopted iPads immediately after they were introduced.f) Fast creative deployments legitimized iPads as solutions to an array of well-known and yet-to-be-discovered problems. No one took the position that the first iPad was probably half-baked and that it made sense to wait for the iPad 2, 3, or 4.

The rapid adoption of social media listening technology is another example. Once it was possible to listen to all flavors of social conversations, companies quickly found listening partners (like ListenLogic and Radian6 [now part of salesforce.com]), and started mining social data about what their customers liked and disliked about their products and services.g

Dropbox is cloud file sharing. Countless professionals use Dropbox to store and share files of all kinds. Skype and Facetime are ready technologies used extensively for collaboration and communicationeven at companies with expensive proprietary video teleconferencing (VTC) systems. App stores are not the stores of last resort, but often the first stores visited by professionals with problems to solve. Mobile application development is also exploding. Foursquare is ready for location-based services, and YouTube for video sharing for training and marketing.

Implications. The first implication of ready technology adoption is speed. Ready technology adoption unleashes the power of emerging technology as early as possible. Put another way, ready technology adoptionas chaotic as it sometimes isenables us to "fail fast/fail cheap"and redefines the whole "piloting" process. It also enables rapid business process modeling (BPM) by introducing new capabilities applied to old processeslike how we collaborate through cloud file sharing (Dropbox) or how we see each other while traveling (Skype, Facetime). But perhaps the largest implication of ready technology adoption is how it rearranges technology governance. In the 20th century, technology governance was centralized or federated. Ready technology adoption is decentralized. This means employees-consumers in business units govern technology adoption and exploit what the technologies can provide without the "guidance" of corporate or business unit CIOs. This has profound implications for the acquisition and support of enterprise technology. Ready technology also challenges our technology cost models, how we define and measure Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and ultimately how we calculate technology TCO and ROI. Ready technologyas appealing and productive as it can bealso challenges our already formidable problems around technology integration, interoperability, scalability, and support.

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Conclusion

While there are still plenty of technologies that require traditional adoption processeslike big data analytics, ERP and CRM applicationsthere is a growing number of technologies ready to go to work immediately. Many of these technologies are cloud-based, open source, and live happily outside of corporate firewalls. Many of them are easily and inexpensively accessible to corporate professionals and will therefore continue to find their way into companies of all shapes and sizesregardless of what CIOs think about their readiness. At the end of the day, ready technologies is upsetting just about every governance applecart at work todayas they rapidly discover, define, and solve more and more corporate problems. Rather than scramble to get all the apples back in the cart, CIOs and CTOs should rethink the way useful technology enters the enterprise and embrace the role ready technologies can play in the problem-solving processespecially since they have no choice.

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Author

Stephen J. Andriole ([email protected]) is a professor in the Department of Accounting and Information Systems at the Villanova School of Business, Villanova University, PA.

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Footnotes

a. Ready technology is easily accessible technology, requires minimal support, and is mature enough to make immediateand majorproblem-solving contributions.

b. Not all technology adoption falls in the "ready" category. There are still defined adoption projects that assume the value of prolonged requirements analyses, testing, and phased deployment. Major enterprise applications like ERP, CRM, and network and systems management, for example, fall into the defined category. But not all technology is created equal: somereadytechnology can go to work without prolonged requirements analysis, testing, and phased deployment.

c. There are many stories about how iPads found their way into the enterprisewithout the approval of corporate IT departments. See T. Kaneshige, "iPads in the Enterprise: IT Must Stay Ahead of the Curve," CIO Magazine (May 1, 2012), (www.cio.com/article/705379/); and S. Ludwig, "The iPad is an Incredible Tool for WorkIf Your IT Department Will Allow It," VB Mobile (Jan. 4, 2012). The Shire case is documented in S.J. Andriole, "The Transformation of Technology at Shire Pharmaceuticals," the Acentio Group, December 2012.

d. See M. Rosoff, "Huge Construction Firm Uses iPads and Apple TV to Save Millions," CITE-world (Mar. 28, 2013), and S. Ludwig (http://bit.ly/1hP0NhP).

e. See J. Bughin and M. Chui, "How Social Technologies are Extending the Organization," McKinsey Quarterly (Apr. 2011); (http://bit.ly/JiBPJr). Also see: "54% of Companies Ban Facebook, Twitter at Work," ComputerWorld (Oct. 6, 2009); and K. Bhasin, "Companies Around The World Are Banning Social Media Sites At Work More Than Ever," Business Insider (Sept. 6, 2011); http://bit.ly/JaNkBV.

f. Apple reported 93% of Fortune 500 companies have deployed or are testing iPads; http://bit.ly/JiC6Mv.

g. See S.J. Andriole, V.J. Schiavone, L.F. Stevens, M. Harrington, and M. Langsfeld, Social Business Intelligence: Reducing Risk, Managing Brands & Defining Markets with Social Media (Ascendigm Press, 2013) for a deeper look at the business role social business intelligence can play.

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Tables

UT1Table. Ready technology.

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