FutureTech: How to avoid the latest technology adoption risk.

technology adoption risk

How can technology adoption risk can be identified, managed and mitigated, especially if it is new, innovative and a potentially ‘disruptive’ technology – and one that is without precedence?

What I am intending to do is provide a very broad perspective on the topic of technology adoption risk.

First of all – lets look at the concept of a  ‘success trap’. Self-limiting is the key aspect of the ‘success trap’. We keep exploiting opportunities until the result is a very unhappy ending.

Let’s look at a few examples such as in medicine, fish stocks, world population and economic:

  • Antibiotic drugs that are resistant to bacterial infections: It may be in the near future that you could die as a result of a cut Finger, because our ability to manage these simple medical issues which have been solved very successfully up to now, may not work in the future. This is as a result of over prescription, extensive use for the food chain, and also no new drugs being developed since the 80’s.
  • Fishing: Three quarters of the world’s fish stocks are heavily exploited or nearing depletion which is clearly implications of a success trap
  • World population explosion: The point is we are consuming more resources than the planet can sustain – we are living longer and there is more of us, but ultimately is this hypothetically the ultimate test trap in our existence?
  • The GFC: Yet another example where much of the global economy essentially gorged itself on very cheap money in a Ponzi style economy. We all know the results of this was the 2008 near collapse of the financial system.

So moving onto the topic of new technology,  we’re at that stage now that no sooner is a new product developed , then it is soon out-of-date. This creates new opportunities for innovation while destroys incumbents.

A very brief look over our shoulders where the Information Technology industry has come from. A long time ago there was a computer called the Abacus.  a little bit less long ago was one which was such as the  Antikythera Mechanism which is used for astronomical calculations which is a real mystery given as high technology in that era, right up to today’s current technologies which are explosive and exponential in nature,

In terms of an industry, I think that the IT industry is rather unique in it’s short history. If we compare it with other industries the comparisons are obvious.

  • Medicine for example, as an industry and professional has been around since Adam and Eve, if you look at
  • Finance and accounting: Once again, people were accounting there’re goods and chattels for many many thousands of years,
  • Legal: Laws been around some argue from the birth of civilization to create the structures that underpin society
  • Management is a discipline that’s been around for a long time, I mean you had a form of management and how you built the pyramids.
  • Sales, commerce and trading:  People have always been wheeling and dealing,
  • Marketing as a discipline that’s been around from around the 1800s
  • However IT is the latest kid on the block, and has impacted pretty well everyone and every aspect of society. It is sub-generational. When I started my career the the late 1970s the computer was behind a big data center . Since then IT has been fundamentally transformational,.

Our globally dominant ‘digital landlords’

So if we look at what I term, our globally dominant ‘digital landlords’ are essentially shaping our future. If you look at Facebook, for example, these major players that are really shaping the overall agenda in terms how we live online.

If we take a number of factors together, we see some of the overall influences. Examples include:

  • industrialization of I.T which is these mega data centers which have got mega service with massive infrastructure which is replicated multiple times, plus
  • cloud computing which is about the scalability and use and access together with
  • mobility, everyone with a smartphone are able to get a universal connection, very low threshold low barrier to adoption, its other immediate it’s free or you pay a very low sort of cost,
  • Widespread uptake of technology to the point where some folks have a religious zeal about a particular brand of technology

The Democratisation effect

The democratisation – some also call it commoditization – refers to the phenomenon whereby experts no longer ‘own’ their skills exclusively.  Their skills can be embedded or codified into technologies. With the internet, these skills can be widely accessed by many.

The democratization of technology

This underpins our digital world. For the first time individuals, individuals and small organizations have got the access too major enterprise, systems, applications, technologies that were previously only held within the domain of large organizations which is quite transformational, so the other thing as well for organizations is that they have an option they can either go to their I.T departments which is the you know sometimes be known as the organizational priesthood or secret society, you have to go there to get blessed or whatever, but the reality is the organizations have a choice as to how they wish to deploy, and also more importantly the regulators and legislators are sort of chasing behind the bus, the bus as already left the stale the train as already left the station and trying to play catch-up, and when you look at some the discussions and I’ll allude to this a bit later, if you look at some of the discussions with products and services going out into the markets such as Google glass or whatever, the regulators all of a sudden are trying to play catch up with what is this technology mean you get a facial recognition and where is that information being held in privacy and put it all in a big box and stir it up and apply heat and lots of discussions and there are issues about that.

The democratization of information

In the past, there has been paintings, books, hieroglyphics and manuscripts – all of which are difficult to copy and distribute.

But in the digital domain the ability to access the seemingly infinite amount of information is essentially like drinking from a fire hydrant. This is a double-edged sword because the dissemination of information which is useful, accurate and relevant and tested it’s in trustworthy so you would put more reliance on that – can be very helpful.  Conversely the dissemination of misinformation or information that is not correct can be extremely damaging.

