When we look at models for technology adoption, Moore’s Law comes to mind as seminal. Moore’s Law posits that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles every two years, while the cost of computers halves. This has been extrapolated to mean that, generally, our technologies are getting exponentially better and cheaper over time.
While Moore’s Law is still valid today, the rate of a technology moving through the cycle is actually much faster than it has been in the past. This means new technologies are becoming more powerful and more accessible, much more quickly. There are even theories that suggest Quantum Computing will end Moore’s law forever.
Carefully investing for the future
This all means that technology leaders should not only be investing in the technologies of today to achieve business impact tomorrow—we must be careful about doing so in a way that preserves our flexibility and adaptability. We no longer have the benefit of seeing emerging trends come to market, and watching them through the traditional adoption cycles, before we make decisions on where to invest. Such reticence can cause us to severely lag behind competitors, or may make us vulnerable to the many start-ups that are much more nimble and not weighed down by legacy baggage.
The problem of prognostication
The Gartner Hype Cycle methodology is a valuable resource for tracking technology trends over time. According to Gartner, this methodology “gives you a view of how a technology or application will evolve over time, provides a sound source of insight to manage its deployment within the context of your specific business goals.”
While this is useful, making bets on the wrong emerging technologies can leave you flat-footed and unable to respond to change. Prognostication is hard and typically wrong, especially in regards to the expected amount of time it will take for an emerging technology to become mainstream. Often, it takes far longer than expected for something to reach large-scale adoption (E.g., Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing, and blockchain, to name a few).
In addition to the perennial challenge of predicting technology outcomes, 2020 threw us a curveball that forced unexpected change. The global pandemic was a blow to our collective status quo, but it’s also been responsible for accelerating many technology trends: remote working, BYOD policy and security, transparent development practices like agile/scrum, BI and analytics, and the continued push into the cloud—to name a few.
Being prepared to progress AND pivot
As Gartner notes, “Organizations that are prepared to pivot and adapt will weather all types of disruptions.” The question is not “if” your business will be thrown some curveballs, but rather “when” and “how many.” We expect to be challenged by known technology adoption models, competition, and changing consumers and employee expectations. Now we’ve learned that something could come out of left field which spurs the acceleration of new practices and technologies. Will you be ready to respond when the next curveball comes?
The very future of most businesses lies within their IT organizations. This is a big responsibility, but also a huge opportunity for IT leaders to evolve their industries. IT organizations of today can no longer only provide a solid foundation for their business stakeholders. The role of technology leaders has evolved well beyond business-enablers: We are being pressed to bring innovation, new ideas, and new business models to life. We must shift towards value creation.
The answer is Enterprise Agility
From today’s volatile environment spring new organizational imperatives: We must become flexible, adaptable, and resilient in the face of change. This means changing outmoded ways of doing things and seeding these characteristics throughout the organization: within our people, our practices, and underlying technology. We call this Enterprise Agility, and it should be the modern CIO’s holy grail. Seeding true agility today the only way that organizations can hope to thrive in the future.