How to harness ‘disruptive’ technology
There is no doubt that new technologies will continue to be spawned at an accelerated rate. And, as long as management allows technology to disrupt business, it will continue to do so.
“As technology progresses, we tend to complicate our lives,” says Michael de Andrade, CEO of information solutions specialist, EnterpriseWorx. “We allow ourselves to become entangled in the intricacies of new technology. This causes businesses to stray from their core objectives. That’s when new technologies can be disruptive.
“Technology-led change can enhance our work and private lives. However, technology in itself will not bring about improvements in our business operations.
“Business operates in a complex eco-system of economic, social and political influences and one cannot rely on technology to provide all the answers. The introduction of new technologies must be aligned with the organisation’s business model and strategic objectives.”
“There are two elements to be considered,” says De Andrade. “First, potentially disruptive technologies can be harnessed if they are aligned with the organisation’s vision and its current business processes. The business model can determine the type of technology needed to drive modernisation and streamline operations.
“Second, organisations should be flexible enough to embrace technology that can lead to the development of new and innovative business models. Amazon – as it transformed itself from an organisation selling hard-copy books to one selling virtual books – used technology to create a new business model.”
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ‘Agent of Change’ report, cloud computing and sophisticated data analytics tools are the two technology trends most likely to change how businesses operate over the next decade. The EIU research also indicates a growing focus on understanding what customers want. Customers are likely to become an important part of the research and development process and become a major source of new ideas, both for products and services as well as business process improvement.
However, De Andrade cautions, new technology and processes are only as effective as those implementing them. “We must humanise technology and its implementation. If we don’t address the people factor, any technology improvements will be disruptive. In short, technology is as disruptive as you allow it to be.
“If we don’t have the right people and processes in place to unlock the power of new technologies, such as cloud computing, advanced analytics and customer behaviour analysis, the organisation will get lost in technology disruption and will lose its competitive advantage.
“It’s too easy to be distracted by bleeding-edge technology such as 3D video and fancy smartphones. It’s important to find the right technology and implement it. We need to think about the entire eco-system and how the new technology will affect the business model and the workplace itself, if we are to reap the full benefits.
“In an era of big data, it is important to get a sense of the true value of the data. If the business model dictates that the use of advanced data analytics can generate real insight from apparent chaos, then the organisation should go ahead. If, on the other hand, the organisation doesn’t apply proper data management methodologies and doesn’t know what data it needs to meet the strategic objectives of shareholders and the executive team, it will likely get lost in the detail.”
As retailers spin off financial services to banking institutions (Edcon and Absa are recent examples), they need to look at other revenue opportunities and may need to change their processes and technology. The question then arises, says De Andrade: Should they adapt their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to their new processes or change their processes?
“The technology cannot stand alone. It must be embedded in the business strategy,” he says. “The CIO and his team need to communicate this intertwined relationship to the board and throughout the organisation. Change management can assist in ensuring the whole organisation progresses at the same pace. It’s important to provide training in technology and processes, and make people feel at ease with the new systems.
“If organisations adapt their business models to allow for innovation and adhere to strong project management disciplines, the transition to new technologies should be a smooth one.”