I’ll talk about this later in a specific topic the digital wildfire.

Question: Will globalization + technology + communications,  disrupt knowledge-intensive careers?  We all now know that the answer is ‘Yes!”

The democratization of skill

Certainly from what I’m seeing is that this trend of democratisation will probably continue to accelerate.  This has implications for the IT professionals,  for example. Being a top-gun software programmer allows you work almost anywhere and at any time has its appeal.

On the down-side this also means that this type of work can be done anywhere in the world – such as a low-cost country. So individuals that are building their careers on the quicksand of modern technologies, need to anticipate these changes and take steps to mitigate the risks – like obtaining complementary and supplementary skills.

By way of another example, I want to just touch the legal profession for the moment. This profession has been around a long time and is regarded one of the classic “professions” (with others being medicine, engineer, dentist, etc). This long standing industry has been impacted by competitors subject to the same transformation as I alluded to earlier LPO stands for legal process outsourcing which some of major major law firms have been outsourcing some of their back office stuff to low-cost countries so some conveyancing some contractor use sort of more sort of tedious stuff, mechanistic stuff, processed out the back the shop front is still the sort of guilt edge boardroom type presence,  now they’ve grown up and are now bypassing law firms, so this is not for aspect of law, certainly if you have criminal law and you’ve got to go to court this wouldn’t apply but if you’re talking about doing contract review and that sort of commercial type law that you have well trained and accredited lawyers but happen to be living with low-cost countries.

The democratization of innovation

There are many individual cases of truly successful product innovations. However the vast majority of established organisations probably do not really do the world’s best job at innovation. An innovation culture is often not within the organisation’s culture or DNA.

Let’s suppose we have a problem that needs fixing.  If you can Scope it, define it and give it a task headline it could be ‘crowd-sourced’ . By putting it out there through social media, crowdfunding or crowdsourcing site there is a potential army of people willing to help out and take on the task, or contribute to it’s completion. So this fundamentally changes this question of innovation. Innovation can be opened to anyone.

In terms of innovating information technology, it can be highly leveraged. The digital ‘startup’ is the flavour of the month, where two guys can start another Google from their garage, with limited startup capital and turn it into a multi-billion-dollar organization. Geography is no longer a barrier, where one can crowdsource skills to get started.

The democratization of the organisation’s IT department

When it comes to enterprise IT,  we’ve got staff and managers who extensively use technology in their personal lives, which is at odds with the restricted, maybe less responsive to change corporate IT department.  This leads to Shadow IT, which offers Gartner – a global tech research organization alluded to the fact that Shadow IT is a high risk .

The democratization of risk

Another key factor that I see from my perspective is that when organizations – particularly in the I.T ecosystem – talk about technology risk. This is done on the basis of the ‘risk register’ – which is a running inventory of risks which are often individually treated. Fact is, when there are complex interactions at play, the combination of a number of events may adversely impact the whole organisation.  This is a systemic view of the enterprise of which technology is only one element.

So, taking a systemic view of the risk within the organization and this applies to most things in reality, you get a better perspective of what the actual risk is rather than what you think the risk might be. The systemic risks are more significant.

systemic risk

If we look at the finance industry which invests most heavily in risk mitigation, and is one of the most regulated industries, the identification, management and  transference of risk is managed very meticulously. There are established, robust enterprise risk management methodologies, processes. However it did not prevent the GFC.

So, as I alluded to within the organizational context, the inventorying of these separate risks does not necessarily account for the interaction between the risks and that’s where having a systemic ‘horizontal’ view of how the enterprise works in total tends to be hard to achieve. So let’s touch on privacy because we all like to keep private except in certain instances where one has to get up and do a presentation or at least I volunteered for this, this is sort of seedo private if you will, if we look at the topic of privacy and I wrote an article and a conversation about this about this number and I have written quite a few articles on a range of topics in this Area.

The democratization of privacy

Everything we do in today’s digital world leaves a digital footprint. As individuals, for the most part, what do we care?  In terms of privacy we are churning out increasing volumes of personally created data. In terms of privacy, evidence is that online privacy cannot be assured.  Fact is, Current enterprise cyber security measures continue to fail us. Why is this and what can you do to fix it?

The bottom line is that the risks of technology adoption are complex, opaque and not clearly understood at every level – be that individual consumers, organisations, government or societal.

What to do about this?   Consider the following:

  1. Institutionalise innovation organisation-wide
  2. Recognise that your IT department (or vendor) cannot drive innovation unilaterally
  3. Review managerial and staff incentive schemes
  4. Transform your IT departments from a technology cost center to a business relevant services broker
  5. IT Vendor Management V2.0
  6. Protect your crown jewels
  7. Monitor systemic risk
  8. Manage the technology evangelists in your organisation

These are explored in more detail here


This article is an edited transcript of part of the presentation delivered by Rob Livingstone as part of the UTSpeaks public lecture series. A video of the presentation is available here